Thursday, November 03, 2005

Who Will Organize the Architects Union ?


Architects may need to consider activism within the practice to retain jobs domestically. It is increasingly common that architectural services are being outsourced abroad along with other services and high-tech jobs. Are we as architects deluding ourselves by assuming that our design skills will translate into other fulfilling jobs here at home, while the work we are being specifically trained to do is contracted abroad to lower labor costs ?

12 Comments:

Blogger O-llaborative said...

A sign of the times - even our 'star architect' positions are being outsourced. Think about the high profile jobs that our city is giving away to "big name" foreign architects - the new Guthrie Theatre, John Nouvel; the Walker Art Center addition, Herzog and DeMeuron. It is not just the entry level positions we are outsourcing, but those at the top of the chain. Does this mean we will only remain as a sort of middle class within the field of architecture? How can we organize to protect our job security?

7:30 PM  
Blogger motherjones said...

To o-llaborative's point, even the best of the best local firms fall over themselves to partner with big name out-of-town firms when a big project is on the table. Or in other words, foreign invasions almost always require local collaborators.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Becky said...

One issue that we might consider here is what type of work is being outsourced. From my understanding, rendering, both by hand and by computer, is the most likely type of work that would be done overseas. One could argue that this work is not really "design" work but more about representation. Outsourcing this work, therefore, leaves more quality design work jobs in the U.S. for us as young architects to pursue. While I'm not arguing that outsourcing is a good thing, I am saying that if I have to choose between being pigen-holed as a 3d-modeler for a firm and getting a chance to work on design, I'd definitely choose the latter. It would be interesting to examine how outsourcing is truly influencing the number of hires in local firms and the type of work those hires are completing.

7:33 AM  
Blogger Bridger said...

I'd like to see the two Blog groups looking at firm organizations and typologies (o-llaborative and delightful chaos) to consider this issue and find out from the firms themselves how they see "outsourcing" affecting their practice. This would include intern development and training situations. Are there adequate "design" opportunities available in firms for all the graduates to make outsourcing less of a threat as Becky might be suggesting?

The idea of organizing to "protect our job security" is intriguing. Wonder what you would think effective, I'm interested.

9:48 AM  
Blogger motherjones said...

I will admit that no one ever knows what will be effective until one tries. Architects have always seen themselves as white collar, and unions are traditionally blue. But today, I believe the largest unions are white collar, many government administrative and clerical in nature. Perhaps simply organizing a traditional union, at Ellerbe or HGA, would send a strong message to the entire twin cities architectural community that architects on the production line need a voice in how the business model is structured. To Becky's point, I would hazard a guess that it is construction drawings as well as rendering that is being outsourced. This bites well into the meat of what young architects work on and learn about how buildings go together. A union would allow groups to set down and negotiate and have a conversation about these issues in a forum where there is a little more balance of power.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Bridger said...

There are many forums available to discuss the issues of outsourcing and the development of young architects' basic skills in learning to put buildings together. Continuing education programs and seminars are easily developed and promoted through AIA MN and CALA that would be of interest to students, interns, educators and practitioners. There is an AIA MN committee whose task is to facilitate CE programs and anyone can be on the committee or bring ideas to them. You can even promote the notion of a traditional union and be a part of the discussion. The changing nature of delivery will challenge how architects compete in the marketplace, provide value and teach their young, but this should be looked at as an incredible opportunity. Understanding the forces and factors at work here will be of great benefit as you enter and function in the practice world.

8:19 PM  
Anonymous aariza9338@charter.net said...

Ariza from California- I would like to see the creation of a Union to protect architects and junior designers from the abuses occuring in design firms here at home. Architects complain about the quality of students coming out of schools, however many of those same Architects hire draftsmen and designers that do not have formal educations for less money. Architects groom these people as an alternative to paying higher wages to professionally trained candidates. Eventually these people become managers that believe they are just as good as university trained candidates. This practice makes all architects look bad when these individuals use poor judgement and bad design. Something needs to be done to establish pay rates based on education and experience. These are the things a union can do to protect junior architects and draftsmen, from having to compete for lower wages with trade school graduates. This would also raise the quality of services provided by small firms, and would encourage firms to groom those best fit to lead. Many qualified candidates go into other fields because pay rates are higher. As a result those that stay in architecture must endure low wages until licensed. A union must be created to protect our profession from being represented from candidates that not qualified!

12:41 PM  
Blogger margo said...

I would like to see a union protecting ivy-league master educated architects like myself from working average 70-80 hours a week - that's $12.65per hour...without overtime or comp-time...sometimes we go for days without sleeping...this is the ugly face of architecture and as a working mother i find it difficult to justify it to my three year old sun and mu husband who rarely sees me. i am working for a very prestigious new york architect but find it difficult to work for. Can we unionize by law and how?

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Architecture is dying. Those we serve have, or think they have, developed enough prescriptive knowledge to do away with us. I'm sure you've noticed it. It is implemented through building codes, prototyping, legislation, more liberties to contractors, and the bidding process wich compelles us to become so competitive with one another we decay our livelihood in the process.


There once was a time when society had architectural ethic; respect for our talent, and the contribution it made to society. That is no more I am sorry to say. Frank is turning in his grave. I'm saddened by it, while remaining a positive force. However, I do take heed in what is before me and my colleagues in the future, and that is the almighty bottom line.

Architecture will always be an institution yes, but will architects be at the helm of that institution? That is the question. I beleive unions would help, but only in the short term. Those that would be threatened by this union will find circumvention eventually. But, let's give em hell anyway!

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Alex Gore said...

Interesting proposal. What if we made cad programs like DVD, they only work in certain regions.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Architects graduates and undergraduates, drafters are all underplayed. The owners make out of 10 architects millions of dollars every year. This is the perfect form of slavery. AIA is doing nothing other than collect taxes. Design teams are the only ones that are not required to provide minimum wages for governmental jobs. Wake up America.

9:32 AM  
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