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TALES FROM ARCHITECTURE’S FRONT LINE
BY AMANDA BAILLIEU
BY SUNAND PRASAD
COMMENTS FROM THE BD EMPLOYMENT SURVEY 2013 THE PART I GRADUATE THE YOUNG PRACTICE FOUNDER THE PART-TIME PRACTICE DIRECTOR THE UNEMPLOYED MULTI-AWARD-WINNING ARCHITECT
CREDITS + CONTACT
AMANDA BAILLIEU, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF BD
Unemployment numbers among UK architects have been frustratingly difficult to pin down. Official figures only measure those claiming jobseeker’s allowance, while the definition of an “architect” omits students - one of the hardest hit sectors in this recession. It was for this reason that BD undertook its first ever employment survey in February 2013. More than 4,000 professionals (including students) took part. The results did not make happy reading: one-fifth of the profession more than 22% - remain unemployed. But architects’ personal stories painted a picture of a profession facing a particular kind of crisis, despite today’s better economic forecast. Part of the problem is there are simply too few jobs for the number of qualified architects. Second, practices have become more cautious about taking on full-time staff because the future is still unclear. Many are opting to replace qualified architects with inexperienced, unqualified students who are cheaper and will work long hours with no overtime pay. Even if the economy is slowly improving, and if house building finally takes off, this will fail to plug the gap caused by five years of public spending cuts. At the same time there is the added challenge of a government that has proved uninterested - if not downright antagonistic - to architects’ role in shaping society.
Of course, the situation many architects find themselves in can’t be blamed entirely on a fragile and weakened economy. Some of the difficulties are decades old: education has failed to keep pace with change, and an arcane regulations system has failed to protect architects, who continue to be undercut by a range of other professionals. Pay and the pressure on fees are nothing new either. And practices, despite all claims to the contrary, continue to be hard places to work if you are a woman with a young family. Neither is there much sympathy for those being made redundant. Many of you complain of ageism and few over 60 feel that they will be employed again. Unemployment will continue to cast a shadow over the profession but of equal concern is the lack of help architects give each other, from taking on a year-out students to ensuring that staff are properly and regularly paid. The personal stories in this collection are testament to some of the less attractive side of architecture, but it falls to everyone to treat colleagues with dignity and respect. BD is donating all proceeds from this ebook to the Architects Benevolent Society, which continues to provide practical and financial help to architects who have been made redundant or are facing some other personal misfortune.
The ABS SUNAND PRASAD. or other personal misfortune. and since it started the ABS has helped many who were affected. please call today for a confidential chat with one of our dedicated Welfare Officers: 02075802823 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. or someone that you know. Our support ranges from confidential advice to financial assistance. If you. or feel that the ABS could be of assistance. can relate to any of the stories in this book.uk 3 . Inevitably the recession has hit the profession hard. unemployment. PRESIDENT OF ABS The Architects Benevolent Society is the only charity in the UK dedicated to helping members of the wider architectural profession and their families affected by redundancy.
EMPLOYMENT STORIES TALES FROM ARCHITECTURE’S FRONT LINE .
more than 22% . Only a small number were claiming jobseeker’s allowance. But our survey wasn’t just about numbers. Results from the survey (published in March 2013) revealed that one fifth .BD Employment Survey BD launched the first employment survey in February 2013 in response to a growing concern that the government’s official unemployment figures were failing to reflect the truth about the state of the profession. good and bad. accounting for the low figures recorded by the government’s statistics. The survey was taken by over 4.000 architecture professionals. This figure rose dramatically to 52% for those that had not yet fully qualified. These are the stories behind the statistics. We also asked participants to share their employment stories. ranging from Part I year out students through to practice directors. 5 .of UK architects were unemployed.
done in my own time.8 127 6 2 PART II SELF-EMPLOYED PRACTICE MANAGER SCOTLAND months job applications replies interviews no job I have a good CV. PART II ARCHITECTURAL ASSISTANT NORTH EAST ENGLAND I was made redundant from an architectural practice in Leeds in July 2010 and remained unemployed until April 2011 when I got a job with a large consultancy. 6 . My computer skills are low and I believe if I had none of the above yet had excellent CAD skills I’d probably get the job. But the company did not have the right environment for me to do Part III and I had been looking for a different job for over a year when finally last month I managed to get a permanent position with a medium sized architectural practice in the North East. I have volunteered for one year. Have 3 years of house construction experience. I’ve won awards for my work. starting next month.
7 . Projects have been few and far between. where I’ve been working ever since. Not the best time or circumstances to set up our own practice and we have not managed to pay ourselves to pay ourselves more than £7. ARCHITECT SOUTH ENGLAND I received a 20% pay cut back in 2008 and was then made redundant in 2010. ASSOCIATE & SECTOR LEAD LONDON PARTNER SOUTH EAST ENGLAND The last 3 years have been the worst I have experienced since I became a partner in the practice 30 years ago. I’m not sure how this scenario will ever change if architects can’t command a decent fee for their services. delays in progressing them have been long and unpredictable and fees are the lowest ever .Architects pay lip service to family friendly working practices but when it comes to the reality of a job with tight fees and deadlines all sympathy goes out the window. only to be re-hired on a temporary contract after the statutory redundancy period was over. All qualified staff left at this time. This is the biggest barrier to being a mother in architecture. So I emmigrated to New Zealand.less than 40% of those in 2007. unless you’re the boss or you’re married to your business partner.000 each per annum. DIRECTOR NORTH ENGLAND I originally set up practice with two former colleagues after not being paid for 3 months by a former employer.
