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Jerome J. Lazar, RA, CCS, CSI, SCIP
Senior Member
Username: lazarcitec

Post Number: 1485
Registered: 05-2003
Posted on Tuesday, October 06, 2015 - 06:37 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I got into a heated conversation today regarding office hierarchy because I referred to the senior architect on the job as a project manager. I understand that every firm has their hierarchy, however as a general understanding can someone offer an example of their firm's job hierarchy. Is the Project Manager typically lower on the rungs of the ladder than the project architect?

Who on the team approves Consultants Invoices, for example?
Dave Metzger
Senior Member
Username: davemetzger

Post Number: 606
Registered: 07-2001

Posted on Tuesday, October 06, 2015 - 10:20 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

When I worked for architectural firms, the project manager was senior to the project architect. The PM was a more administrative position, eg dealt with approving client and consultant invoices, ran project meetings, liaised with the client, etc. The project architect was a more technical position, mocked-up the drawing sets, coordinated with consultants, detailed the project, etc.

I would not have thought this was such a contentious topic that it merited a heated conversation.
Jerome J. Lazar, RA, CCS, CSI, SCIP
Senior Member
Username: lazarcitec

Post Number: 1486
Registered: 05-2003
Posted on Tuesday, October 06, 2015 - 10:36 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Dave, it was a heated conversation, trust me, and with an architect who I've worked with for 20 years. His claim is that the project architect in his firm oversees the project manager, 100% opposite from my experience as a project manager, are we in the minority?
James Sandoz, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: jsandoz

Post Number: 180
Registered: 06-2005

Posted on Wednesday, October 07, 2015 - 08:28 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

My experience is about the same as Dave's in terms of the duties of the project manager and project architect though "hierarchy" in my current office is determined more by experience, tenure, and rank; that is associate, senior associate, vice president, senior vice president, principal, senior principal. In some cases the project manager may out rank the project architect or vice-versa.

In any case, it is very rare to see someone "pulling rank" in our office. We value experience and depth of knowledge of course but we also respect innovation and give due consideration to the ideas of those new to the firm.

Like Dave, I am surprised to learn this is a topic of contention in some places and I'm sorry you had to experience it, Jerome. I guess I am fortunate to work where I do.
Liz O'Sullivan
Senior Member
Username: liz_osullivan

Post Number: 198
Registered: 10-2011

Posted on Wednesday, October 07, 2015 - 11:40 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I've worked at small firms only, and most of my clients are small firms. I usually see principals, associates, project managers and project architects, job captains, and interns. Project managers and project architects do the same things, but one isn't licensed and the other is. Principals seal the documents, project managers and project architects manage all aspects of their projects, and may or may not have job captains under them. I am aware that this is different from the way things work in larger firms - just wanted to share the small firm perspective.
Michael Chusid, RA FCSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: michael_chusid

Post Number: 77
Registered: 10-2003

Posted on Wednesday, October 07, 2015 - 11:44 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Remember that a engineering firm or other consultant could have a project engineer and a project manager. This can lead to the question of which design firm has total project management responsiblity.

In other words, the architectural project manager may report to the total project's manager.
Michael Chusid, RA FCSI CCS
www.chusid.com www.buildingproduct.guru
ken hercenberg
Senior Member
Username: khercenberg

Post Number: 952
Registered: 12-2006

Posted on Wednesday, October 07, 2015 - 11:58 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Pretty much everywhere I've worked in the past 20+ years have Project Managers whose role is to overall manage the project and provide client contact as well as Project Architects whose overall role is to manage the design team (what we used to call Job Captains). Some PA's have low tolerance for PM's and may get insulted to be considered one, but I've only seen people get huffy as a joke. Never seen anyone take themselves that seriously. Perhaps this person would benefit from taking a step back and seeing if maybe they're not better suited for a job that doesn't involve interaction with people. We have people like that too. They are very comfortable sitting at their cubicle putting out details. We don't let them out often.
Steven Bruneel, AIA, CSI-CDT, LEED-AP, EDAC
Senior Member
Username: redseca2

Post Number: 510
Registered: 12-2006

Posted on Wednesday, October 07, 2015 - 01:00 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

My experience is big firm, big project, so there is always a principal, or someone soon to be a principal, in the mix. These folks determine the project architect, project manager hierarchy based on which direction their own interests lead them. We have design principals who never want to deal with project management and we have management oriented principals who don't care what color the building is, as long as we remain in the black.

In each case they team with a PA or PM who will pick up their particular slack. A strong design principal will have a PA with little real authority who they enjoy working with and shows promise and a PM with a lot of authority. A strong management principal will have a strong PA with a lot of say in the overall design, but their PM may only be more of a support staff person with good spreadsheet skills.

