12 January 2011

AJ Career's Guide 2008

In 2008 The Architect's Journal published a 'Career Guide' at the back of the 27th March issue which included the piece "So You Want to be A Star?" Written by the appropriately named Norman Blogster, a figure who appeared in the online world of 2008 but has since been "frozen", the article takes a tongue-in-cheek look at how to be a "st.architect" (or 'starchitect'). Whilst the article is obviously intended to be humorous, questions have to be raised as to the extent to which the 'seven essential steps', required on this career path to stardom, are based in reality and the affects this has on the architectural profession as a whole. Furthermore, are these seven steps still relevant nearly three years on?

If this guide is still relevant then it implies that emphasis lies with artistic ability over technical knowledge. Equally important it would seem is who you know, how successfully market/self yourself promote and become 'indoctrinated' in the "cult" of st.architecture. The steps then are not to dissimilar to any other steps required to reach the 'top' of any profession (creative or otherwise) in a Postmodern capitalist society that worships at the font of celebrity. The argument of art versus technical ability must also boil down to the age-old predicament of what exactly an architect is - "an art practised by and for the sake of individuals or a commercial enterprise geared to the needs of the market or a communal undertaking dedicated to the service of society?" (Saint)

"Success at A-Level is no indicator of success at Archi-school,
because st.architecture is entirely based around the studio and
the all-pervasive myth of design."
(AJ 27.03.08. By the_moth)

The steps then, according to Norman Blogster/The Architect's Journal, are as follows:

Step 1: Choose your parents well

Step 2: Choose your A-levels well

Step 3: Choose your Archi-school well

Step 4: Choose your year-out employers well

Step 5: Choose your postgraduate diplomat school well

Step 6: Choose your Part 3 employers well

Step 7: Choose your partners well

"Use strong hair gel so that your hair won't fall out of place when
chairs are thrown. Even better, if you're a bloke, shave your head.
The Bond villain look is very in. Still.
" (AJ 27.03.08. By the_moth

To go with the wit-laced rhetoric the Guide does highlight some important issues that students still face, including that "On leaving archi-school, the average graduate will already owe a small mortgage" perhaps even more pertinent with the impeding higher fees. Also touched upon is the public misconception that all Architects are high-paid individuals when in fact starting salaries are the lowest of any of the 'professions.'

"So at this stage stick to VERY small projects such as inflatible,
collapsible multi-media bus sheltersthat you can control in minutiae
and publish to death and lecture on .
" (AJ 27.03.08. By the_moth)

In summary, if the guide is followed your career path should take the following trajectory: be born into a wealthy family with two parents of differing nationality; excel in your A-levels; study at a certain London University; intern (after Part 1) at a st.architect's office (in the UK or abroad, you just need the name on your CV apparently); study for your Part 2 at one of the two certain London institutions; get employment at a st.architects and fulfil your Part 3 obligations; start teaching; find the perfect partner (not romantic of course, you should have no time for that); establish your own practice; enter competitions but don't win any too early, allowing you to build up a healthy portfolio for your books; finally win a competition, start taking on multi-billion dollar projects for wealthy clients; die old.

And what follows this guide? A series of practice profiles aimed at enticing graduates to working for them, an interesting juxtaposition indeed given that, with no disrespect meant to the practices 'featured' they aren't the st.architects we have just been reading about.


The Architect's Journal (27.03.08), AJ Careers Guide, A Students Guide to St.architecture, P60-63
Saint, A. (1983), The Image of The Architect, 1st Edition, Yale University Press