Mark Foster Gage #MFGA_UNpaid internship


AIA are we in 2019?

Your voice matter 

May 25, 19 7:21 pm

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A.I.A. should also address the institutionalized slavery.. Yale, Sci Arc, Columbia GSAPP, Texas A+M, oh forget Ted Talk.. how are we feeling about this?

May 25, 19 7:28 pm

First, yes, this is bad, they're being dicks. Second, allow me to rebuke your "institutionalized slavery" remark, it's not, never has been, never will be. Stop using lazy language. Sharpen your critique, or we'll never get anywhere. Slavery was, and in many cases still is, fucking horrible, but this is not, slavery.


Well said b3!


Check out the grammar and punctuation. This is the Ivy League today??  It says something about his respect for interns when he can't be bothered proof reading his solicitations.


+++ b3ta


I never accepted such internships, and nobody should either. From my experience the more I got paid as an intern the more responsibility I had and the more I learned. 

May 26, 19 5:20 am

Yup, when you get something for free you don't value it as much.

Featured Comment
liberty bell

Mark Foster Gage Architects weighs in on the instagram comments to say that the ad in question is a year old and they are no longer using unpaid labor. Then other commenters say that this isn’t true; that they personally know people who have worked for free for MFGA recently. 

I don’t know what’s true. But as a profession we need to keep exposing - and loudly shaming - the practice of unpaid labor in our midst.

May 27, 19 11:50 am

If people were working for free fairly recently, even if not this year, then they can still report it.  The Department of Labor will go back 3 years for purposes of calculating back pay and overtime plus fines. If those former interns know it's illegal and yet they don't report it, then they're as bad as the employers who do this.  And Yale: if your Assistant Dean is admitting on Instagram in 2019 that he was exploiting unpaid labor up until last summer, is that somebody who possesses good judgement, who should be representing your institution?

Some unpaid internships are legal, but only when the internships are truly for the benefit of the interns' educations only, and not providing any work that's financially benefitting the firm. 
The way the ad was worded certainly makes it sound as if the interns were not there purely for their own edification - but somebody has to actually stand up for themselves and report it.

...or better yet not apply in the first place.  In this situation the unpaid interns aren't victims - they're as guilty as the employer.   Far too often I see people on this forum who go into those situations eyes wide open, with a lot of justifications about how they feel they can afford to do it and so it's their own choice and they're not hurting anyone.

The victims are the people who can't afford to work for free, so don't
get these scum-bag big-shots' names on their resumes, and suffer in the
next phases of their careers because of it.

May 28, 19 1:11 pm

It raises the question of volunteers. Are there any legal loopholes by which students could 'volunteer' to work, thus undercutting the labor market?

May 28, 19 3:54 pm

The labor laws are pretty clear that if an unpaid person is doing the work that a company would typically pay for it's not volunteering or interning, it's labor.


Thanks Donna! I suppose one could question what is "work" at a practice that doesn't actually provide much professional architectural design services that are billable. Would making a hundred massing models for imaginary projects, rendering images for Instagram likes, even doing research for a self-published book count as work that a company would typically for? Especially when its a one-man shop subsidized by parents and the school the founder teaches at. These guys aren't professional service providers.


For-profit business in the US cannot accept volunteers. Anybody who does any sort of work for a for-profit business must be paid at least minimum wage. It doesn't matter whether it's subsidized by the founder's parents or making imaginary projects.


Good to know the laws are clear on this. The design schools here should make a statement on this disease and ban faculty from ever hiring free student labor. There are loopholes around - faculty could organize a studio or course and have students work on their projects indirectly. But at least direct hiring for free would be banned.


The problem is that it is possible to have an unpaid intern, if the internship is solely an educational experience, so faculty tend to justify it by claiming that's what they're providing. You can see in this particular ad that the internship is explicitly stated to be the training ground for all paid employees - so it's obvious that the benefit is to the firm - but most employers aren't quite so dumb that they come right out and say that! Here's info directly from the DOL about what qualifies as an acceptable unpaid internship:


non-profit organizations. You can volunteer for those but regular businesses that are not organized officially as a non-profit are considered for-profit organizations even sole-proprietors REGARDLESS of whether they make or earn income. Just because they suck at generating income doesn't mean they are a non-profit.


Thanks - the DOL test does leave a lot to interpretation. The reality is that the business of cultural production is almost always subsidized - and that is exactly what these artists (not architects) are. A lot of them would be out of business if every intern had to be paid. One argument for subsidizing them is that their work may benefit society in the long run and must be protected from market forces in the meantime. I don't buy this argument though. This isn't scientific research we're talking about here - much of architectural so-called "research" being churned out in design school is just fodder for discussions and exhibitions by the same cabal of wannabe artists, gorged on freshman philosophy and lagging the actual art world by a decade.

