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NOBODY, SAVE THE DELUDED, GOES INTO ARCHITECTURE FOR THE MONEY

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EDITORIAL

On this week's letters page Paul Hyett applauds the increasing predominance of 'business-led' architectural giants, and the fact that the number of small and medium-sized businesses is in decline. He envisages a world where just as the best young engineers want to join Buro Happold, Arup or Whitbybird, the most talented young architects will gravitate towards companies that are large enough and corporate enough to offer a 'well-structured career path' and competitive pay.

While many of our best graduates forge successful careers within the largest firms, others opt for the more intimate environment offered by smaller practices, or the relative freedom of working alone. As well as producing some of our best architecture, small and medium-sized practices play a crucial function in keeping large practices on their toes; a counterpoint to the creative complacency that sets in when commercial success is guaranteed. It may be efficient - and Eganesque - to have a rationalised profession that grows rich on the back of repeat commissions from existing clients, but it is not necessarily conducive to creativity.

Those who choose to work outside large practices lead a difficult existence. Prey to the vagaries of the marketplace, their prospects are uncertain, their remuneration often poor. Judged in financial terms, it's a pretty bad return on the investment of the seven years it takes to train.

But that's the deal. And it's a contract entered into by educated adults entirely of their own accord. Nobody, save for the sadly deluded or the seriously dim, goes into architecture for the money or in search of a career-development plan.

Which is why we end up with the mavericks, idealists, geniuses and zealots who make architecture the heady world it ought to be.

Which would you rather have? A profession fuelled by passion and talent, or sustained by careerism and greed?

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