Working for Foster and Partners - any advice


I am in the process of talking with Norman Fosters office and wanted to ask some general questions...

Is it a 'star'rchitect office where the interns are paid slave wages?

I am an American but on the British system am inbetween Part 2 and Part 3. What would that equate to (roughly) per hour in pounds?

Does anyone work at the office in London and do they like it, are they gaining good experience... ?

Cheers for the input...

Jun 20, 05 5:16 am

Hey Blaster I work at Foster and I'm also inbetween part Two and Three....
Money wise,,,,it isn't great at all but you can live from it. I know places where you can get loads more money. The thing with this office is that its so large and from time to time you do feel treated as a number. There are about 600 people in here. I think the only real reason for working here is if you want to work on big projects and if your lucky on some interesting projects....

Jun 20, 05 5:52 am

an american friend of mine took a job at norms a while back [1 year] -- i dont know the exact salary but enough to get a flatshare and keep food on the table - if you a swiming in student loans it might be a problem. the team she is on does ot but not like some groups who do work like slaves.[i think the office at times has run shifts]

visa took about 5 months to sort out - was a practical training visa. i think that pretty standard time now adays so dont go packing your bag yet.

Jun 20, 05 5:56 am

dont know about foster's working conditions and pay,but if you get the training visa i recall that it means you have to leave the UK after a few years and not return for at least one year after that (something like that). my office got me a proper work permit and it took just over a month to go through. it was a hassle though for them so some places won't hire you without a visa in case you are looking elsewhere.

wages are better in other offices i think, but depends on your experience.

luck to ya

Jun 20, 05 12:56 pm

Thanks for all your help. TED and jump I did just hear about the Visa issue but luckily I am a PHD student and have that cleared up. But cheers for the advice. P.B. - are we talking at least 8 pounds an hour (obviously different with experience)? I just want to make sure this is a viable option. I know similar massive offices can pay as little as 500 pounds a month full time. I know the low rates are expected, and assume they are on a standard scale because of office policy. Please advise. Cheers again for all of your help.

Jun 20, 05 1:14 pm

Blaster, the wages here are low but not as low as 500 pounds a month! If you want more details I can email them to you as I'm not aware how many other Foster people are reading this forum... One thing I learned here is office politics...and I'm crap at them!

Jun 20, 05 1:24 pm

Isn’t it ironic? Working for a start accountant, star lawyer, star hospital, a star production company or any company that has a high profile means you earn a lot. That is the whole point of working for a star company in the first place except for architects. We are the only profession, where you can work for a starchitect and get badly paid. On the same token we ask ourselves why clients pay us so badly. Well, the answer is simple. You can’t expect to be well paid if you pay your employees slave wages. What goes around comes around. My mother always said; if you want to live in a clean world, you should be the first one to not litter.

Jun 20, 05 1:57 pm

I do agree harold, and i do not give into slave labour. that is why i am asking around a bit. i am simply looking for a good international connection. i do hear you however.

P.B. please do email me - i am pretty sure you can do that w/o leaving my address here. i also understand and play office politics.
cheers P.B.

Jun 20, 05 2:27 pm

sad when a PHD architect student would work as an architect for 8 quid and hour.......[that $29k for you yanks!]

Jun 20, 05 3:37 pm

TED, I agree completely. Very sad. I work for a very large office that likes to consider themselves "high" design. We do all-right, but I'm paid less that friends working for much smaller firms pumping out new Walgreens stores and strip malls. I think wages is one of the largest problems in this profession - and one of the most difficult to tackle.

Jun 20, 05 4:24 pm

It's econonics. The starchitects get the large demand for wanting to work in their offices and have more of an incentive to pay less. Designing "Wallgreens" means the incentive has to be money.

Jun 21, 05 11:01 am

finnally someone who understands the economics of it all instead of bitching and proposing we start a union or some other nonsense.

Jun 21, 05 11:18 am

The great man was 70 this month. I understand he wasn't in the office at the time so the staff grouped together and sung Happy Birthday, recorded it on a DVD and sent it to his continental bolt hole (so say BD).

P.B. to confirm.

I was also not surprised to hear that Foster is reveared in Germany as a hero, a total contrast to his perception in Britian where he is often ignored (awards aside).

Jun 21, 05 11:32 am

but A -- there is a huge huge difference between great design firms, working for a factory [3rd shift gets you free lattes at foster's stair coffee bar] and working for walgreens. just look architectural review -- the number of great practices in uk doing great design is to numberous to mention.

one only should look at time to look at new stars --- firms like foster are so big they are just putting it out there -- seek a smaller practice who works with Arups and you will be more happy and more $$$ and doing great design. its Arup who is the common thread in the star-itects --

Jun 21, 05 11:51 am

Ted said: 'seek a smaller practice who works with Arups and you will be more happy and more $$$ and doing great design.'
Such as?

Jun 21, 05 12:08 pm

P.B -- clearly your spending too much time at the latte bar at fosters --dont you get out any between shifts, go to local lectures or look at the mags?

if your on a student visa - your movement is limited -- you have sold your soul to the devil -- who does do great work. just sit and work in peace.

Jun 21, 05 12:35 pm

TED. Not allowed to look at magazines...they hid the libary in the cavity wall of the office and put a Hellhound at the entrance...
If for some reason you don't hear of me in this forum...then you know they got to me...