As much as i dislike unpaid work, I do 'feel' for the smaller design/architecture businesses (not necessarily talking about gage) who aren't making enough money to pay for employees/intern... maybe they "suck at generating income", but surely the profession as whole struggles to make good money. 

we need to get out of this vicious circle. and in this gage if gage has started paying interns, we should recognized that it is an improvement. and not just berate him. but he should also come out and formally state that he was in error to not pay interns.

May 29, 19 12:23 pm
Witty Banter

Valid points made here. Thanks David.


here’s what should happen....the universities should hold off on that new 500 million dollar gender studies buildings or whatever and set up a non-profit internship program where students, with direction from professors and real world architects can work on real world projects that benefit society/community...low income housing, parks, etc.  This should/could count to fulfill idp or at least give some real experience 1 that they can have skills to get a paid job.  This would also help foster relationships between students, academia, profession, and the community.  Rural studio should be the norm in all arch programs.  

May 29, 19 3:10 pm

So yeah, I partly blame academia for not providing a transitional space between academia and practice. Then sharks fill the need and take advantage.


Agreed entirely.


I agree in principle - but the alleged offender who is the subject of this thread is from a university with one of the longest-running building projects in an architecture program, pre-dtaing rural studio by decades. Every first-year student for more than 50 years has participated in Yale's building project. Yale also has the Urban Design Studio, which is an on-campus non-profit community design center, operating full-time year-round, run by architecture faculty and student fellows, and largely staffed by part-time (paid!) architecture students - which does provide IDP/AXP-eligible experience. How much more of a bridge can you offer than an operating design firm right next to the architecture building? This is not to say that they and every other architecture school couldn't be doing even more to bridge the transition from academia to professional settings - but they've been more active in that arena, and for longer, than almost any other US architecture program. And yet their own grad and administrator is the reason for this thread. Ultimately he's responsible for his own unethical behavior.


I wouldn't necessarily view it as an institutional problem as it suggests that the AIA and their local counterparts accept this unethical internship practice. I'm sure local and federal laws prohibits unpaid work and fundamentally unpaid work is illegal. That being said, its hard to garner any sympathy if students are willing participants in this system where they are content with working for little to no money or sometimes unpaid in order to have the "privilege" to work for prestige design offices. Personally, I don't really care as long as the two parties consent to it, its their business. However from an institutional perspective, this is troubling as it incentives employers to behave unethically and abuse the lack of enforcement and regulation. I routinely hear many of my classmates willingly accept jobs that are severely underpaid, unpaid, or work unpaid overtime on weekends, just so that they get the opportunity to work on interesting and fun design projects. Some are happy about it and don't mind the extra work, some complain to no end... why complain about it if you've willingly accept the horrendous conditions in the first place?

May 30, 19 12:39 pm

AIA does have a policy against illegal unpaid internships (but, as has been mentioned elsewhere in the thread, with current students it can be difficult to prove that an internship is not a legal student internship for the educational benefit of the student.)  It's only AIA national that can hear cases and take action - the local chapters aren't allowed to do that, they can only refer people to national.  And all the AIA can do is sanction or censure (basically a warning letter and publicized hand-slapping) or at the very worst kick the offender out of the professional organization. AIA can't impose monetary fines, or compensate the victims. For that you have to go to the DOL.  And neither the AIA nor the DOL can do anything if the interns don't report it - which they won't, since they're going into it knowingly and willingly, and don't want to jeopardize getting the experience on their resume.  Really the only way to stop this sort of thing if you're not a direct victim is to shame the perpetrator - so good job OP.  

May 30, 19 2:57 pm

Ultimately, you go to court because the licensing boards are limited in what they can do and often are limited to the extent of what laws they can enforce. The DOL has the most teeth next to that of courts which often has the power to issue steeper levels of fines and penalties than the DOL in many states. There are certainly instances where the DOL may have the most impact and that's an exception than the general rule where it is the courts that does. Illegal unpaid internship can result in some serious penalties IF the cases are heard and sentenced imposed and enforced.

To end unpaid internship takes courts and legislation to close up unpaid internships altogether.


Good luck with that if you're not the unpaid intern him/herself. Anybody else can file a lawsuit, but the employers' lawyers will challenge their status and they'll get tossed out. The legislation already exists - that's what the DOL enforces - but the unpaid interns have to report the abuse - and they don't, because they want the fancy firms' names on their resumes. Shame the employers and maybe the universities at which they work will start to distance themselves. Stop employing anybody who has interned at the known exploitive firms, and maybe people will stop interning there.

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