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The Diary of an Anonymous Architect #6

The sixth in a new series about the day-to-day travails of an embattled practitioner. This week: CV?  See me

 Does anybody really know what time it is, does anybody really care…’  Chicago (R Lamm)

Weather today? Hail and another shower of CVs. So disappointing. They come in from experienced guys ‘leaving’ great firms to those in various stages of architectural education.

Many seem to have had CV tuition. I most dislike those that state they have ‘long-admired our work’. Worthy ones seem better. Gizza job?  Then recently a rare gem. Very well written, courteous, energetic, elegant. Called the mobile quoted, left a message…… but no return call.    

Sadly almost all of the CVs included comments on the state of the economy, adding that ‘gaining experience’ is more important than earnings.  No wonder, given the debts they’ve acquired already in the endeavour.  Makes me want to give up.

We’re considered grasping gangmasters [not] responsible employers

The RIBA president berates us – demanding that we musn’t take advantage of the situation and that we have to be fair to these young people.  Of course. But it makes me wonder what kind of opinion the president has of us?  Seems we’re first considered grasping gangmasters fresh from the cockle shores before we’re considered responsible employers.  There will always be those who take advantage of any situation.

The EU prevents our future surgeons from training 80 hours a week – when those insipient leaders of their profession are at their most energetic, their minds at their most receptive. It’s a worthy ideal unless you ignore recent reports that fewer hours results in less effective medics. What if you really do need 10,000 hours practice to hope to be any good?  Three years might do it - ten hours a day, seven days a week; no pub, no gym, no hols, no distractions.  Or five years at EU rates – and still that same student debt……

What about architects?  My role models?

At least one renowned office has amazing employee benefits.  In-house dining, take-ways paid for after late and eventually taxis paid to get home out of hours.  All considerate, considered but based on modest salaries appropriate to experience and the presumption that you may (often) have to put the hours in……..and there’s an endless queue of the most talented waiting for the chance.  And with a track record of creating many successful spin off practices, who wouldn’t? 

And an evergreen favourite. Frank Lloyd Wright created a ‘school’ of apprentices – so successful he made two.  At his Taliesins, when you finished drawing you made supper for everyone or tended the veg patch – on a rota.  And the killer? Frank Lloyd Wright charged for the privilege – and also spawned many successful practices.  And if you were really lucky you saw him draw up Fallingwater in 20 mins for the unexpected client visit……  I’d have paid to see that.  Lots.  And made the coffee and mopped the brow…..

No need to return to Victorian ideals but desperate times call for desperate measures.  We may now be tending the last crops of graduates who had the privilege - and cost - of five years study.  I know what I’d do if I was president – more understanding of those providing employment and those seeking employment. 

Do we want future reports on the self-induced inadequacies of our profession?  Unless we really want to hand over the architecture of the nation to Ikea - just as our forbears handed over engineering, quantity surveying ……. oh and project management.  Progressively marginalised by our own hand when we should be centralised. These CVs are just the start of it.

Readers' comments (2)

  • John Kellett

    Most of these new fangled 'spin-off' professions and quasi-professions within the construction industry actually charge a lot more for their services than we do, if you take all the 'free' time given to practices by employees into account.

    I remember working for a practice where we worked out that the annual profit was equal to the free time kindly donated by staff. The directors got new cars, the staff no bonuses! On that basis larger architect's practices returned to Victorian business practices years ago :-)

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  • Dear Anonymous Architect,

    Full of optimism I recently applied to a firm matching your description, sadly my mobile's answering machine has been on the blink for the past month.

    If by any chance it was I that caused you any inconvenience or frustration, I would like to extend my sincerest apologies!

    Kind regards

    Anonymous applicant

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