Jun 21, 05 12:40 pm

"Finally someone who understands the economics of it all instead of bitching and proposing we start a union or some other nonsense."

If that was the case, explain to me why star companies like Charles Swab, Pricewaterhousecoopers, Intel, harpo, pay there employees very well? It has nothing to do with economics. It is all about attitude. It is their bitching that got them wealth and our silence, willingness to work for a bone and the lame excuse of economics that put us in this broke ass position.

Jun 21, 05 12:57 pm

the stimulus for any firm like swaab etc is the money and only the money...for things like architecture the reward is about the second...every good designer out there would sacrifice money for better design...its very irrational but it how the good ones are wired. especially when u are young and hungry, once the recognition arrives and their lapping at your feet you can become picky. when you also go to a firm u mentioned above u know a great deal of info (probably more then veterans) once out of school (you are on the cutting edge, especially in computer industry) architecture is differant...out of school u know a fraction of an education (u are probably only on the cutting edge of 3d programs or rendering) so u still have alot to learn and thus only worth a fraction of newbies in other industries.

Jun 21, 05 1:58 pm

I may use the wrong example of industry. How about working for a star fashion designer, a star advertising company, a star industrial designer or for that matter a star vet? These companies like what you said work for the reward and money is second. It takes a great deal to be hired at those firms, but once you’re hired you get well paid. Don’t get me twisted, getting well paid is great, but i would be happier to see employees get paid a normal corporate salary where they can at least pay the mortgage, the car note the insurance, the student loan and clothes for the kids etc. I don’t think that is too much to ask for. By the way, newly vets don’t know much either.

Jun 21, 05 2:48 pm

in this industry and others there is the element of passion (this website is testement to that, there is not ) with passion, money is secondary and sacrifices are required. The constant element in any part of life/profession is lack of compensation or recognition, policeman, fireman, teachers, everyone can line up in that department, but something other then a paycheck motivates them. so if u are looking for money...heres a news flash become a stockbroker b/c architecture is not for u. or go corperate...everyone has their breaking point...for me money will never bring happiness.

Jun 21, 05 3:59 pm

You are right. money (for me) and most architecs will never bring happiness. Unfortunately, every morning my 2 kids wake me up and i can't be thinking in terms of passion and slavery. I need to make sure they have at least the basics. Food, water, clothes, a house. I don't think i need to be a stockbroker just to feed my family. A healthy balance between doing something that you love and getting paid is not out of the odinary.

Jun 21, 05 4:19 pm

I don't know about u but for me living in the most industrialized nation the world has ever seen(USA) it is real easy to cut back on my standard of living and still get food on the table which is homecooked and rather nutricouse. is pretty easy, i don't wear new clothes or see the latest in reality tv or mega blockbuster but thats just me. I'm not going to blame it on the greed of others and expect more as a right thru the expected empathy of my employers.

Jun 21, 05 4:30 pm

as long weas we bitching and comparing: my bro-in-law works for schwab (well, he just got laid off so actually no more) and his benefits were pretty sweet. sabbaticals, promotions, nice salary, he was always on vacation. when he got laid off, he got 3.5 months of pay as severance. please can't I get laid off? he was overjoyed to get laid off.

at our design firm we don't even have culligan water and we drink off-brand coffee! even my blue collar friends have perks.

Jun 21, 05 4:37 pm

So where do you draw the line? No electric appliances to safe on the electric bill, no deodorant or soap (you don’t need them to survive) or an early visit before graduation at the castration clinic? Am I exaggerating? For now yes, but if this situation continues like this, it wouldn’t be surprising that an entrée level k-mart 18 year old earns more than a 45 year old architect.

Jun 21, 05 4:57 pm

architecture sucks!!!

Jun 21, 05 5:43 pm

so do you think that big architects are just greedy and holding out on us? our what?

Jun 21, 05 5:47 pm

Not all high design firms pay lousy. I'm sure Morphosis gets hundreds of job inquiries and I heard that they don'y pay anything. Maybe someone who works there can clarify. There is the issue of what kind of experience and notoriety one can gain from working for such a firm. What you can put on your resume/cv can mean just as much as a good salary at a lower profile firm.

Jun 21, 05 6:40 pm

Blaster will have an advantage having worked at Foster's office when he/she furthers his/her career either teaching, seeking employment in an office, or seeking clients.

Jun 21, 05 6:44 pm

I've got a similar situation to Blaster's. Anybody have some skinny on working for Gehry's office in L.A.?

Jun 21, 05 8:19 pm

i just want to thank you all for your comments. i just accepted with Fosters. Cheers

Jun 22, 05 5:25 am

Blaster so I guess I will be seeing you around in the office then...When do start and do you know on which project or team?

Jun 22, 05 5:29 am


I am a graduate Architect looking to work with forster+Partner to develop myself while I render my services to the Firm. Please how do I get to contact the Firm. thank you

Nov 14, 19 9:18 am
Non Sequitur

Well, back in the ol'glory days of 2005 (when this thread was last active)... one certainly would have picked up a local phone book and called their reception. Today, some 14y later, you'd be surprised to find out that very little has changed. Sure, phone books are extinct but their replacement (contact pages on corporate websites) are just as good.


But it's tough to google the firm (or find it in a phone book) if you don't know how to spell the firm's name.


thank you.

Nov 14, 19 9:35 am

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