Architecture is among the toughest professions there is. It is five years of literal blood, sweat, and tears to obtain a degree. And even then, it’s a degree of some minor understanding about the field, as the gap between architecture school and practice is a gaping chasm in reality. The problems faced by those in the field are well documented – low wages, long working hours, and limited creative freedom and recognition.
India is one of the countries that require an architect to sign off on all projects but does not necessarily require them to be designed by one. There is also the whole controversy surrounding the usage of the term architect. These are just some of the challenges facing the profession, but are these the same reasons due to which many architects are now pursuing different paths?
Historically, there have been several architects who have taken up alternate careers after their graduation. But taking up a career in an allied field or even something in stark contrast is becoming the accepted norm today. To understand the trend, I spoke to a number of architects who are following paths that are divergent from architecture to understand their reasons for leaving.
Salabh Srivastava, 33
Salabh practised architecture for almost 5 years and has had a partnership firm of his own before he was forced to quit because of an autoimmune disease. “Stress and the lack of any proper schedule,” he says when asked what brought it on. He has advised a break from architecture by his doctor and he used the opportunity to travel extensively. Unlike many others, Salabh actually enjoyed the practise so it was natural to ask why he never got back to it. “I could see it was unhealthy, and I never wanted to work for somebody else.” He is still connected to the field albeit not as an architect. He is an architectural photographer who is constantly searching for new ways to capture space. He also creates virtual reality tours of buildings and now has a firm of his own.
There are some who find that their passion lies elsewhere during architecture school and Prianca is one of them. She’s a production designer who works on the set design of various films and commercials. “I didn’t want a typical 9-5 job where my growth would be extremely slow, and the pay would be minimal. I got demotivated during my internship.” But she is actually applying all the skills she picked up at architecture school, with a completely different approach. The working conditions are tough, but the projects are great and the turnover is much faster. There is a different design challenge posed every few weeks and she finds it incredibly exciting. “I love the surrealism of the entire process. I also get to travel a lot, both within and outside India” she signs off.
Prianca Shivhare, 26
Manogna is fresh out of architecture school, having completed her graduation only in 2019. She has recently begun working at a community/event space as their Creative Events Manager. “I felt like my strengths lay in this field.” It becomes clear when she explains that she was actively involved with the student body at the college level and also at an international summer school. She is drawing on her experience from her extra-curricular activities in college for her present job. She does have good memories of her internship and developed quite a passion for earth architecture during its course. “Had I stayed in architecture, I would have had to search for jobs in a very specific field, which is sustainable architecture.” When asked if she’ll ever return to the field, she says she is open to it but adds that it is too soon to know for sure.
Manogna Murari, 23
Manpreeth, like Manogna, is also a fresh architect who graduated in 2019. He ventured away from designing buildings during his internship itself so he could explore graphic design and art better. He found the reality of the architecture process to be too technical and limiting. “I’ll come back to architecture, but only if it’s a project that I can truly connect to.” His break away from the field included a volunteering stint at several villages, where he developed an interest in farming and sustainable practices. He also has a sharp nose for business and is helping out with the family business when he gets time away from his freelance career. “We have stationery, retail, a book, and gift stores along with printing and other agencies.” He is also working on an independent venture with a friend that explores a new method of travel that does not yet exist in India.
Manpreeth A.M., 22
There are about 93,253 architects registered with the Council of Architecture at present, as opposed to the 500,000 that are required for India’s population. However, there have been over 60,000 registrations in the last decade alone. There are over 18,000 students who are graduating every year in this present climate of uncertainty. With the economy and the construction industry both staring at an extreme crisis, it makes sense that a growing number of architects are looking at alternate job options. But that leaves the profession in danger of dying a slow death unless something drastic changes in the next few years. As an architect myself, I can only hope that it does.