It sounds confusing but a young staff person going from one project & principal to another can gain experience by being mentored in their role by a principal who excels in that area and then move to another project where that principal really depends on them to use what they learned on the last project.
Senior Member
Username: chris_grimm_ccs_scip

Post Number: 324
Registered: 02-2014

Posted on Wednesday, October 07, 2015 - 09:19 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Project hierarchy does not necessarily always equal firm hierarchy.

Perhaps you've encountered something that I have only seen a couple of times too, where a more person more senior than the PM was assigned the PA role? In such cases the less experienced PM still had the overall management role as the term PM implies, and the PA did the technical detail & coordination work, which was quite fine having a very seasoned person doing that.

Possibly this person you are dealing with wishes to be higher on the totem pole and would like to have been the PM but feels relegated to a seemingly lesser role.

My experience in a variety of firm sizes has been like everyone here who said the PM is above the PA in the project hierarchy, and I have seen no exception to that. In these couple of occasions that I mentioned, an architect who was exceptional at detailing was employed in a PA role while there was a younger PM, but the differences stopped there and the project hierarchy was the same.

I have seen some cases where a PM was not a licensed architect but of another design discipline or just trained as a PM, and the licensed professionals where the PA and PIC. But usually the PM also is. Any one of them could be the Designer of Record depending on the firm's practice but usually it is a PIC.
Don Harris CSI, CCS, CCCA, AIA
Senior Member
Username: don_harris

Post Number: 286
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Thursday, October 08, 2015 - 05:11 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

My experience is that of most responses here. PM is managing the project and PA is the technical role. All I can say is to paraphrase Walsh talking to Jake Gittes at the end of Chinatown...
Forget it, Jerome. It's South Florida.
Sheldon Wolfe
Senior Member
Username: sheldon_wolfe

Post Number: 878
Registered: 01-2003

Posted on Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 12:53 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

"I would not have thought this was such a contentious topic that it merited a heated conversation." Remember, we're talking about architects, who get excited about the use of the term "architect".

My experience is similar to what most report: From the top down, partner, principal, project manager, project architect, staff architect, intern architect.

It's interesting how avoiding use of the word architect messes with position titles. It's not uncommon to have an unlicensed principal, and we need other titles for unlicensed people at the same level as project architect, staff architect, and intern architect. We could, of course, use the generic version of the position, but after all those years in school, you darn well better get a job with "architect" in the title!

When I took my first job as a specifier, the board of architecture wasn't as picky as it is now, and the titles of many of the jobs in my office included "architect" or "engineer" even though the people who had those jobs were not licensed.
Michael Chusid, RA FCSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: michael_chusid

Post Number: 84
Registered: 10-2003

Posted on Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 06:06 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Are "job captain" and "drafter" still used?
Michael Chusid, RA FCSI CCS
www.chusid.com www.buildingproduct.guru
Dave Metzger
Senior Member
Username: davemetzger

Post Number: 609
Registered: 07-2001

Posted on Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 09:42 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

At the risk of being self-serving, architects get excited about the use of the term "architect" because it involves professional licensing and is a legal term. One cannot use the term "architect" or "RA" without having passed a licensing exam and received a license to practice architecture from a state licensing board. If one chooses not to take the licensing exams, one cannot called oneself "architect".

Somewhat similarly, although they are not legal terms and do not carry the imprimatur of a state licensing board, one cannot use the letters "CCS", "CCPR" or "CCCA" after one's names without having passed the applicable certification exam.

Positions within a firm such as project manager, project architect, job captain, etc. may involve status within that firm, but such terms have no legal standing.

So have I opened the door to a heated conversation? :P
Ron Beard CCS
Senior Member
Username: rm_beard_ccs

Post Number: 429
Registered: 10-2002

Posted on Sunday, October 25, 2015 - 07:36 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Shouldn't our architecture be called "construction" or "building" architecture or something similar?

According to Wikipedia.org, there are computer architects, systems architects, enterprise architects, program architects, software architects, solutions architects, and applications architects to name a few.

I wonder if their industry has the same problems described above in this thread?
"Fast is good, but accurate is better."
.............Wyatt Earp
Scott Piper
Senior Member
Username: spiper

Post Number: 25
Registered: 08-2014
Posted on Monday, October 26, 2015 - 11:01 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

The real issue with the term "architect" is that our profession has attempted to legislate it into a legal term when in reality it is not, at least not to the extent that many in the profession feel it is. The belief that one cannot call oneself an architect unless you are a licensed architect is not true in a multitude of circumstances and the courts have supported this fact on more than one occasion.

Other professions use an expanded title when additional accreditation is obtained and I wish we would embrace the same approach. A nurse can be become a RN, an accountant can become a CPA, an engineer can become a PE. Why doesn't our profession adopt a title like RA or LA to differentiate the advanced title of someone who is a licensed architect and someone who is simply an architect.

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