Designer & Architect of Record relationship


Can someone explain what the roles of a "Designer" and the "Architect of Record" are? What are their respective liabilities and responsibilities?

It seems quite common here, on high profile projects to have these two roles kept separate.

Nov 2, 07 5:20 am

"Designer" does the fun stuff, "Architect of Record" takes on all the liability and grunt work.

Nov 2, 07 10:20 am  · 

a lot of times the architect of record is situated in the city or town where the project is being produced, and the designer either does not have a license in that state or in the case of foreign ventures, is not allowed to be the AOR.

Nov 2, 07 10:49 am  · 

neither the aia contracts nor state boards define anything other than the "architect" so i have a big problem with this distinction. when we are the "architect-of-record" (a term i hate) we treat the "designer" as we would any other consultant: the buck stops with us so they have to play by our rules.

Nov 2, 07 3:01 pm  · 

Casinos here have kept the two roles, designer and architect, deliberately separate. Perhaps they perceive a better conceptual design product from a designer. "Designers" aren't even necessarily Interior Designers, they're celebrity design consultants I guess.

Nov 2, 07 3:11 pm  · 
Ledoux's Eye

It is true that the term "Architect of Record" does not appear in form contract documents and, to my knowledge, is not typically discussed in various state licensing laws. The term generally applies to any firm that is the responsible firm stamping a set of drawings. The act of stamping the drawings makes that firm, in effect, the "Architect of Record."

What many owners have discovered is that it is, unfortunately, rare to find a top flight design firm that is also equally adept at actually putting together documents that will allow the project to be built without undue problems. On the other hand, owners have also discovered that there are firms out there that may not have top flight design talent, but excel at producing construction documents and providing construction phase services. This situation has resulted in the owner sometimes wanting to try and get the best of both worlds (who can blame them?). When this happens, the owner will hire a top flight design firm and marry them to a top flight production firm (the "Architect of Record"). It is true that on occassion, the design firm may not have a license to practice in the locale of the project. The "Architect of Record" firm, however, will always have a license in the jurisdiction for the project since they are the firm that will prepare and stamp/sign the drawings for official purposes.

It would be wrong to assume that the "design" firm is completely free of liability in this situation. Frankly, it would be very difficult to find a firm to serve as the Architect of Record if they were truly exposed to ALL of the liability on a project where more than one professional firm was involved. Contracts for this type of arrangement typically spell out some manner of risk allocation for the services provided by each firm.

This type of business arrangement is regulated, to some degree, by some state licensing boards (it varies, so you have to check). If a designer, for example, is not licensed in the jurisdiction then it may not be possible for the owner to hire the designer direct (that would amount to the designer practicing architecture in that jurisdiction without a license - even if they were not going to stamp the drawings). In such a case, the designer would actually have to be a consultant to the Architect of Record firm (the properly licensed firm that would be in control of the project and stamp the drawings), and most likely would need to establish an in-house presence in the Architect of Record's office so that it could be demonstrated that the Architect of Record actually was in control of the work. This can be quite tricky in some jurisdictions because if not done correctly the properly licensed firm can actually find themselves in trouble with their state licensing board for "aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of architecture."

My opinion: In an ideal world an architectural firm would have a good balance of design talent and technical talent and both would be recognized as essential to providing true professional service. And, I think some firms do have this balance. Unfortunately, many do not, which sometimes results in this hybrid approach that I believe demeans our profession and frustrates clients who believe they must hire two architects to get the job done correctly.

Nov 2, 07 5:17 pm  · 

i think whats unfortunate is that there are strong technical design firms but people clients are too quick to go to the default "it" designers of the moment. When I look at the high profile commissions say in Chicago in the last 10 years, all of note seem to go to someone outside Chicago. Its odd.

Nov 2, 07 5:32 pm  · 

Thank you Ledoux. A very considered description of the relationship, which is what I was curious about. I know that the firm that I work with is trying to break this preconception for the need for 2 architects / designers. I suspect that casino clients are on to a good thing though, and they don't feel the need to fix something that ain't broke. They're prepared to pay two lots of fees, they think they're getting the best design product because they have a "name" designer for their project. Much like how they like celebrity chefs from all over the world to open restaurants in their casinos, is a business drawcard to say a project was designed by "so and so", not just some local architect.

In reading another discussion on Archinect, I can see that having a split design relationship is not all bad news, especially if you are a talented but unlicensed designer. By working with a licensed architect, those designers get to do the work they excel in, without breaking the law. I am licensed, but not in the USA, so its frustrating when I know I can do a project on my own, but not stamp drawings or call myself an architect.

Nov 2, 07 5:42 pm  · 

Also consider a couple things:

1) Having an architect of record and a "design architect" is not synonymous with segregating the design work and the production. There are situations where the AoR will contribute heavily to the design and visa versa...

2) This type of situation might be a necessity if said "design architect" hasn't got the facilities or staffing to put together the necessary documents that we see going towards projects of a huge scope. They may be completely capable of designing, just not documenting given the schedule.

Nov 2, 07 7:59 pm  · 

Glad I found this thread.

Trying to understand the role of the architect of record in a project I am on at the moment here in Nigeria.

Design Architect is in California and we are to produce construction documents following the Design Architects design and coordinate with the engineers as well. We are to handle construction as well.

This thread has given me a clearer view on our role and we there is even a design architect in the first place.

Thanks everyone.

Apr 20, 20 6:51 am  · 

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