I am not prepared to do it for the salaries on offer. 15 years ago I probably would have accepted it but after my experience of the last 10 years. I was made redundant after 14 years at one practice which specialised in healthcare. eventually selling up to avoid re-possession. I lost my job. I subsequently built a modest practice until the recession but did not have deep enough roots to really survive. The industry is badly remunerated and this needs to be addressed. I ran up debts to keep the staff and business going. and while I have had a few interviews they were not cities where I live and I will be honest. the building was never built. DIRECTOR SOUTH WEST ENGLAND Somehow I am still hanging on. When the government reduced spending in healthcare. Its ‘Benchmarking Survey’ takes a day to complete. re-mortgaging our house. DIRECTOR SOUTH WEST ENGLAND 8 . The client pulled out. RIBA competition regulations seem to be written with clients’ interests at heart. giving them hundreds of schemes to review and no responsibility to build. living away in rented accommodation during the week holds no appeal to me now. I am looking at self employment ARCHITECT SELF EMPLOYED SOUTH WEST ENGLAND The RIBA seems completely out of touch with modest sized practices. I am based in the South West.I set up my practice after winning a national competition in 2001.
which is where 90% of the work is . I had a few interviews for jobs but was never successful. The last time I had a pay rise was in January 2007. ARCHITECT NORTH WEST ENGLAND ARCHITECT SOUTH EAST ENGLAND I’m 55. One agency told me I wouldn’t be suitable as they were looking for younger people.DIRECTOR SOUTH EAST ENGLAND I was recently forced to resign my position as associate of a medium size practice since going on maternity leave. I have had a £7k pay cut based on my 2007 salary . I was redundant for another 5 months before being reemployed on a rolling 2 month contract. I have been inundated with work. I was going to be made redundant again after 7 months but managed to find a temporary position.but cannot begin a practice or career or a life outside the capital. There was no viable option for flexible working to allow for family life or childcare so in 2011 I set up my own practice and now focus on small scale projects. I was made redundant in 2010 as an Associate Director. I am now working 50 miles from home. I was out of work for 9 months then managed to obtain a temporary contract as a Senior Architect for 2 months before being made redundant again. 9 . This will be a more common feature in our profession as people get priced out of London . it was possibly the reason I was made redundant in 2009.the highest my salary has been which represents a 15% pay cut. After 3 years ‘freelancing’ and nearly losing my house. While this is against the law.
Bristol’s mayor is the architect George Ferguson. but opportunities for architects in the city remain slim. .
I was offered two weeks voluntary work at Lyons+Sleeman+Hoare in Hartley Witney and then I was offered a permanent. The practice should be commended for identifying my potential as a young. I applied to around 20 practices in London and received around six responses informing me they would not take my application further or that they were not currently looking for part I students. My biggest achievement was putting together a FF&E schedule. complete with full internal and external finishes mood boards. I also got involved in marketing.St John’s School in Marlborough. I conceived the ideas and concepts behind the choices and then presented these to the client. I planned to work elsewhere to broaden my experience. eventually winning some work for our practice through making routine cold calls to local businesses. paid position as an office assistant at Re-Format in Alton despite my lack of qualifications or experience. but I found it impossible to find work in London. BUT NOT WITH A BIG NAME PRACTICE IN LONDON During my gap year I applied for work experience with local practices in Hampshire. My salary was a daily rate of £50 per day.The Part I Graduate STARTING EARLY HELPED PART I GRADUATE SITA JOBANPUTRA SECURE A JOB. I returned to Re-Format twice in my university career at Sheffield and now work for them full time to complete my PEDR records for part I. 11 . for ReFormat’s largest project to date . But I was fortunate enough to have formed a strong connection with Re-Format and they offered me a part I position in 2012. ambitious designer and investing in me before I even obtained any architectural qualifications.
We have had about five rounds of redundancies in the last few years and shrunk down to almost nothing. I am busy as I’m offering a quality design service which my town is lacking.The atmosphere in the office is terrible. 12 PART III DESIGNER NORTHERN IRELAND . As yet. but is worried about the market. Most people know somebody in need of work. I’m really enjoying it. I am currently working as a playground designer which has become a thriving industry. My work comes from all sources and is varied. Everyone wants to get out. I have been unsuccessful. ARCHITECT LONDON I have been searching for an architectural assistant position to complete my Part III since leaving university in July 2011. For now I feel it is a job which I will remain in until more architecture positions become available. ARCHITECT LONDON I recently set up my own architectural services company. as I was out of work. PART I DIRECTOR MIDLANDS The trend of gaining employment through friends and recommendations seems more common than a few years ago.
museum photographic clerk and wind farm project management. DIRECTOR LONDON I was made redundant in August 2011. ARCHITECT PROPERTY SERVICES MAINTENANCE INSPECTOR SCOTLAND I have recently received an email to tell me that a work placement would not be a paid. I am now working in a social housing maintenance team. Has it come to the point where you must be “well off” to work for an office for free and those who cannot afford to work for free are not able to gain any architectural work? PART II UNEMPLOYED ARCHITECTURAL ASSISTANT MIDLANDS 13 . At the moment I have to live with my parents. I made over 100 applications but didn’t get a single interview.Shortly after setting up as a new two person practice we placed one advert for a temporary architectural assistant and received 650 applications in 3 days Many were from vastly over-qualified applicants or Part II qualified students who had not had any employment since finishing their course over 6 months previously. I then applied for everything from an asbestos surveyor. I would have to relocate from the West Midlands and rent in London.
