What is the difference between a designer architect and an architect?

Like in other large fields, in architecture there are many people involved in the design and construction process and they have different skills and responsibilities: architects, engineers, architectural designers, etc. Even though they sound similar, an architect and an architect designer are not the same.

Registered Architect

An architect is a design professional who has had comprehensive formal education, training and has been licenced to practice architecture. A registered architect in Zimbabwe has at minimum completed the following steps:
- completed their Master studies in Architecture, has:
- 2 years of practical experience in all phases of a construction project -passed the Architects' Professional Examination demonstrating knowledge of local by-laws and building procedures
- been legally recognised by the Architects' Council of Zimbabwe (ACZ) as an architect in Zimbabwe is legally responsible for all the work they do.

As such, the term architect is legally protected in Zimbabwe and only licenced professionals can call themselves such.

Architects are highly trained and knowledgeable and therefore are expected to provide more in terms of the design of architecture. Not only should their designs be functional and cost-effective, but should also safeguard and promote social, healthy and sustainable measures.

Designer architect or architectural designer

A designer architect is below an architect in terms of education, practical training and recognition. Currently, there are no formal requirements to attain the title of architectural designer in Zimbabwe. Therefore anyone from a non registered architect to a self-taught student can call themselves an architectural designer. As such the level of skill and experience of a architect designer varies drastically and has to be investigated in detail to ascertain his or her capability at completing the required work.

At Pantic Architects, we believe a designer architect and a draftsperson can complement an architectural practice, as long as they are supervised by registered architects.

The decisive difference in Zimbabwe is that only an architect can submit building drawings to the local council for construction approval. The one exception to that are single-story houses below 400m2 that are deemed a basic human right, and anyone can submit house plans for approval, even non-designers, as long as they abide by the building by-laws.


An architect is a highly skilled individual that not only understands drawings and designs but also has a holistic approach to building design and designing architecture. He or she understands the complex systems that are involved: structures, electrical and mechanical systems, fire fighting, green building systems and sustainability. An architect also knows how to coordinate and manage all the consultants and engineers involved to ensure that the project reaches completion successfully.

A designer might have some or all of these capabilities, or none! It is very uncertain. For example, an architect designer might have been done an industrial design course, and understands the manufacturing and design of furniture much better than an architect, but not building design. An architectural designer should be able to draw up your house plans, but might not have the vision of the whole design and processes involved to create a comprehensive functional design.

As architects, we know how important good design is. A well-designed building can make the occupants lives richer and fuller while optimising construction costs and long term maintenance and costs.


The design capabilities of the various professionals involved will steer the project, and you must ask yourself how complex is the project and what level of expertise is required to guarantee a successful outcome. Design is very important in a construction project and can produce a creative, sustainable and cost-effective experience to an endless money sink with eternal problems with approvals and construction.


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Harare, Zimbabwe


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