What does it take to be an Architect?

Published on 4 Dec 2015 . 4 min read

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“Architecture is a visual art and the buildings speak for themselves,” said Julia Morgan the first licensed woman architect of California (1904) who opened the doors of the profession for the feminine world. A century later, women comprise 40 per cent of the registered architects in India. Let us explore what it takes to be an architect today.

Qualifications Required
You sweat five years of your life for the bachelor degree and may opt for specialisation at master level in the fields like landscape design, and, urban and regional planning.

Work Hours
Your schedule may be the common nine to five slot. However, the work hours are not limited. The job mandates a tedious workaholic attitude.

Expected Salary and Prospects
You may start with a decent earning of 25-30K per month or more. The size and reputation of the company decides the final reward. You may work in an architecture firm initially where you get the exposure to the know-how of designing. Real estate firms pay the real pie being into the construction business. You can work on architectural design at the building level or urban landscaping at the city level.

You have the option to start your own practice for which you need a practising licence from the Council of Architecture. The project cost and its expanse govern your monetary share. Location, reputation and experience count.

What you should be Prepared for – the Good and the Bad
The profession offers the flexibility and liberty to associate with a company or practice by self. It is a progressive profession where you get a myriad of options to work upon. At one point you may be working on a hospital building and the other moment on a shopping complex. The field is continuously evolving keeping pace with the contemporary issues like energy conservation and climate change with current focus on sustainable housing and urban ecology.  Further, it offers the artistic freedom to experiment with designs. When people appreciate your efforts, it is a eureka moment, - “Look, I built this!” Moreover, the creation lives ever after. Julia Morgan once said, “My buildings will be my legacy.. they will speak for me long after I’m gone.”

However the picture is not always rosy. Sometimes the clients’ disagreement may supress an architect’s zeal. Manjula, an architect practising in Punjab shares, “Once I literally burnt the midnight oil to design and build a bungalow, when the client woke up to the ‘vasstu doshas’. So, after much brainstorming I had to work from the scratch.”

Moreover, the profession is not untouched from sexism. Kazuyo Sejima and Zaha Hadid are the only women recipients of the prestigious Pritzker Prize since 1979. The jury excluded Denise Scott Brown, the better half and intellectual collaborator of Robert Venturi who received it in 1991. Zaha Hadid once echoed the sentiment, “Architecture is particularly difficult for women, there’s no reason for it to be. I don’t want to blame men or society, but I think it was for a long time, the clients were men, the building industry is all male”

A Myth about the Career which needs to be Busted
A myth about architecture is that it is all about designs. However, it is not only about creating an artistic masterpiece. It is also about project management, the cost-benefit analysis to select the best material at the cheapest cost, bidding for tenders, and, supervising the contractors for the execution.

Architecture is more of mathematics for optimally using the space and the resources. The interiors, energy economy of the house, aesthetics, fire safety, acoustics, illumination, security, social and cultural aspects are equal stakeholders in an architect’s profile. Zaha Hadid’s famous quote aptly clinches, “Architecture is how the person places herself in the space.”

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Neha Dewan
An environmentalist by training, I worked in the corporate sector during the initial years to find a confluence between the industries and nature. At present, I teach Biology online to higher secondary students. I love exploring the sabbatical blues faced by women like me and how the magnanimous internet could help us.

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