14 . much less. There has to be a better way! ARCHITECT LONDON PART II ARCHITECTURAL ASSISTANT NORTH WEST ENGLAND I have a first class degree and a Distinction for my MA. The RIBA says I should earn about £23. ARCHITECT NORTH EAST ENGLAND Our practice used to be 26 and is now 11 including admin staff. I just feel grateful to have a job. I have a postgrad qualification in Historic Buildings and am accredited in HB. I have had only 3 interviews. We have had three phases of redundancies since 2008 and the last time we had any salary increases was January 2008. I offered to go part time .The industry still thrives on under-staffing and unpaid overtime. I was really lucky and found a job in Manchester.3 days a week .and in June 2012 this was increased to 4 days. only one in the city where I live.000. Since leaving university. Liverpool. The reality is that I was offered much.
Having spent 6 years at university and funded myself through Part III. We had worldwide applications for the position. DIRECTOR SOUTH WEST ENGLAND I graduated with my Part I in 2008 just as the recession hit. I went there for a week of meetings and ended up accepting an offer before leaving after having 5 practices interested in me. 15 ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR SOUTH EAST ENGLAND . As a consequence I worked voluntarily at a local practice for 6 months before getting a full time role at another firm. ARCHITECT SOUTH WEST ENGLAND I’ve decided to relocate to Christchurch NZ where a £10-15 billion investment is underway rebuilding the city after the earthquakes two years ago. We were shocked when we advertised for a RIBA Part II Assistant. No practice has been concerned about my career progression or paying a fair salary. which was unbelievable as we consider ourselves quite a small South East practice.I have been made redundant 3 times in the past 4 years. it is disheartening to have my education devalued by directors who see that they can cut staff salaries by 20% in the knowledge that if they leave plenty more will fill the vacancies. PART II ARCHITECTURAL ASSISTANT NORTH ENGLAND I have been fortunate to have stayed with the firm who sponsored me through my Part II and have been given a permanent role. I apply for every job that I see advertised but rarely get a reply.
.Practices in Manchester weathered the last five years by working outside the city.
I was made redundant in the last year and spent a couple of months working on my Part I and II equivalency submissions. 17 . A different agency has lined up a couple of interviews for me for next week. PART II ARCHITECTURAL ASSISTANT LONDON PART II ARCHITECTURAL ASSISTANT NORTH WEST ENGLAND I feel grateful to be in work but my wage is much lower than the RIBA’s recommendation for a Part II graduate. as my architecture degree is from the US. As a job seeker I’ve found that having good Revit experience is a great selling point. DEVELOPMENT OFFICER FOR A HOUSING ASSOCIATION NORTHERN IRELAND I have also set up my own practice but have not been able to attract sufficient work to make a living.I held the role as divisional director for a large UK firm of architects and was responsible for the setting up of the office in Belfast. so I’m looking for a new job. When I started looking for a job. I have looked for work in the profession continuously for two years without success until I applied for a position with a local housing association as a development officer on a salary of a little over 1/3 of my previous salary. however. This was established in 2007 and closed in 2010. I found one through a recruitment agency within about two weeks. I’m about to be made redundant again. I’m lucky in that I can live with my parents as I could not possibly afford to rent a flat on my current wage.
ARCHITECT LONDON I am very well qualified and have worked for good practices in the past.ARCHITECT SCOTLAND The practice has been cut from 30 to 6 staff. Pay slips are a total work of fiction.000. Staff morale is rock bottom. Office projects have been scaled down from good earners to unprofitable house alterations. After working with the same company for 13 years I’ve been put on a 3 day week and get bullied regularly. It is as though they don’t believe there are any placements available in the North West so don’t bother applying. I was offered a job by a practice in Winchester for £15k less than I am currently earning. 18 . in Hampshire. ARCHITECT LONDON I would like to work nearer to home. Over the last 28 months my salary arrears have built up to £20. All things considered I did not want to be earning less than my partner’s daughter who had just left university and started work for RBS! I’ve been working continuously for 30 years. We have noticed a severe decline in applications from graduates looking for work. I took time off to look after children and cannot get back in. DIRECTOR NORTH WEST ENGLAND We always take on two Part I students each year with a reasonably good salary offered. I receive 40% of my theoretical salary.
I was made redundant from a senior position in a large practice. ASSOCIATE ARCHITECT NORTH EAST ENGLAND Due to a declining workload and despite having led a number of highly successful projects. late or non payment of fees. On the plus side we are residential specialists and have noticed a consistent increase in work in this sector for the past quarter. Fees are typically 50% less than they were in 2007. I was no longer enjoying large scale commercial architecture. Most practices I know have shrunk by at least 25% and most have also had periods of 4 day weeks during the last few years. There are practically no senior jobs around.I took voluntary redundancy from a director level position in a large practice to help with cash flow. due to the lack of respect for architects from both clients and contractors. ARCHITECT NORTH WEST ENGLAND I have seen one architect’s job advertised in the North East in the last three years. and practices face fierce competition and low fees. and expectation of work carried out for no fee in early stages. ARCHITECT SELF EMPLOYED NORTH WEST ENGLAND Is the profession adequately represented in government circles to seek to redress the distorted views such as those expressed by Michael Gove? 19 .
