Do you you need an architect to knock down non-structural walls? I have no idea how this works.
In my existing apartment, I explored an open kitchen, but the wall was structural, and he said have to go with the architect. Procedure as the contractor explained it to me is: have the architect come and produce a certificate that in his opinion, the structural wall can be broken (cost was 80k). Make an application to the Buildings Department attaching the architect certificate. The cost of the application was at that time and for my apartment... 50k. Wait for the Buildings Department which may say yes or no. If yes expect a lot of sh*t from the neighbours when the works begin .
I think you may be confusing architect and designer. You only need the architect to have his opinion on structural walls. The designer doesn't provide this service and... designs (which the architect doesn't do).
In my case I did away with both the architect and the designer, and just went with a contractor with basic 3D design skills. Was enough for my purpose. If you go with a proper designer, of course it will be MUCH more expensive.
I would think there is scope to structurally change the place and hence the architect for the idea. I do know that not every wall broken or built requires permission. If it involved getting permission for a certain idea then I will pass as ghar process can be time consuming, know someone who waited a year to get permission.
Will not worry about neighbors as cannot reside in the property if I am going to gutt it.
Yes. I think a normal contractor can handle work on non-structural walls without the need for an architect. Well based on my limited experience. Was twice only. Would be curious to hear others experience.