September 18, 2013
Help! My kid wants to be an architect!
Architecture Matters | Leslie M. Klein
It happens to us all. At a cocktail party, we are cornered by an intense parent wanting us to meet with their gifted child, who is interested in becoming an architect.
We usually cringe and then agree to have the young person spend a half day at our office, observing the goings-on and (hopefully) becoming inspired to pursue their dreams (over their parents’ objections).
I have developed a concise presentation to young people interested in architecture as a career, both to manage their expectations and to help them to understand what we as a profession do from day to day.
I assure them that a well-rounded architectural education, including history, structures, systems, technology and graphic techniques, is essential, but emphasize that their main goal during this period will be to learn to design.
The second step comes after graduation, during the period known as an internship.
The professional associations across Canada, which regulate the practice of architecture, have established clear guidelines about the range of experiences that every intern must accumulate during this period.
The main goal is for them to learn how to manage a project, to understand the process of taking an idea from inception to reality.
Completing this step allows the intern to take registration examinations, and once passed, to be recognized as a qualified architect.
In my scenario, there is a third step, and that involves learning how to run a business.
In order to truly be able to present ourselves as qualified architects, we need to demonstrate our ability to operate a business responsibly, on behalf of our clients, employees, consultants, suppliers – and most importantly, ourselves.
Just as we owe it to our clients to ensure that their projects are economically viable, we owe it to ourselves to ensure that our offices meet our financial obligations, and that includes paying both our staff and ourselves a wage that properly represents the value of our education, capabilities and contribution to the projects for which we have been retained.
Running a business is a balancing act.
Our fees must be competitive so that our services are affordable and attractive, yet we must earn enough to cover our expenses and have something left over for ourselves.
It’s not acceptable to work for free – or even minimum wage – even if we love what we do – nor is it acceptable to ask others to work for free because we have not charged our clients enough to pay for the time required to provide the full spectrum of services required to meet our contractual obligations.
Undercutting our colleagues’ fees is contrary to everyone’s interests – the client’s because the services they receive will by necessity be short-changed; our employees, consultants and suppliers, because they will be paying for our mistakes; and ourselves, individually and collectively, because the message we send is that our services are really not worth very much.
We need to take pride in our work, in our place in the process of creating the built environment around us, and in each other’s accomplishments, because one architect’s success is every architect’s success.
With this attitude, we can enhance society’s view of the value of architects as central players in the creation of our built environment, and we can enhance our chance to be properly compensated for our contributions.
And at the same time, we can ensure that our children and our friends’ children will see architecture as a career truly worth pursuing.
Leslie M. Klein, FRAIC, is Architecture Canada | RAIC's regional director for Ontraio Southwest. Direct comments to email@example.com.
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