I was told that it was because the firm was struggling and I was happy to accept £22. and everyone was offered their job back on less pay. Not surprisingly over 80% of us took the money and ran just the opportunity I had been waiting for as I now had a start-up fund to do my own thing. I went back to university to study for Part II in September 2008. 20 . There were too many directors taking up to £150k salaries and not bringing in work. Nothing was done about it until too late as the structure was too top heavy. PART II ARCHITECTURAL ASSISTANT LONDON My practice of 100 people made 30% of its staff redundant and I was one of them. In the end the whole company was made redundant.DIRECTOR SOUTH EAST ENGLAND My previous practice had been in severe financial difficulties for 2 years. I beat over 500 applicants to get my job. I finished Part II in 2010 and I couldn’t even get voluntary jobs.000. I heard my firm had made another 30 people redundant and they had gone down to just 30 (keeping mostly the 8 partners and 10 associates and the necessary remainder of staff to finish their jobs).
Architects in the northwest have been particularly hard hit. .
I had observed his skills and had noticed that they were very distinct. and non-professional competitors dominate the smaller domestic and commercial sectors. source premises and give notice to our former employer. we applied to a graduate Enterprise Fellowship Programme offered by Liverpool John Moores University. Young businesses need support and mentoring beyond simply financial assistance. but opportunities are there if you are prepared for a little risk.fewer still for those of us not heeding the inexorable pull of London.The young practice founder MATTHEW ASHTON FOUNDED LIVERPOOL-BASED MGMA STUDIO/ARCHITECTURE IN 2011 WITH MATHEW GILES Trying to make a career move in the post 2008 economic situation was difficult. Mathew and I are very different characters. There were very few job opportunities . as the RIBA touchingly refer to us. then I needed to create my own opportunities. After springing the idea on Mathew over office Christmas drinks. but on closer inspection we had a great deal more than [almost] a forename in common. 22 . I followed up a couple of days later with a short text developing our studio concept into the typographic arrangement of our logo. I’d never envisaged myself as a sole practitioner – I have always preferred a collaborative environment. The smaller offices in Liverpool seemed busy. but they are surmountable. and he responded with a sketch for an outline business plan. After several months of research and planning. to mine. borrowing is expensive. and they all pale into insignificance in light of the challenge to design and build with integrity. fees are always under pressure. I decided that if the market couldn’t offer me a suitable job. How to describe our first year? We knew it wouldn’t be easy. obtain start-up finance. The LJMU programme has been invaluable in assisting our growth. I can’t change any of these problems. but very complementary. Mathew Giles and I had previously worked in an office together. but we certainly underestimated the gestation period to develop a lead into a commission. which was the catalyst for us to establish the company. helping us to define and pursue our intent. but were not necessarily expanding. work is far from plentiful. Working capital is hard to come by. In “the regions”.
then a further 5%. ARCHITECT MIDLANDS Approximately 3 years ago my salary was cut first by 5%. I am now becoming aware that my chances of getting another job at my age are probably very low. but in hindsight it was the best thing for me personally. I set up my own practice and in 2011 I merged my fledgling company with a practice that was 10 years old and very successful.a decision blamed on the down-turn and difficulties the practice was having. My guess is that it was an opportunity to remove me. I see no realistic prospect of seeing this reinstated in whole or in part for the foreseeable future. Currently we are finding life difficult as most are. I now work in a practice of about 25 technical staff and I am the oldest person by over 10 years. And my current employer knows that. then a further 12. Salaries have not been increased but we have made no redundancies. however the workforce has stayed stable.DIRECTOR MIDLANDS After 24 years in my own company I was made redundant by my co-directors in 2010 .5%. But because I am CAD proficient and been using BIM (Revit) since 2004 I have survived the brutality of the last five years. However. 23 . The impact of new technology and working practices are making this a young person’s profession. 2013 is looking quite good. ARCHITECT SOUTH WEST ENGLAND I am 60 years old and have worked in architecture all my life.
I have invested in property training to enable me to work in this market place. We appear to be stable at this size. There have been no pay rises for 3 years. Fee tendering is tighter than ever. I feel it has been a complete waste of 6 years. Our practice has not made anyone redundant. and most projects are less profitable than they were just a few years ago.PARTNER SOUTH EAST ENGLAND I lost my job in May 2010 as a Senior Architect and found that there was no work. So with the advice of an entrepreneur I set up as a sole trader working with property investors and developers. I was made redundant this year. PARTNER MIDLANDS Workload has been down in the past 3 years. and the partners have taken a big reduction in earning to keep the practice intact. After nearly 3 years I now have projects which pay enough to cover the bills and the next few months look very promising. It’s time the RIBA admitted the role of the provincial jobbing architect has all but gone. and have enough work for 6 months ahead.reducing staff from 11 to 9. but might be picking up a little at the moment. PART II ARCHITECTURAL ASSISTANT MIDLANDS 24 . but two young architects who moved on have not been replaced .
less than half are still in architecture today. We are not in a position to employ anyone. Many are offering to work for nothing just to get the experience. I’m not sure if I can keep going and have diversified into catering as well. Now I work for different architectural practices where I can on a freelance basis. PARTNER SCOTLAND PART III ARCHITECTURAL ASSISTANT SCOTLAND I have been made redundant 3 times over the last 4 years. Additionally my graduating year consisted of 60 people. SELF EMPLOYED ARCHITECT SOUTH WEST ENGLAND We receive a huge number of applications from students / architects looking for work. Setting up on my own was really hard and I have struggled hugely in the last two years and going up against cheap plan drawers is soul destroying. I also have set up a small business on the side casting concrete. I have noticed that the smaller more creative practices seem to be struggling and disappearing while larger more commercial and corporate practices are still getting work via framework agreements. We can barely afford to pay ourselves right now. 25 FREELANCE ARCHITECT NORTH WEST ENGLAND . but suddenly some extra projects have turned up. Not sure how the climate will be but still keen to give it a go. It is a struggle. I would not still be practising if it was not for the financial contributions of my partner. I graduated in 2008 and it took 3 years to find full time employment in Scotland.I am in my mid-late 40s.
