On Practice: Interviews of Recent Graduates
Rashmi Varma| 28th March 2022
Conducted 4 interviews personally, with those who could assemble. Left to right- Yash, Sanjana, Manthan, and Meet from KRVIA
In India, over 25,000 architects graduate every year with varied learnings, skill sets and aspirations for the future, whether in the field or otherwise. This transitory stage of exiting academia and entering practice is a very interesting time. It is a phase that propels introspection, self assessment and the need to take charge of one’s life. Stepping into a world beyond the cushiony atmosphere that academia fosters, into the nitty gritties of all the things that comprise an architectural practice. A phenomenon that is subjected to constant change due to socio-economic forces, cultural trends, political scenarios and so much more. But mostly, one that evolves in response to the ideologies and choices of the people that make up this collective landscape of practice. Being a part of the 25K+ architects who graduate this year, I decided to inspect the present day architectural practice through the choices that my contemporaries are making. Throwing light on decisions that are not only the amalgamation of learnings from the past, but that will also shape the nature of practice at least for the next 30-40 years.
With this in mind, I sent a questionnaire to around 100 potential interviewees from across the country, out of which 44 responded. The questions were simple and existential (as per the feedback). While some have a fair idea of what they want, most are in a state of confusion of varying degrees. A necessary evil that fuels a habit of questioning all that one does at this age. Together, the answers open out several frameworks through which ideas of practice can be dissected and viewed.
What kind of practice do you imagine to have after graduation?
A trope that recurs the most is that of an intersectional practice- one where the disciplines of architecture- its allied fields, urbanism and research operate in tandem with one another. “I want to pursue a collaborative practice, having more to it beyond architecture, rather far away from it” writes Jaee. Like her, a lot of students from KRVIA express the desire to choose firms on the basis of the ethics, principles and the ideologies that they propagate through their work. The belief that the learnings from research must inform and enrich one’s practice prevails- “ and eventually one that does not exploit interns or freshers”, adds Palak. Regarding the idea of a design practice as a large, holistic umbrella of opportunities in landscape, interiors, graphics, products and furniture, Sanjana expresses the desire to keep a more open-ended practice which allows for all. “The profession is a jack of all trades and master of none,” she says. A sentiment echoed by Anamika from WCFA and many others. The notion of pursuing a ‘mainstream practice’ is also a common one- though the meanings of that vary for every individual. “I would like to have more on field experience for practical knowledge” says Nimish from Brick, Pune. Along with this, people also appreciate a practice that helps them understand the market. Both from KRVIA, Drishti favours the design and visualisation phase while Shubhankar wants to focus on the execution and contracting.
Several architects are responding to the larger impending questions of climate change through their work for a while now. In a pursuit of bringing sustainable design out of the ‘alternate’ and into the mainstream, they serve as an inspiration for many. “I want to have a practice through which I can contribute to India’s journey of becoming a developed country in a sustainable manner” writes Viraj who recently moved on to pursue masters in urban infrastructure at CEPT Ahmedabad. Highlighting the importance of working in sync with the government, Abhishek from KRVIA writes, “I wish to observe and understand the role of an architect in a government office”. Here, he is looking at practice from the lens of stakeholders and the state.
People are molding the standard and set idea of practice to all that it has the potential to be. Gone are the days when academia was viewed as a subset to practice. Almost as a compromise one makes when unable to ‘do things’. “I don’t think I’d like to build a practice of my own. I believe in the potential of architectural education and would like to engage with academic projects / schools sometime in the future” writes Shrusti from KRVIA. Graduates today view academia as a place for reflection and value addition to their practice. Similarly, technology too is an integral aspect of design thinking- rather than something that helps at the execution stage of design. Like several other technology enthusiasts, Oindrila from Bharati Vidyapeeth, Pune wants to be “a part of a firm which works with innovative, upcoming technologies such as computational design and programming languages”.
The persistent effort of the architectural community to incorporate allied fields as legitimate modes of practice in turn aid to the production of knowledge for the former. Kashish from SPA Bhopal wants to find “A niche intersection of documenting architecture, culture, people and their practices with the help of photography/ visual art work.” Sumegh from KRVIA wanted to work in film production as a set designer or art director- exploring the temporalities of the built environment. Aparna from PVP Pune wishes to pursue freelance architectural writing and have her own company someday. An ambition that she shares with Tanvi from KRVIA, who wishes to “Gather work experience in one of the top liasoning firms for two years and then launch my own firm”. Yash G from KRVIA wants to experiment in the field of creative design in order to learn more about allied practices such as graphic design, video production & animation. An inclination that he developed while working as the graphic representative for various college events. “Architecture school is a boiling pot for all things design- you can take back a lot more than what you signed up for” he writes.
