Undergraduate Focus: Creating concepts, executing designs and overseeing implementation
Everyone talks about engineers building the world, but who actually designs it? That would be architects – the people who plan, design, and basically oversee the construction of buildings.
Career opportunities: According to the Malaysian Institute of Architects (known by its Bahasa Malaysia acronym PAM), there are great opportunities for architects in Malaysia’s developing economy. Based on statistics compiled for PAM’s White Paper on Architecture Education 2011, the ratio of architect to population for Malaysia is approximately 1:16,000 compared to other countries. This translates to a shortage of architects in Malaysia. The minimum ratio suggested by the Union of Architects is 1:8,000.
Although Malaysian architects are able to meet local demand and the quality of Malaysian architects is equivalent to that of the foreign architects, in recent years there has been an influx of foreign architects. Some clients have a misconception that foreign architects provide better design and services, though this is not necessarily true, says Ar Mohd Zulhemlee An, PAM’s honorary secretary.
To address this issue, PAM offers to conduct architectural design competitions with the aim of providing an equal platform for clients to gauge design proposals from foreign and Malaysian architects and offer equal remuneration.
The average starting pay for an architect these days is between RM2,500 and RM3,000. Ten years ago it was in the range of RM1,800 to RM2,000.
Being an architect: An architect is a special kind of person. A successful architect is someone who has more than just the required qualifications and grades from a recognised school of architecture; they should also have a love for the arts and relevant sciences, an appreciation of space and forms, affection for heritage and tradition, and sensitivity in all matters related to the senses.
The job involves many things, including designing interiors of buildings, planning, contract administration, project management, designing healthcare facilities and arbitration, says Ar Zulhemlee. But architects may specialise in certain aspects of design and administration while still practicing these broad aspects of the profession.
After obtaining a degree in architecture, a graduate has to become a Professional Architect in order to be fully-qualified and practice as an architect. To do this, the person must first register with the Board of Architects Malaysia (known as Lembaga Arkitek Malaysia – LAM) as an LAM architectural graduate.
After two years of relevant architectural working experience, one of which must be obtained in Malaysia in an architect’s practice registered with LAM, the person can sit for the LAM Part 3 Examination. Upon passing this exam, the person will be a fully qualified Professional Architect.
“The examinations ensure that the graduate architect is competent in all aspects of the profession,” explains Ar Zulhemlee. “The architectural consultancy services provided by the architect must conform to the professional code of conduct and the relevant legislation for public safety and health.”
What you need to know: As with most professions, an architect has to constantly keep up-to-date with the latest developments in materials, technology and practice issues of the profession. This is done through continuing professional development programmes that will assist architects to enhance their careers.
“Those who want to pursue an architecture degree must be passionate about the arts and sciences and be determined to develop their knowledge and creativity as the architecture course is very long and demanding,” says Ar Zulhemlee. “Architecture is about everything, not only about creating beautiful buildings, but also understanding the comfort and joy of the occupants of the building in addition to being sensitive to the environment surrounding the building or built environment.”