For the last 6 months to a year. Many practices don’t bother but in 5 years there is going to be a major skills gap. We’ll shortly be adding to the team on the back of recent project wins.This will be a lost decade for the UK and for the profession. Instead the company declared bankruptcy. ARCHITECT SCOTLAND The market for young architects coming out of university is ridiculous . and we are now 8 strong. so it’s not all doom and gloom. The only outcome I can see is a two tier profession of small practices and single practitioners alongside very large practices with no middle ground.all of this talent is being wasted. We have taken on two young graduates but we should do more. 26 . and hugely busy. The lack of response from the profession about architects’ situation has been telling. We’ve expanded throughout the recession. DIRECTOR SCOTLAND I set up my practice 10 years ago. ARCHITECT SCOTLAND ARCHITECT LONDON I have never been made redundant. and then opened a new company where the ones who stayed became selfemployed. we have been paid late.
for the first time. On the bright side. When I said I wasn’t qualified being. We count ourselves lucky not to have taken a pay cut. EX-ARCHITECT SCOTLAND I love architecture but I don’t love working for nothing. PRACTICE MANAGER SOUTH EAST ENGLAND I’ve had to move cities to find work.I work for an Isle of Wight practice. made a loss.there is little need to look further afield. I went to Australia and worked for a year in a great practice. None of us have had a wage rise (or review) in over 3/4 years. our workload seemed to increase whilst our fees decreased. 27 . 2011-2012 was a disastrous year for us. It was very dispiriting to work so hard for so little reward. My worst experience of the last three years has been the Job Centre. Our workload is primarily island based . I’ve taken a leading role in my family’s business (food related) and couldn’t be happier. and although I’m still on the register I’m not practicing. With just four staff left. The pressure and stress of earning a living in architecture is behind me. In 2011 the profession was becoming too depressing for me and I wanted to escape. we have seen the first signs of an increase in workload this year and have actually taken a student on as a result. We halved in size (there’s now 4 of us) and. I’m now back in the UK. the reply was “It’s all the same building stuff isn’t it?” I was one of the lucky ones who held a job since leaving college in 2004. ARCHITECT SCOTLAND A typical situation was being told I must apply for roles such as a Senior Mechanical Engineer. It continues to be a struggle to forecast income more than 3 months ahead.
Living outside big cities has obvious advantages — but means long journeys to find work. .
I was just me. I always wanted to be an architect. I have to be wary not to let home life cross over into work life. I have always worked for small practices and I vowed that I would never want to run my own because of the stress involved. more job-share opportunities could be created which would benefit anyone who wants a more balanced life. DIRECTOR AT APSE ARCHITECTURE AND PLANNING. The firm was named after him and I felt that clients might want to meet him as a first contact rather than me so I gave the firm a more generic name. yet here I am doing just that. Companies should see an architectural position as a “role” rather than a person. In that way. Being responsible for the school run and domestic life means I cannot work too far from home so I was hard pressed to find a job in the few nearby practices. 29 . My partner wanted a research sabbatical so I took over his practice. and re-branded it. having my own business yet spending plenty of time with my family. The upshot is that I had to start from square one with promoting the business but things are picking up now. Balancing work and family life is difficult for both women and men.The part-time practice director JULIE BOULTBY. It never occurred to me that it might be a “man’s job” or indeed that I was even a girl . ON HOW HAVING CHILDREN AFFECTED HER CAREER AS AN ARCHITECT I feel blessed to be able to work part time. but on opening it discovered pages of wonderful monsters that I had to swiftly flick past. I once forgot my notebook at a meeting and had to borrow my son’s that I found in the car.
My role has changed from Associate in an architectural practice to Project Manager for a sub contractor and also part time book keeper. This allowed me to re-establish my contacts and found a job working on Crossrail in another multi-disciplinary firm. ARCHITECT SOUTH EAST ENGLAND Since graduating. PROJECT MANAGER AND BOOK KEEPER SOUTH WEST ENGLAND 30 . ARCHITECT LONDON I was made redundant in September 2008 while working for a small private practice but was fortunate enough to have over 11 years previous experience within a multi-disciplinary company working within the transportation sector. I doubt I will return to being an architect again.I am one of the hidden ‘under-employed’ practitioners that are never recorded on unemployed statistics. I have had to take a job outside of the industry and I am extremely concerned about losing skills gained throughout my education. or people who call themselves architects but aren’t. I have lost my job as architectural assistant. I may earn less but the job satisfaction is much better. PART III ACCOUNT ADMIN NORTHERN IRELAND Being undercut by retired architects doing it cheap for a bit of extra cash. even by architects working in academia doing work for free is the competition you face if you’re self-employed. SELF EMPLOYED ARCHITECT NORTH WEST ENGLAND The recession first affected me in 2008 whilst on maternity leave.
