I've browsed off and on here for a couple of years as we near building a new house (we begin design in August, plan to break ground in Sep 2014). Two recent threads really got me to thinking about architects.
Both are houses designed by architects, yet are closer in design level to what is often referred to around here as Builder Plop - houses designed by builders who have no design are architectural training (or skill) and plop something down on paper that they can plop down on a lot.
We built our current house 25 years ago and we've talked to and met dozens of architects over the past couple of years. There are certain design elements that they all adhere to regardless of style, size of structure, and budget.
For example, all understand the relationship of shutters to windows and won't utilize shutters that are not proportioned correctly. If necessary, instead of shutters, they'll design other ornamentation that fits more properly with the style and serves the purpose. One told me "if a house is designed and proportioned correctly, you don't need fake shutters."
That last line was from an architect who specializes in affordable houses and believes that people are much happier in a well-designed and aesthetically pleasing 1200 sq ft house than a poorly designed 2000 sq ft house.
They all also decry fake facades, no matter how well done, and strive to make all sides of every house equally appealing. They pay attention to overall proportion and avoid massive congealed surfaces.
BTW, I'm not a huge believer that an architect or AIA architect is critical as there are many non-architect designers and builders who produce exceptional designs, but generally someone being an architect did provide some level of assurance that the end result would likely be a good design. (FWIW, the person we've chosen to design our new house is not an architect, but has designed many exceptional houses.)
Has the McMansion craze drizzled down and so permeated things that even architects are ignoring design and aesthetics? At one time there was a vast difference in an architect designed house (regardless of style, size, or budget) and builder plop. Is that no longer the case?