The dictionary meaning of an intern is “A student or trainee who works, in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification”.
An internship, within the field of architectural profession, is both an educational obligation as well as a professional forerunner.
In a quick 10 years, a person can go from being a high school student who thought, “Architecture is extremely astounding ,” to a licensed architect in an attire and armed with nothing but a pencil, a mouse, and their brain. But what happens in transition is an absolutely chaotic explosion of late night studying, even later nights in the studio, and most inevitably, the first internship.
Interns are therefore the smallest cog in the wheel. We thought the intention of an internship is just to gain experience. Little did we realize that, a time fraught with uncertainty and hesitance gives way to a moment of self-discovery and a renewal of one’s sense of purpose – a true metamorphosis that helps us find our place in the group. We are at a stage in life where learning must be the ultimate means for self-satisfaction.
Architectural Education in India is archaic. Sadly, universities are great at teaching us to be a student but not an employee, which makes internship a necessity for all of us. There is a large gap between academia and the industry, in which the process of internships exposes the problems to the students.
In architectural college the world revolves around design, when graduation is over, “the Reality” revolves round the ability to execute a design. Architectural school primarily focuses on design and problem-solving, not practicing architecture. Everybody spends 100% of their time planning & designing and zero of their time executing the projects. Within the profession less than thirds of their time is spent on design, whereas most of the time is spent functioning on a project finalizing and executing the design decisions from clients, Architects, Consultants, Permitting Agents, Contractors and Sub Contractors.
The skills that are needed to associate a cohesive set of drawings that meet all the code requirements, give us an involvement of how to work with contractors, managing clients efficiently, landing new projects, and legally practicing architecture in an overly complicated reality is just entirely outside the scope of an architectural school. It is learned from experience, this is where internship slightly scratches the surface for us students to see the reality.
The students are either extremely overwhelmed or they have high expectations which usually end up in disappointments. Even today the conversation remains largely the same – divided between groups that view internships as exploitative, on the one hand, and those that believe them to be a valuable aspect of architectural training, on the other.
The current scenario of architectural internships needs a serious review. With colleges churning out design interns in excessive numbers, the demand-to-supply ratio is so skewed that procuring even an insubstantial internship is a matter of relief. Students more often have to accept whatever offer comes their way, and with it comes the issue of accepting the conditions of that offer.
Students are left feeling unvalued, which dips our confidence, decreases our drive and passion for the field, and leaves us doubting our faith in the profession after internships. The damage caused will obviously take quite some time to remedy itself; in the interim, the students will continue to suffer the most.
The employers should also realize that interns are there to add a different value to the profession by entering into research and bringing new ideas which we are generally good at, focusing on that makes it less stressful and more meaningful. Sure, it means that training programs will have to be re-written wholesale. However, the good news is that there is no shortage of ideas.
It is the responsibility of the professional to train the next generation of Architects how to “practice” architecture, not the architecture school’s responsibility. There have been several debates with accomplished professionals, who would love to point a finger at the architecture school for not grooming their graduates to be their entry level, underpaid employees, and how they completely refuse to admit at least a minimum liability in training the succeeding future of architecture.
“An internship should be treated as a training in maturity. Rather than be viewed as a filler for that which a college cannot teach, internships should be regarded as a space to absorb what cannot be learned without experiencing it in the raw.” Prof. Manoj Mathur had mentioned this in his interview. “Perhaps it is time to broaden the scope of internship. If we agree that the objective of an architectural education is not to set up practices only, but also to prepare professionals capable of doing several jobs, then why insist on an internship under a registered architect? How about an internship in a construction firm under a site engineer? Or in a real estate consultancy under an MBA? Or in an NGO building rural water-harvesting ponds under a MSW? Or in a magazine under a sub-editor? Or under a photographer? Or an urban installation artist?”
Correspondingly, Ar. Prem Chandavarkar, CnT Architects, notes that a degree in architecture does not prepare a student of architecture to face the real-world scenarios of the profession. “Further, a degree in architecture does not limit one’s scope to the building industry alone; given its comprehensive nature and broad scope, architectural education – in fact – provides one a solid foundation to build a career in one of several allied fields. To regard Bachelors of Architecture as a pipeline process only serves to blindside the students.”
From an awfully young age, students are trained to induce the best grades possible. However, having smart grades doesn’t guarantee that you simply are an excellent worker. In a beginner’s mind there are infinite possibilities and we always have an open mind to learning. We may not have experience but we surely will learn from our mistakes, we may not know simple standard details but that would allow us to design and innovate our own. There are two phases for us to jump head on into our profession. Phase One is to learn design and problem-solving. Then Phase Two of our education begins on how to practice architecture and obtain experience through internships. We must acknowledge that there is a very long road ahead of us in learning and gaining experience. An internship is the solution to all the architecture students’ same fear of how to get from here to there and answers the question of How do I transition from being a student to a working professional?
AS A STUDENT WE SHOULD NOT TAKE INTERNSHIPS LIGHTLY, AND AS AN EMPLOYER WE SHOULD NOT TAKE INTERNSHIPS LOOK LIKE A MEANS OF COMMERCIAL GAIN.