we are now an office of only two and many months I cannot afford to pay myself. and only gone through with it once. 31 .SELF EMPLOYED ARCHITECT SOUTH WEST ENGLAND The figures for unemployment and salary levels in the profession are seriously distorted by London/ South East. DESIGN MANAGER SOUTH EAST ENGLAND I moved out of employment as a senior architect in one of the UK’s largest practices to be a design manager in one of the UK’s largest main contractors.to work reduced hours on a contract basis and do the school run. Despite a growing reputation. especially sole practitioners or practice principals and are often too proud to admit they are struggling. In the regions architecture is a small world. and practices feel if they admit they are struggling this is a reflection on their business and will further undermine their chances of winning work.also an architect . DIRECTOR LONDON I have been running my own design-led practice since 2006. frequent coverage in the design press and winning design awards. PARTNER LONDON We have announced redundancy twice in the last two years. Architects. This offers significantly higher salary and benefits and allows my husband . This offers us as a family a better quality of life. but had never done this before in our 20 year history.
Salaries are being cut to the bone. FREELANCE DESIGN COORDINATOR WALES I have managed to gain employment with a design & build company who are supporting me through my Part III studies. I have the opportunity to talk to a very wide range of architects at principal or partner level and they feel free to talk as I am not a commercial rival. 32 . As a 60 year old with a very small pension in prospect. partners are drawing little or nothing and bad debt is soaring.once when the firm I was with went into administration. There is a massive amount of under employment as well as unemployment out there. I would encourage other students to do the same. PART II LONDON I’m still in my 20’s and have been made redundant twice and come to the end of two contracts . I now have job security and a good salary for my experience level which I would struggle to get with an architectural practice during these difficult times. ARCHITECT MIDLANDS I took a 15% pay cut end of 2008. How many 68 year old employed architects are out there? I feel very vulnerable. I will have to keep working until I am 68 at least. I wouldn’t have gone into architecture had I known this would be the reality. with no increase since then.ARCHITECT NORTHERN IRELAND I work in the Civil Service in Northern Ireland as a Conservation Architect. I deal with Listed Building Consent applications and give advice/grants to owners.
I run a small practice in Manchester. I insist we pay a fair wage to everyone who carries out any work for us.I was made redundant from a small firm after 2 years on 20% reduction and further 6 months on 40%. now with some £40. DIRECTOR NORTH WEST ENGLAND I spent £30. thus winning more work and making it harder for us. but the office has now turned a corner to profitability.000 of my own money setting up and trading in the first year. 33 . but it allows them to quote lower than we can.000 of unsecured debt incurred in the last 3 years it is difficult. My main competitor is using (and abusing) students from the university to work for free for them. I took a temporary job for 6 weeks on 10% lower than my graduate salary and 1 year later am still campaigning for a pay review though I am now on a permanent contract and running 4 jobs on site. very little is advertised as companies are inundated by CVs. three of them have closed their offices. I have nearly gone bust several times. In my opinion it’s immoral. PART II DIRECTOR SOUTH WEST ENGLAND Of the three practices in my city. ARCHITECT SCOTLAND All the jobs in Scotland are word of mouth.
Architects’ confidence in Wales is slowly returning. .
I feel that my peer group has suffered the most from poor salaries with little real chance of improvement unless I leave the practice or do something else entirely. 35 DIRECTOR SOUTH WEST ENGLAND . and have had to endure two spells of ‘signing-on’. Part of the problem is not just lack of work now. It is very difficult to explain to my family of doctors and lawyers the reason for poor salary given that I am now in my early 30’s. ARCHITECT NORTH WEST ENGLAND I was on a reduced salary before the practice went to the wall and everyone was made redundant. I was ‘transferred’ to another practice to complete the project I was working on. which is an asset and a noose at the same time. We have gone through periods of having staff on 3-day weeks and have done everything we can to hang on to our staff because we value them. only to be ‘let go’ 354 days later. I have still not found any permanent work. As someone who finished my Part III recently. but too low fees for many years. That was in early 2010. Leaving the profession is not something I would do easily and it would be with a heavy heart. so architects have not been able to build up a ‘buffer’ against hard times. No-one has had a pay rise for several years. and are aware that he hasn’t been able to find a ‘proper job’ in the UK since then.We have had a pay freeze for the last 5 years. I have over 30 years of experience. ARCHITECTURAL TECHNICIAN SCOTLAND We have had to make one member of staff redundant since 2008.
ARCHITECT SCOTLAND ARCHITECT SOUTH EAST ENGLAND In October 2012 I resigned my position in a small practice for a job at Leeds University as a Research Administrator. I have stepped away from architecture (hopefully temporarily) as I found the constant worry of redundancy and the type of work the practice was doing to stay afloat soul destroying. There are no jobs available for architects up here. though my CV does get a positive response due to the quality of my experience. 36 . I was one of those affected when a major UK practice went into administration in 2011 and was fortunate to find work with a friend very quickly but at a much reduced rate of pay. RESEARCH ADMINISTRATOR NORTH ENGLAND The final straw was when HMRC came for the furniture. My fellow colleagues have not been so lucky. I don’t consider this too unreasonable as the work I now do is now micromanaged by project managers (it takes two PMs to manage one Architect). I find myself asking whether there is sexism or ageism in the mix. but there are no jobs.a disgraceful state of affairs that reflects badly on both them and the profession.The jobs market for architects in Glasgow and the West of Scotland is dead. I work for a local authority and will be taking a £2.000 pay cut starting April 2013. back salary etc were optional extras . and is a far cry from the school building I used to do. This was not assisted by my former employers deciding that legal and contractual obligations such as redundancy pay in lieu of notice.
