Five basic principles for more dignified architecture

Image: Adriana Martínez

One of the most dangerous consequences of the self-centredness and self-reliance of Architecture (The capital A is ironic. Instead, we should be talking about different architectures.), both in the professional world and, remarkably so, in Universities, is the great deal of ignorance they spawn about basic issues including work, business management or the law.

This widespread unawareness has been proudly imposed and self-imposed, as these basic issues are regarded as dour and unimportant. In practical terms, this has led to an anomalous system whereby, far too often, people are cheated on and exploited and job security is eroded. This, naturally, is detrimental to professionals, to the profession itself and to society.

Here are five principles that, in our opinion, need to be disseminated and defended in order to dignify our profession and make it responsible again.

1_ Architecture studios are businesses

It probably won’t be necessary to become an expert in business start-ups, management or administration, although that depends on the size of the studio. But it’s really not that much of an effort to attend one of the hundreds of free courses  that all public administrations offer. The idea is not to become an outstanding manager of your studio, but to avoid exploitation or illegal acts out of sheer ignorance.

2_ A freelancer is a one-person company

Freelancers must pay VAT and income tax withholding and they can hire people. So, for all practical purposes, they function as one-person companies without being legal entities (with a few exceptions that you can read about here). The suggestions we put forward in the previous point are therefore applicable to them, too.

3_ A full-time worker with a job title and a single payer is a worker, not an entrepreneur

Let’s get this straight: “hiring a freelancer”, aside from being inaccurate, is also illegal. Those hired are not protected by social security, nor are they entitled to unemployment, retirement or dismissal benefits. And they are deprived of all of their remaining labour rights that prevent this country from foundering because they generate stability and welfare. The answer to this question is simple: if you can’t pay, you can’t hire.

4_ All workers are entitled to receive fair remuneration for their work

Although owing to certain agreements with some institutions, it seems that trainees can lawfully be hired without paying for their scholarships – in other words unpaid work –, we do believe it is immoral to make a profit from the work of people who get almost nothing in return, aside from prestige. We do know, however, that prestige does not put food on our tables. Our recommendation, as a result, is not to work for free and not to expect others to work for free.

5_ If you can’t make a living from your job, then maybe it’s not a job

Some architects, as it happens, never stop giving conferences, leading workshops, and making special offers for brilliant projects. Yet their bank accounts remain in the red for years on end. They may have fallen victim to the so-called “triumphailure” phenomenon.

A hidden version of this phenomenon stems from people who can perform these services and not expect any remuneration in return because they are financially supported by their families or because they have some source of external income. This generates an illusion of credibility that ends up confusing entrepreneurs and clients alike.

Text translated by Beth Gelb
Paisaje Transversal es una oficina de Planificación Urbana Integral que ofrece asesoría y consultoría en la transformación de las ciudades y los territorios desde una perspectiva innovadora, integral y participativa. Desde el inicio de nuestra andadura profesional a finales de 2011 hemos desarrollado más de 100 proyectos repartidos entre España, Europa y Latinoamérica.

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