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The issue of reputation in architecture.

tttt

I am a fresh graduate trying to understand more about the professional world of architecture.

1) As a fresh graduate does it generally look better in your resume to have worked in a very large corporate firm regardless of the quality of work that they do? Or does it look better to have worked at a firm that has a more interesting portfolio?

2) How much does the size of the firm matter when it comes to reputation in this industry? Is bigger better most of the times? Or is it the quality of work output that matters the most?

3) Are there large firms out there with a bad reputation? Firms that do what we call 'bad' work? How do they get away with it without ruining their reputation? Obviously bad is a very simplistic term with which to describe architecture, but my point is that several buildings that get realised out there do not represent good architecture in the eyes of a several architects.

4) This is obviously the work of more commercially minded firms. Once someone works for a firm like that, could they later move to a more design led firm or are there constraints in terms of career progression?

5) In terms of early career progression what would be the critical moment when you realise you need to switch jobs? Does advancement in terms of responsibilities come from staying at one firm for a longer time or by switching between jobs (every 3-4 years for example)? Could you be regarded as less career driven if you stay at a firm for a rather long time like 10 years?

6) Finally, do you believe it's better to diversify your experience as much as possible by working in different firm types and sectors as well as on the client or contractor side or is architecture the field where it's best to find one thing and focus on that?

Sorry about the long post, I'm taking a flight in a few hours and don't have much to do.

 
Sep 21, 18 5:55 pm

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SneakyPete

1. Depends on your goals. Your goals should be supported by the priorities of where you work.

2. Mixed bag. Depends on priorities of the person doing the opining.

3. Yes. Definitely. There are firms doing shitty work. they stay in business via connections and influence as well as being able to undercut the competition. 

4. You can find yourself behind the 8-Ball if you work for an outfit whose values don't match the firm you want to work for later down the line. But you still gotta pay the bills.

5.I believe 2 years is the absolute minimum you should stay at a firm to get both the benefit of their way of doing things as well as to avoid seeming like a ping pong ball. This is seemingly not the norm, though, as many folks in my region bounce around every year or so which leads to schizophrenic employees without the benefit of a point of view. If a firm keeps you on for 10+ years and you've consistently been given good assignments and raises (etc) you should feel pretty good, for many a downturn or a plateau prevents this sort of longevity.

6.Know yourself. Do what you believe in. Strengthen your weaknesses. If that can be done at one firm, great. Otherwise, go elsewhere to get it. Seriously, knowing what you are bad at and making an effort to improve is super awesome, and if you are communicative with your superiors about it they will probably want to help you get the skills you lack. Be a sponge. Ask questions (but not constantly, you can get a ton of answers just by being observant and listening). Volunteer to do jobs others may not want to if it gets you information. Learn the code. Learn the software. learn how to put a set together. Learn to detail. Learn building systems. Learn, learn, learn.

Sep 21, 18 6:24 pm
tttt

4. If you work for a large firm that does buildings of mediocre design quality wouldn't that affect how you portfolio looks to future interviews? If for example you later want to get a job at a starchitect, would the aesthetic quality and size of the projects you 've worked on matter more than the responsibilities you undertook in that project and your professional development?

You've got it backwards: experience and responsibility are what matters. You think showing some big-firm shit that you clearly did not design somehow reflects on your abilities? "Mediocre" is entirely subjective - do you think really think that your taste is some kind of global baseline? Stop wanking and get a job. What you don't know will become apparent very quickly.

tttt

Miles, I do have a job. I am also familiar with the reputation of some firms against others because that's common industry knowledge. Finally, I have a boyfriend, so I don't have to wank. Now I 'll press the ignore button and discuss this with people who have manners.

JLC-1

Manners start in your head, have you talked to your therapist about your low self-esteem?

You're welcome.

Steeplechase

In school we are fed this vision of the singular architect running a firm, but at some point that one architect can only do so much. At some point work has to be delegated. My experience with a giant corporate firm was that there is no singular vision. Each office ran independently from the others, even competing against each other as their business was measured individually. That meant that how one office worked wasn’t the same as the others, and even within a single office different architects and project managers would run things differently.

I think what’s far more important than worrying about size of a firm is what you know and being able to learn. Having some amazing building by a starchitect on your resume means nothing if you just picked up simple redlines for two years and never really learned anything about how a building is built.

What you want to do is ultimately what would determine the answers to a lot of your questions. If you are interested in a specific type of work then pursue that type of work. That said, wider experience can help your more specific goal.