and sometimes out of work architects. ‘Top-heavy’ practices are finding that students previously happy to spend years rendering or producing room data sheets are keen to professionalise more quickly to get access to better remuneration and opportunities. based both here in the UK and in mainland Europe (fast internet access has made this practical). Our agility allows us to do relatively well mainly because of the hyper-affluent prime central London residential market. but it has undoubtedly been a real struggle and it offers a far from ideal architectural diet. with the majority coming from abroad. In the meanwhile I have watched with dismay my ex-partner and good friend work his way through two jobs and take a 40% pay cut. we still receive up to 25 CVs a week. ARCHITECT LONDON The ability of practices to judge workload and maintain some job stability seems to have been severely impaired in this more cut-throat time. Perhaps it’s time to re-engage with architectural technicians as part of the mix in all practices. Even without vacancies. We receive in excess of 300 CVs for every vacancy. ASSOCIATE SOUTH EAST ENGLAND 37 . where I collaborate with younger.DIRECTOR SOUTH EAST ENGLAND Following the demise of our practice of 10 years in May 2009 I have started a ‘low cost’ one from home. Fees don’t cover workload and all staff (from students to directors) is blackmailed to produce more.
I was made redundant just less than 2 years ago. from a practice I had been with for over 11 years. ARCHITECT NORTH EAST ENGLAND I was made redundant. Within 3 months I was carrying out a lot of consultancy work for my previous employer and enjoying the freedom and flexibility. There were no local practices recruiting so I have used my contacts with schools to provide an income to top up my occupational pension. Times are still dire in Scotland and things don’t seem to be improving much. It took me 6 months of constant searching for work to finally find a temporary contract position. Now at the far end of my career. PARTNER LONDON I should have gone solo a long time ago. In the last 12 months our office has grown by nearly 30% (staff numbers) and before Christmas all staff was given a modest pay rise. but it is 90% temporary contract work and nothing is certain. There is work if you hunt for it. 38 . PART III ARCHITECTURAL ASSISTANT LONDON I was made redundant at 57 from the county council. and set up my own practice. ARCHITECT SCOTLAND My income is under £10k pa. I consider myself fortunate to be at a practice with sufficient work on our books. which thankfully turned into a permanent (as much as it can be) position. I’ve never been happier. I am therefore on the statistics as being employed.
Having been through the whole jobseekers thing it’s clear that the Government statistics are inaccurate for the simple reason that they class people as employed if they are not down as unemployed. but I wouldn’t go back. Finding interesting and well paid work is challenging. DIRECTOR NORTH WEST ENGLAND I was made redundant from a small practice a year ago due to constant fluctuations of workload and mismanagement. When I was made redundant. ARCHITECT SOUTH EAST ENGLAND The recession was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. FREELANCE ARCHITECT NORTH WEST ENGLAND The Job Centre staff were nice people but hadn’t a clue what to do with architects. My experience is that there is no point in signing on after 6 months when they stop paying you Jobseekers allowance .you are then unemployed but not counted. PART II VISUALISER LONDON I was made redundant in 2009 and spent a fruitless year applying for jobs as architect and related roles. I was replaced with two very badly paid students.We are a female-led practice. but also to explore different avenues and be able to re-engage with the users of our buildings. I have the freedom to make my own decisions and take responsibility for my own practice. and left our previous employers to give us more flexibility for family life. We have also recently set up as a social enterprise to both fulfil our ethos but also as a different revenue stream. 39 . I’ve never looked back and am earning triple what I used to earn. I was forced out of my comfort zone and had to make do with the skills and expertise I had to set up a practice on my own.
The other is Northern Ireland. .Scotland remains one of the UK’s least positive regions for architects.
Several companies contacted me. care homes. This was not the first time I had been made redundant. schools.even with the imminent arrival of the Commonwealth Games. I even had my CV translated into French and posted it on the site of the Ordre des Architectes. please get in touch… 41 . With the reduction in public spending. and a media centre. Then the office redundancies started followed by four-day weeks and wage reductions. “Je regret” was always the reply. I could sense something was going to happen in 2008 when the project for a primary school that I was working on was shelved just after making the planning submission. The continuous job search can get you down. I apply for every job possible but in this financial climate when hundreds of others are all after the same job you know that the odds are against you. and I was starting to struggle to find things to keep me occupied. One job I applied for (and had an interview with) had over 160 applicants and they interviewed 20 people over four days. Back in 2001 I was let go by Comprehensive Design in Edinburgh but then I got a new job within a week at Aedas. and if I did not have a mortgage I would probably have left Glasgow. My profile is on LinkedIn and if anyone is interested in hiring me. a courthouse. but when they realised that I was still UK based. The construction industry in Glasgow has been one of the worst hit by the recession . retail and residential schemes.The unemployed multi-awardwinning architect MADE REDUNDANT FOR THE SECOND TIME IN HIS CAREER. MARTIN ABLETT IS TRYING EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK TO GET BACK INTO ARCHITECTURE I was made redundant from Aedas in October 2010 after nine years of dedicated hard work on a wide variety of projects including design competitions. competition for the few jobs that are advertised is high. This time around I knew it was not going to be that easy.
