What is Residential Architecture?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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Residential architecture is a discipline within the architecture field which focuses on the design of residences, ranging from single family homes to apartment complexes. There are a number of concerns which are unique to residential architecture, and skilled residential architects can be in high demand. Some of the most famous architects in the world are noted for their work on residences, including Frank Lloyd Wright, an architect noted for his innovative, distinctive, and totally unique home designs, many of which continue to be highly treasured decades after their construction.

Fundamentally, residential architecture is about designing and building homes which are functional and safe. Residential architects must think about prevailing building codes, safety issues, and functionality matters such as floor plans, placement of outlets, and other issues. They must also be able to work with their clients to develop homes which meet needs and expectations, and each client usually has a slightly different list of needs and requirements for a home.


Residential architecture is also about designing structures which are beautiful. Passionate architects love working with the lines of the natural environment to make a home which fits in seamlessly, or working with inspiring objects and shapes which can come from anywhere in the world. Clients may also have specific requests such as a house which meshes with an existing art collection, or a desire to create a home which evokes an earlier era. Because people want homes which they enjoy being in, a huge part of this discipline is focused on creating structures which feel like homes and please the aesthetic preferences of the owners.

Some residential architects focus on custom jobs, working with individual clients to develop a one of the kind house. Others make generic plans which can be used by builders anywhere, or they focus on large projects for developers such as apartment complexes, townhouses, and planned developments. Architects can also choose to focus on issues like green design, or making credible replicas of architectural styles from earlier eras. Residential architecture can also encompass restoration and renovation of existing homes. Each subset of residential architecture requires different skills and abilities.

Students of residential architecture usually start in general architecture programs, eventually narrowing their focus to residential structures in particular. Their training includes an education in the history and art of architecture, along with the mechanics of drafting, working with engineers and contractors, and negotiating with clients to ensure that the needs of all parties are met. A residential architect with a proved track record can usually command a very high fee for his or her skills, since a house is not going to be built or substantially renovated without the services of an architect.


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