Sep 21, 18 9:36 pm
Featured Comment
archinine
Most of these questions you’ll have your answer to after you’ve worked a while. The first full time job out of school is generally the hardest to land. Focus on getting that job. If you have the time/funds to be picky, then by all means narrow in on applying at firms whose work you like and that you’d ultimately like to have as part of your portfolio and that you want to learn about how they were put together. No matter where you start it’s all going to be new and a learning experience for you as your first full time position is a lot different than a short lived internship. If you wind up doing something where you feel like you’re not learning or growing after a point, let’s say your first job is small scale residential or something, and you’re bored after 1.5-2 years, then it might be a sign it’s time to move on. But before you immediately jump ship, ask for more responsibility or better yet take a stab at doing more than responding to redlines. Once you’ve done some drawing, try and anticipate what needs to be done before someone has to tell you, and you’ll likely get the opportunity to do more and more and be challenged. Wait around for someone to give you tasks and you’ll likely find yourself stagnating quickly.

One thing to note though, experience is king, and at the first job everyone knows you aren’t personally designing or controlling anything. Find a company where you think you’ll fit with the culture and that is decent enough to pay you a living salary. Don’t get sucked into believing working at a starchitect firm for chump change is going to magically pay off and lead to you’re being a starchitect. Starchitects 99.9% were independently wealthy long before they began their careers. Find a place that treats its employees with respect, have some respect for senior staff, and focus on improving all your skills as applicable to the work that needs to be done.
Sep 22, 18 8:48 pm

1) Look better to whom?

2) The 2nd one.

3) Yes. Yes. They don't.

4) It could happen, in theory.

5) When you wake up and realize you cannot force yourself to go in to the office. Advancement comes from advancing as a professional.

6) The answer is not clear at this time.

Sep 23, 18 12:48 am
JLC-1

reputation is like credit score? Whatever you do, wherever you do it, do it the best you can, and don't live thinking you are climbing a stair that's built by others for you to rise; build your own 



Sep 23, 18 10:23 am
randomised

1) As a fresh graduate does it generally look better in your resume to have worked in a very large corporate firm regardless of the quality of work that they do? Or does it look better to have worked at a firm that has a more interesting portfolio?

That you even have to ask is worrisome 


2) How much does the size of the firm matter when it comes to reputation in this industry? Is bigger better most of the times? Or is it the quality of work output that matters the most?

Matter matters


3) Are there large firms out there with a bad reputation? Firms that do what we call 'bad' work? How do they get away with it without ruining their reputation? Obviously bad is a very simplistic term with which to describe architecture, but my point is that several buildings that get realised out there do not represent good architecture in the eyes of a several architects.

Who's bad?

4) This is obviously the work of more commercially minded firms. Once someone works for a firm like that, could they later move to a more design led firm or are there constraints in terms of career progression?

No, you'll be stuck making horrible McMansions or strip malls for ever and ever

5) In terms of early career progression what would be the critical moment when you realise you need to switch jobs? Does advancement in terms of responsibilities come from staying at one firm for a longer time or by switching between jobs (every 3-4 years for example)? Could you be regarded as less career driven if you stay at a firm for a rather long time like 10 years?

When they don't prolong your contract I would say is the critical moment to switch jobs

6) Finally, do you believe it's better to diversify your experience as much as possible by working in different firm types and sectors as well as on the client or contractor side or is architecture the field where it's best to find one thing and focus on that?

Perhaps

Sep 24, 18 8:12 am
cmvander

4. I had the same concern, I currently work at a firm that I did not want to brand me when I was on the job market again but I knew I needed experience and it was a good foundation. To avoid being branded by my current firm, I am constantly working on competitions in my free time and writing publications. I wanted to keep my creativity instead of letting it die at my current firm. A couple weeks ago, I went back on the job market and was able to secure a design-oriented firm that appreciated my experience and my ability to stay active in the design community. 

Sep 24, 18 9:48 am
HudsonJ

1) Better is relative to where you plan on applying to after your first job. If you want to join the more famous firms, then obviously having a famous name on your resume will help. 


2) Quality of work, both built and drawings, trump firm size always. This includes construction administration also.


3) There are literally hundreds of firms out there producing “bad” work. Of the top of my head...BIG for many of their built work in the US, much of Zaha in china, KPF’s work in China. Note that large firms aren’t one big unified designer, they are actually made up of hundreds of branches, some more independent than others. Their reputations survive mainly through connections built throughout the years. 


4) It’s up to you to not get complacent with your corporate job. If the design at work isn’t satisfying, sacrifice your free time to build up your portfolio with your personal designs. Portfolio is what matters to firms.


5) Progression in the form of more responsibilities is what ultimately matters. If you find yourself ascending through the ranks, then staying at one place isn’t so bad. If you find yourself relegated to one position for too long, or if you want more responsibility, change jobs. Although firms only extend responsibilities to you after you’ve proved your worth, and that only comes from time.


6)  Certain niches within the profession can land you lucrative positions fairly quickly, like BIM management or programming. It’s up to you to research the field and discover what interests you personally. It’s never wrong to spend your formative years experiencing the various sectors of the profession though.

Sep 25, 18 4:35 pm
whistler

If you are concerned about your personal reputation then you should learn to trust the process of your own personal development, not the  reputation of others around you. Develop the necessary skills and  experience at various offices .. small and large, know your role, do your job, work well with others and don't be a dick.



Sep 25, 18 7:25 pm

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