In 2010 the company ceased trading. We employed 4 people before having to close the practice in 2010. DESIGN MANAGER SOUTH EAST ENGLAND ARCHITECTURAL TECHNOLOGIST MIDLANDS I have worked in a reasonable size architects practice since 2002. 42 . We have offered the role to a Part I student that had not been able to get paid work. ARCHITECT SOUTH WEST ENGLAND I was made redundant from a practice just as I enrolled onto Part III course (towards the end of 2010). My former partner has managed to maintain a workload sufficient for him while I returned to full time practice and teaching. where I have been for over 2 years. A situation that is not ideal but it is all we can get at this current economic situation. including three qualified architects.We recently advertised a six month position for a Part I Student. we received 70 applications. and has even ensured a pay rise each year. Another company was formed by one of the senior architects and I was invited to join them as sub-contractor working as needed. I was quickly employed by a local housing developer. My current position is relatively secure but I’ve had no pay rise for 3 years. We also had a 25% pay cut as well as reduced hours. This company is treating me far better than the previous practice did. ARCHITECT NORTH WEST ENGLAND I set up my own practice with a friend in 2006. and have now qualified as an architect (qualified at the end of 2011). Due to the difficult financial situation the practice has reduced its staff to less than 75%.
Her pay was frozen in 2008.000 to a level equivalent to my 2007 salary over the last 3 years. She was recently told she was being made redundant but. 43 ASSOCIATE ARCHITECT SCOTLAND . together with numerous redundancies. which I hear is currently ongoing 3 years later. She is contemplating starting up on her own. which of course is very welcome but far from where my salary should be for my experience. ARCHITECT NORTH EAST ENGLAND At my last practice we had a 10% pay cut for 2 years. has now been asked to stay. With thinking space and a renewed vigour following my break I decided to get into property development. I bought a plot of land. long term prospects appear constantly erratic and earnings look unlikely to return to past levels. My salary has fallen by over £7. She has not had a pay rise since then and has been asked to go down to 4 day week and recently a 3 day week. The final straw is an imposed 40% pay cut across the board. I am loving the mix of architecture. Despite the very high profile of my office. ARCHITECT NORTH WEST ENGLAND I left my role as the director of a medium sized practice as there was a declining workload and not enough fee income for us as directors to pay ourselves. Fortunately I found another job within a couple of weeks. This was followed by 2 pay cuts of 10% and 20% from her original contract agreement. We were recently awarded this year a 10% salary rise.ARCHITECT LONDON My wife has been an Associate at large practice for 10 years. as she’d recently brought in several hundred thousands of pounds in fees. built a house and sold it. I am now buying a second plot and earned far more last year than in any year previously.
this makes a total of 6 times in my architectural career. ARCHITECT MIDLANDS I’ve been made redundant three times since 2008. Recruiters for menial jobs won’t take a qualified professional on and the competition for architecture jobs has left me with little hope. Without the financial support of my retired parents. I am not doing the type of work I would like but thankful to be employed having gone through the 1989-93 recession. scratching around to find my own work as a sole practitioner and waiting months for the odd interview. I’m earning less than I did in 2008 so in real terms that’s a huge pay cut and after 7 months in my current post and becoming fully qualified I’ve seen not even a whisper of a pay rise ARCHITECTURAL TECHNICIAN NORTH WEST ENGLAND I was unemployed for over two years. I’ve since found employment again and completed my Part III. It has been the toughest period of my life. 44 . I am now earning less than I was in 2002. including a factory job I took on just to earn enough to complete Part II.ARCHITECT LONDON I have been made redundant twice in the last 4 years . I literally would have been in dire straits.
I currently employ 12 part and full time staff in our 7th year of trading and we are aiming to hit £1m turnover this year. inexperienced. responsibility and security. I set up in 2006 working on my own. However this has meant earning less that £10. over 40 and part time. A good balance of work. All of us are female. I have recently been made redundant along with several other colleagues. ARCHITECT LONDON ARCHITECT LONDON We are being replaced by young. I saw an advert one evening for a job I thought I could do and decided to apply. PART II DIRECTOR MIDLANDS As a senior architect (late 50’s) who is extremely versatile and with a specific specialty. We had considered going to appeal on the grounds of ageism and sexism though due to other recent redundancy appeals going nowhere and being extremely costly. DIRECTOR LONDON It’s rewarding but financially crippling. Fortunately I have been able to start a practice with a colleague and develop 2 other initiatives in the masterplanning world. we have decided against it. 45 . unqualified architecture students who are much cheaper and will work long hours with no overtime payment.I was made redundant and set up my own practice which I enjoyed but lacked a business partner and I missed working in a team. I got the job and now I work 4 days a week and 1 day for my own practice. there are zero employment prospects.000 for 4 years and no ability to pay into a pension etc.
org. technologists and landscape architects. or to apply for help. To find out more about the Architects Benevolent Society. contact the head office: 43 Portland Place London W1B 1QH Tel: 020 7580 2823 Fax: 020 7580 7075 Email: help@absnet.All proceeds from the sale of A Profession in Crisis? will be donated to the Architects Benevolent Society (ABS) which provides practical and financial help to architects. assistants.uk .
BALLIEU@UBM.WINSTON@UBM. .co.bdonline.uk AMANDA BAILLIEU EDITOR-IN-CHIEF AMANDA. Devon © iStock Swansea © Andrew Green Liverpool © Jim Media Glasgow © Alex Clark BD is grateful to Clara Byrne for designing this book.COM Image Credits Bristol © James Clay Manchester © Ian Carroll Totnes.www.COM ANNA WINSTON HEAD OF DIGITAL ANNA.
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