On 26th October 2015 we have been invited to express our anger at a conference held at the Bocconi university in Milan, on the subject of the uncertain, shifting world of freelance workers. We are happy to report that our ideas have been dismissed as ideological and provocative by the president of INPS.
On the 9th of June 2015, the fierce team that manages Gizmo organised at Politecnico in Milan a symposium with an ambitious title: Backstage, Architecture as concrete practice. Incautiously they invited Multitude to present the findings published with On Work. And so we did, sparking what could only be described as the first sign of a quite revolution.
This first issue of Amplifier collects the heroic efforts of young architects to ignite a revolution during their spare hours.
The author of the attempt is 18Oktoberdam, a temporary collective of young architects who met in December 2011 in an attic apartment somewhere in the West of Rotterdam. Most of them were working for low salaries, despite, they claimed, their talent and dedication. They were, and still are, determined to change things.
18Oktoberdam organized an online survey to gather information on working conditions in the field of Architecture. The result (170+ entries) is a showcase of individuals who have struggled to find a way in a mutating market. Their stories come as a wake-up call to all workers in the field. (more…)
The elevator got stuck between the 32nd and the 33rd floor. 35 minutes had already passed. A voice from the speakers said that the personnel was sorry for the inconvenience and that he had just to keep calm and to kindly wait until the technicians would have fixed the problem, there was nothing to worry about, “you-are-safe-sir”. There was a little beep and then the music started over again: it was a never ending loop of three Celine Dion’s songs of which he was unintentionally memorizing part of the lyrics.
The elevator was one of those glass capsule designed in the 80s, with a dark gray moquette and some blue light spots in the false ceiling. From there he could look at the city skyline and at the little white sails randomly scattered between the island and the cost of the hazy bay.The air-conditioning system had stopped working with the black-out and it was starting to get warmer. He unknotted the tie and he sat on the floor looking down at the people walking on the sidewalks and at the cars starting and stopping at the crossroad. He could also see his fixie, that he had locked in front of the starbucks at the corner of the street. He was happy that it was still there. His iPhone started vibrating in his pocket, it was his mother. He waited a bit, staring at the screen, then he decided to answer:
1. Spontaneous association of persons united for political or trade union. 2. In a party or a trade union, a group of persons with liaisons outside of the party, who deal with a specific topic or issue.
The competition is mostly seen as a free and egalitarian way of expressing diverse ideas. However, what often happens is that open architectural competitions place stress upon the fragile economies of small architectural firms. What is even worse is that such competitions favor the exploitation of interns because, if the entry is unsuccessful, no reimbursement is given to the participants.
When a small practice wants to enter a competition, it will have to use interns to reduce the costs of the production needed for the submission, triggering a situation of exploitation when interns are forced to work up to 80 or 90 hours per week. In general, an open competition should not require too much time and effort from its participants, nor should it impose intricate restrictions.
Some open competitions have become lottery-like events, receiving thousands of entries.
In addition, many competitions impose rules which deprive the architects of any intellectual copyright on their own submission. This is the ultimate contradiction, especially when the architect has to pay a fee to participate. Too many negative aspects are overshadowing open competitions despite the excitement and good will of many architects.
Looking at the output of the survey, and in particular, the average wage and work hours, the results appear to be in line with the law. However, by carefully reading the statistics, a more alarming phenomenon can be recognized: 31% of interviewees belong to the group of graduated architects (holding a master or higher degree) working under an internship agreement or subjected to under-the-table agreements involving no contract. By focusing on the particulars of this 31%, one discovers that the great majority (86%) of architects have completed at least one or more years of work experience in the field of architecture. This represents the most controversial finding of the survey, since it underlines a growing trend, which is the weakening of the power of labor.
Within the realm of architectural practices (from one-man companies up to multinationals) there exists a need to re-define contractual conditions and methods/modalities of practice in order to re-establish the dignity of the workers.
In a moment of economic, political and cultural crisis it is unlikely to secure workers by adopting traditional means. Assuming it is impossible for the labor market to provide stability, being flexible remains the way to go for most of the companies.
However, what should a worker do? Is it possible for a worker to achieve a (/n economic) balance by means of flexibility?! How can a person provide for his/her future when having to jump from one temporary contract to another , quite possibly incurring long periods of unemployment?
Seemingly a naïf question, it instead addresses one of the most unpalpapble, unwritten disputes on practicing Architecture: The hidden agenda. The plan for the future. It is, in a way, the: “what do you want to be as a grown up” kind of question. (more…)
18Oktoberdam is a temporary collective of young architects who met in December 2011 in an attic apartment somewhere in the West of Rotterdam. Most of them were working for low salaries, despite, they claimed, their talent and dedication. They were determined to change things.
In the European Continent the role of the architect has deteriorated during the last decade; from taking a seat at the political ‘table’ of Europe, architects have dropped (in the best cases) to the position of make-up artists for developers. The large commissions given by governments have ended, demarcating the end of architects’ involvement as public intellectual figures.
Nowadays, architects have become either extremely global or extremely local. This means that one can work from Amsterdam designing a building in Brazil or South Korea, or one can operate in Antwerp only following local projects.
Moreover, the new generation has become interested in interdisciplinary collaborations and small assignments (temporary installations, small exhibitions, interiors, teaching), as a strategy to reach economic independence.
There is a new professional trend that can be identified; aside from conventional practice, young architects are starting to design, realize and sell diverse products, thus invading the field of small-scale product design.
This direct approach to design, production and sale allows them to maximize profit, especially when this involves small, relatively affordable products. This process can happen without intermediaries and renders the architect both entrepreneur/producer and trader: the new creative craftsman.