Choosing what to do with your 40 years of career sounds like one of the heaviest decisions you’ll be taking for yourselves but, if you have the courage to dream about reaching your destination, you sure can figure out your road map to it. We need to identify our destination in order to catch on in the right direction. Similarly, in order to make any major decision in our lives, we need to set some basic parameters which help us direct our journey. It may not sound as wise or may not seem as promising but selecting a career on the basis of the size of the office is one of the most appropriate parameters in the field of architecture. Think like this, what if this is not about how grand you can go, instead, what if this is about how much you can grow? You could be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big lake. You are the creator of your own destiny. You choose. Aim. Shoot.
Who You Are? What You Want To Be?
Each one of us is different. In a field that has so many niches, you don’t know where you fit the best. Sometimes, we want to stay in our comfort zone & perform the best and the other times we might want to push our boundaries and step out of this comfort zone to perform. What is our comfort zone? What is a challenge for us? The answers to such questions vary from each one uniquely and so, the priorities. There is no definite flowchart as to what comes next for us. It really depends on the individual as to what type of environment you feel most comfortable in. To find the right fit, it might even require that you actually work in both environments just to experience the difference yourself.
Work Atmosphere, Pace and Pressure
In a deadline-driven industry, the need of each individual to be passionate and inspired is as much as the team needs to be innovative and dynamic to convert ideas into successful projects. You may prefer a close-knit family atmosphere of a small studio or you might get the thrill by the energy of a large studio. In most cases, working in a small firm will not prove to be monotonous but, challenging. Enthusiasts in small firms need to wear multiple hats, it means either you are a multi-tasker or are on the journey of becoming one. They are a jack of all trades, and most probably the master of none. Picture this, you’re standing always under a spotlight, your failures are as easily recognized as your efforts.
Bigger offices offer the best of both worlds. It is like exploring a big city – you will meet and work with different people to find your best fit. If things do not work well, eventually, your team changes! There are definitely more resources compared to smaller firms. You can’t really expect your hands reaching on to 3D printers, laser cutting machines, etc. from most of the small offices. Whereas in big studios, adding to such assets, the people who specialize in different pockets of architecture would prove to be a handy resource in big studios.
Project Size, Scope, Variety
This might come a bit as a surprise against a stereotype of an intern architect getting stuck working on bathroom designs is more likely to occur in smaller firms. This is not true. In most cases at a smaller firm younger people are called for challenges they are not formally prepared for. Generally, small offices find themselves evolving and growing in residential projects, hospitality projects, etc. where the client drives the project as much as the team of architects. However, if you feel fearless in dipping your feet into conceptual designs the big studios provide you with the right opportunities and deal in public spaces, government projects, etc. This will ensure a multi-market experience as an individual. It seems safe to conclude the more reliable you prove to be, the more responsibility will be put on your table.
Growth; Personal and Financial
To grow in a small office or for the troupe to grow as a whole it seems that it might be necessary to outline long term goals or at least envision for what “success” would mean and identify potential areas of growth. If you find this not so necessary, I ask you – how many times do you find people staying for more than 10 years in the same firm with no magnification? As passionate architects, it becomes quite obvious for us to hunt for other opportunities once we hit a ceiling in growth. Contradictory to this, the participation and contribution of the project in the smaller firm are obviously higher.
Speaking about the financial benefits the bigger studios have proven to be high whereas, in smaller firms the benefits can also be small, leaving aside the exceptions. To prove this to you in practical terms, here goes an example. Large studios always have projects lined up for them to ideate or process whereas there is no assurance of the pile of projects for the smaller firm as they cannot afford to burden themselves beyond a point. Hence, the assurance of the numbers adding to your account periodically is certainly guaranteed if you work for a large-scale firm.
The community of architects understands and accepts it that as creative minds we need to evolve and grow in all aspects. Interns, young ones, and experienced professionals – speaking to each one of you. Find yourself as a water droplet. Evaporate from a place that doesn’t suit you. Condense if needed. Then, rain heavy over a small pond or just swim to a small lake. There is no defined home or form of water and the same goes for you. Create a space and find yourself within the journey; who you are and what you want to be!