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Serpentine Gallery orders pavilion architect to pay interns after row

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The Serpentine Gallery has ordered Junya Ishigami + Associates to pay interns working on this year’s pavilion following a storm of controversy over the practice’s use of unpaid placements in its Tokyo studio

The Hyde Park gallery released a statement yesterday saying it did not allow unpaid internships or positions for any of its projects, including its annual architectural pavilion programme.

A spokesperson said: ‘Junya Ishigami + Associates are now aware of the Serpentine’s policy that all positions working on the Serpentine Pavilion 2019 must be paid.’

The AJ reported last week how the Japanese firm emailed a student seeking an internship, outlining a number of ‘conditions’ including no pay and a six-day working week with office hours of 11am to midnight.

According to the email, the placement would last for a period of 8 to 12 weeks ‘or more’, with interns required to use their own software and computer equipment.

The controversy was initially made public by architect Adam Nathaniel Furman on his Instagram account. He regularly posts practices’ responses to internship requests across the globe, under the hashtag #archislavery.

It prompted an avalanche of criticism including from the RIBA which said any exploitation of students through unpaid internships was ’completely unacceptable’.

It is not the first time a Serpentine architect has been involved in controversy over internships. In 2013, that year’s pavilion designer Sou Fujimoto defended the practice of using unpaid interns in Japan, describing the system as a ‘nice opportunity’.

And later that year the Serpentine itself was targeted by student protesters after it advertised an unpaid position at the gallery.

The gallery said its policy on unpaid internships had been in place for a ‘number of years’. 

Junya Ishigami + Associates has been approached for comment. 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This is completely the wrong response and merely a fig leaf to cover the problem. To say all interns working on the pavilion must be paid merely means that Junya Ishigami + Associates could move staff around or pay the interns for a short term period. This practice of unpaid interns is pure financial exploitation by companies which should be perfectly capable of managing their affairs to allow for staff to be paid. If they can't then there is something wrong with them. The Serpentine should not be knowingly commissiong companies which are involved in exploitation at all and it shames them that they are.

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