Breaking the myth of Starchitect

As a young struggling architect trying to find my place in the world, the castle of my dreams came swiftly crashing down. 

I was not going to be the next “Starchitect”!

As architecture students, we are often engaged in the game of one-upmanship, trying to come up with the best design ideas and drawings. But professional life is hardly a single-player game; it’s more of a strategic multi-player setup. Stumbling through the first year of my career and producing an endless stream of working drawings for months on end, I started to have a “quarter-life crisis”, which all young professionals go through. 

“Am I only good enough to make the toilet details?”

Honestly, in the 21st century, it’s impractical to dream of being the next “Big Architect”. The number of professionals is steadily increasing, while the land is in deficit, you can do the math! Rather, it’s important to find our ground as team-players. Students are often oblivious of this reality and may find the first few years of office life to be “demeaning.”

You’re not the only one!

Truth be told, there is nothing like a starchitect. He’s a mythical creature. Folklore told from one generation of architects to another. Behind every great architect is a team; well-oiled machinery, when all the gears turn in the right direction at the right time, dreams come to life. 

As this profession can generate enough stress to suck peace out of Buddha, it’s important to appreciate the variety of characters who come together to make for an interesting workplace. 

Let’s have a look at 10 types of architects we meet daily:

  • The Detailing Guy:

You can find them with a sketchbook that has intricate drawings of how the cornice band will stick with gypsum board on the false ceiling. This is the person everyone fears, because there is no fooling them, they can spot mistakes from miles away. They are often hard to please and might speak at length about topics like “types of glasses”, but remember, “Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.” We all know, without detailing, the whole architectural process might as well be a sham!

  • The Information Guy:

This is the person who made the drawing, which is the reference for all other drawings. Their desk is neatly arranged and the display board is packed with little bursts of information. If you need to know the seismic zone of the city or building code for that zone, this is the person you go to. They probably bring lunchbox by the schedule and wear t-shirts by weekdays. But don’t roll your eyes, because they know all the shortcuts, bye-laws and factoids you never bothered to learn. 

  • The Idea Guy:

Their desk will have empty packets of chips from their between-the-break meals. That brain needs energy to function. All-day, they keep sketching in a little notebook, while taking short breaks to chat around. People love the idea guy. They are excited without a reason and come up with crazy concepts that take projects to the next level. Yes, please make that sky bridge with the glass floor to admire the landscape! Idea guy is the wind in the wings of a studio. He can take flights of fancy, but when he goes too far, we need the detail guy to bring him back to the Earth.

  • The Aesthetic Guy:

This person tried to think of architecture as an expression for their innate artistic talent. All the talks of bye-laws and budget crush their spirits. In their heart of hearts, they don’t care if a building gets a fire exit or not. But if it does have a fire escape, we go to the desk of the aesthetic guy, ask him to design a beautiful balustrade. You can often find them passing their time by making mood boards that no one asked for.

  • The Work Guy:

Their desk might break from the weight of files. Now, they might not have any expertise, but they can sit that ass down on the chair and work all day, on weekends, and during holidays and produce all those working drawings. Everyone is worried about the inconspicuous absence of their personal lives and wonder where that constant energy comes from. But they don’t seem to care as another perfectly drafted sheet slides down from the plotter, while the rest of the staff is still stuck with dimensioning.

  • The Party Guy:

If you’re all about fun, an architectural office might not be the right place for you because the pressure will get to you. But the party guy has the cure for this remedy, which is called speed. This person is relaxed all day, goes out for every smoke break and is expert in procrastination. But when deadlines approach, their persona undergoes a metamorphosis, the party guy becomes the work guy married to Flash! As soon as the deadline passes, they resume their normal self and will ask every other person in the office if they want to catch up on the weekend.

  • The Presentation Guy:

Drawing is the language for architects; one needs to translate it into renders for the client to understand it. In the early phase of his career, this guy made a very good decision. He made himself indispensable at rendering and visualizations. Now, you can only drool at the computer system on his desk. The presentation guy is often the most chilled person in the office as his efficiency is directly proportional to the efficiency of the system. While the system processes the scenes, he can be found enjoying a snooze-fest.

They are the boss’ right hand, the street smart people reader, the organizers of the parties, the handler of the clients and the guy who keeps us on our toes. Architecture may not be their first love, and they might not contribute a lot to creative brainstorming, but we all know that the management guy is the true conductor of this orchestra. Without him, it’ll be all cacophony!

  • The Money Guy:

They go where the money is. While they were dozing off in the design studio, they were probably the only student awake in the Estimation class. They secretly dream of being a real estate mogul. But, while those dreams are on hold, the money guy is here to lend his expertise (how to add profitable materials to the design and cut the costs). Now the other guys are often at loggerheads with the money guy, but ultimately money is what keeps the office afloat. 

  • The Site Guy

They are sweaty, tanned and the office is often a pit stop for them, where they recharge to go off to the site. The site guy often speaks the local language and believes in a hands-on approach. They might not like to hang out with office folks a lot, but we latch on to them. Without them, the whole team might as well be working for a disaster in waiting.

 

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Pragya Shukla, a young architect, is currently practicing in city of Lucknow. Her interests include reading, hanging out with dogs and cruising the city for a good cup of tea. She aspires to write extensively on socio-cultural aspects of architecture and have a practice based on reasearch and social advocacy.

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