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An Architect’s Dream is a Civil Engineer’s Nightmare

Who said it is easy for civil engineers to work with architects?

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Architect versus Civil Engineer. Ready… Fight!



It has been a well-debated topic to whoever has a more complicated job or which one is better: architects or civil engineers.

While to answer which one is better sounds illogical, it is safe to say that civil engineers have a more complicated job.


I will say all these according to my biases because I am a civil engineer and I have experienced firsthand how difficult it is in the construction industry to implement what architects do.

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Civil engineers might as well agree with on this one: an architect’s dream is a civil engineer’s nightmare.

To be able to fully understand that expression, we have to know what architects and civil engineers do.


What architects essentially do is control and innovate the overall aesthetics of a building or structure.

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They study and focus on the artistic principles and push its limits; they think outside of the box to provide the most appealing structures according to form and function.

That’s the scary part: when architects think outside of the box, civil engineers might as well hide in that box.

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Civil engineers have two roles that need to align with that of the architects’: design and construction.

In design, it needs several engineering laws to be followed which are deep-rooted in math and physics. It requires engineers to provide computations and prove that the structure is safe. This cannot be done by architects, because as the good old joke goes: architects are civil engineers who cannot do math.

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Moreover, civil engineers are the liable persons in construction. Armed with technical knowledge and planning, we have to find ways to make them work considering all aspects of feasibility and safety.

We make sure that what the architects want in printed plans will be built according to their specifications, using all possible building methods and practices.

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Every single item on the blueprint must be followed – each material, dimension, and location – all of which are mostly assigned by the architects. Civil engineers are the ones who supervise the construction work.

With that set-up, this is but undeniable: when the imagination of architects go wild, civil engineers go wild in figuring out how such imagination can become real.

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There would not be so much of a problem if the two can meet halfway. An architect can be free to design a structure, but upon agreed limitations from a civil engineer.  The problem with an architect’s creativity is that it can go too far without considering practicality.


Others say that civil engineers can become architects on their own by having the right amount of imagination.

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While that can be true, we might end up having curve-less structures – everything will just be straight lines, being an easier option for civil engineers to design and build. But imagine if we have that kind of urban landscape.

That is the reason why civil engineers and architects need to have utmost collaboration in producing structures.

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It’s about finding that balance between the two professions. It isn’t about who is better than the other, but about what each one can contribute to accomplish a project. It is only just sometimes, architects bring nightmares to civil engineers when they dream beyond reality.


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Engr. Amy Aguirre
Civil Engineer, fashion model & GineersNow TV host. Speaks Spanish, English and Portuguese fluently. Based in Melbourne and Manila. Follow me on Linkedin

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