Culture and hierarchy in the studio

There are twenty architects working in my twenty year old firm now. Some of them, in fact, are in training.

It has been this way for over a decade now. The architects have changed mostly, but the numbers haven’t. I do wonder if we are going to swell in numbers ever. I try and think about when we decided to be this size, or if we ever did.  I have a definite feeling, though, that I would not like it to change.

I have held it important for us to able to create an atmosphere of a work- dialogue, in teams and amongst all, as we participate in the design process. Within the design studio looking at others work beyond the projects that one is involved in, sharing thoughts on your project with others, observing and learning …all these, I feel, is a possibility when the numbers are less than a couple of dozen. The office works with a process where individuals work in teams and yet create along a shared vision.

Sure, this number of architects is not for every other. Architectural offices are varied in size. Mostly, all of them grow from single digits and some never stop. Some stick to single digits.

We are not counting the other critical people here of course.  Administration, human resource personnel, finance managers, estimators, project managers and site supervisors are all behind the development and building process in an architectural firm. Here we are trying to discuss the active participation by the individuals who are trained to practice in design, the architects.

I call it participation because it is my belief that an architect should do no less. I think the nourishment of an architect is through a mindful involvement. Ever learning, ever challenging and ever alert.

The ideas of being able to listen, being bold enough to speak out when you think you should and being respectful enough to appreciate. That is the culture at work that we try and create.

It does not matter how senior the person is. It does count even if you are the intern or the fresh entrant.  The spirit of sharing results in the creation of true synergy.

Yes, hierarchy does exist at our work place. The wisdom and the experience of the seniors create an order of process-flow, an environment of mentorship and a regulation of quality. The junior works with diligence and devotion. Yet, there is the room to speak; to ask questions and being willing to answer. The result is insight earned through experience.

But respect is earned in the studio, not imposed.

There is always a choice in life, to choose love over fear. 

 

By Samarendra M. Ramachandra

Featured image by Asghar Ali

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12 Comments

  1. technology made an huge impact on architecture and work culture of a firm since past two dacades.
    hierarchy maintains the relation between any two co-employees in a process through different dimensions of work..

    An architect should always be keen to learn new things through sharing and try to synthesize information and knowledge to achieve a solution. This keenness is seen in the attention to detail.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it is while working on the details that most of the day to day sharing happens in the studio. both experience and bold thought combine to create new and yet robust designs. good point vinay!

      Like

  2. All my life I heard about hierarchy in the office structure, be it a government or a private organization. So when I joined as an intern, not too long ago, you can imagine the pleasant surprise I encountered when I noticed the office culture to be one of sharing and interactive learning that worked both ways. I was eager to learn, no doubt, but when asked for my opinion for the first time I was stumped. Soon I realized that giving my opinion made the project more personal to me rather than a task to be completed.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. i am glad you felt a personal connect, thank you! your opinion is valuable as it comes from a fresh perspective. it is unridden with the burden of facts and ways, it is honest and we learn from each others understanding.

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  3. It is like a river which has different water streams meeting at a point and flowing together like a single entity. It is really impossible to differentiate them. The water lines that are there from a very long time guide the new ones.
    It is the elders that take the patience to direct the younger or the younger ones that take the initiative to flow with pace to match the elders. Some times efforts put in are not equal but on the whole it is a group effort that is counted.
    It is good to be the part of this river.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. beautiful analogy of a river! there are deeper currents and sometimes eddies.. but it collects energy as it runs through.. thank you for sharing the idea madhusudhan!

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  4. As an intern…with such a strong culture,what specific things has the firm found successful in integrating young talent?”Hiring interns who can learn culture at the beginning of their career”,prior to significant exposure to office environment.”As well as placing in position of responsibility with active team involvement as soon as possible.

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    1. when you instill a work ethic early in life ,you create a difference that can last a life time. it is not the immediate benefit to the firm, but the long term impact in nurturing values. responsibility has , for me been a cornerstone of the culture we aspire to keep. it says two things. one , we trust you; two we allow you to grow taking your mistakes in stride and learning from them. the protection to the project and the architect though is developed through a carefully designed process of supervision and correction by the seniors in the firm

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  5. I have seen the transformations of my career working under seniors, working with colleagues and nurturing juniors, i find the the most common thing in all these people are unknowingly they start falling in line of values, culture, discipline love, respect etc beyond personal development. this is because the values and culture which are instinct in studio and flows through hierarchy and maintaining it to be as pure for the upcoming architects.

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  6. ‘Where am I?’
    The question which each one of us ask ourselves at some point in their life.
    And, for architects, this question is one of utmost importance. Architecture is about spaces and the emotions one feels in those spaces. It is about creation of a lifestyle. But do we ever get the correct answer to this question?
    At Samar Ramachandra Associates, we are fortunate enough to find the answer, to find a direction as an Architect, not just in terms of the wonderful work that our firm does, but in terms of culture, sharing, and learning.
    The word ‘integrity’ finds its true meaning at SRA family, where we strive to grow as individuals with a beautiful feeling of togetherness.

    Like

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