Do you have a road map for your practice?
“Nope. Nothing” wrote Fiza from WCFA and several others who prefer to take it one day at a time. The initial years of working as a Junior Architect are considered integral to forming a solid base in the practice by most. It is perhaps also a time that allows for taking risks, experimenting and stepping out of comfort zones. The learnings from practice extend to life choices- which cities to move to, living alone, managing a house etc. An endeavour that prevails especially amongst graduates from cities. “I just got into a small scale studio in Bangalore which has a team of 6 architects. I’m looking forward to taking this as a ‘Reality Studio’ and learning quite a lot; regarding dealing with complexities, multiple people- all that it takes to build a project, and so on” says Meet from KRVIA.
For the ones who chose to stay back, interior design is seen as a viable practice. “I am not into high rises which is the culture of Mumbai, so I’d want to be part of small scale architecture, Meaning more of villas, interiors, resorts, etc.” says Preeti from IES. Mayuresh from DY Patil Kolhapur hopes to get straight into making residences.
Sumit from KRVIA intends to gain substantial experience in detailing these projects through practice because he believes “the highest earning for an architect is from these kinds of projects only”. Devangi from Indus University has plans to pursue masters in the same field. Another established trope is viewed as a natural successor of initial years of practice. Those who found a liking to Urban design often follow this route. “I want to explore the spectrum of urban design as a whole before pursuing M.Arch as I wanted to be sure about what interests me, ” writes Kajal from KRVIA who recently shifted to Pune to gain professional experience in urban matters. Priyadarshini from Chandigarh University wishes to join an NGO/PDMC or Smart City Office post her masters degree to eventually establish her own firm. Sahana from WCFA has a straightforward policy and she speaks for many when she writes, “Work for some firm -> get promoted -> become firm partner -> make firm larger”.
Where do you see yourself 20 years from now?
A tough one that perhaps explains the limited responses to the questionnaire. “I don’t know where I want to be yet, I will surprise myself If I can even charter where I see myself in the next 5 years” writes Asmita, who is currently working from home for an international firm. “I’m not sure what ‘job title’ I’ll have in 20 years but I’m certain about focusing on the study of human behavioral patterns to help me attain a more holistic approach to people friendly architecture” writes Prachi from LSR, who as of now is taking a shot at UX Design.
Many dream to be financially well off and are making decisions to ensure the same. Prabhajan from WCFA sees himself as “One of the leading architects of the city” 20 years from now. While Ritesh from KRVIA sees himself “making bungalows for the rich”. Ekant from NIT Hamirpur will be “Probably doing cream projects and leaving the smaller ones(because finance, duh). Also, with a much bigger clientele.” For some, the focus is on meeting new, like-minded individuals. “Hopefully, successfully running my own firm with a loyal team” writes Mishti who is inspired by women who manage to strike a balance between work and home.
With increased media access, graduates today are vocal about ethical working practices and rights to prevent exploitation- in monetary terms as well as working hours. Something that reflects in the kind of life they imagine for themselves in the future. “I want to be someone who has time and financial freedom, can operate remotely” says Rajvi from KRVIA. I see a collective want for a balanced, happy life where work is a small part of the larger scheme of things. A much needed change in the field that often demands inhuman working hours while assuming that work is everyone’s end goal.
A lot of people also wrote about eventually wanting to start their own firm that manifests ethical practice with a couple of colleagues in small towns. “I see myself eventually settling to work in a sustainable design oriented practice outside of Bombay, alongside owning a small furniture and pottery-ceramics business”, says Ashlesha. An aspiration she shares with the likes of Soujanya from WCFA, who also sees herself in a village, practicing traditional architecture along with natural farming. The future is hopeful. Many wish to have achieved something substantial in their practice while parallely contributing to the betterment of the field as a whole. Lastly, Manthan from KRVIA sees himself “Forming a nice team and working hard. Retiring and farming too. Maybe all of it together, who knows!” He pauses and smiles. “Let’s meet again after 20 years.” And indeed, we should.
The feature involves graduates from architecture schools across the country. The names of the colleges are as follows, (in order of appearance)
Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies, Mumbai (KRVIA)
Wadiyar Centre for Architecture, Mysore (WCFA)
Brick School of Architecture, Pune
Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad (CEPT)
Bharati Vidyapeeth College of Architecture, Pune
School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal
PVP College of Architecture, Pune
IES College of Architecture, Mumbai
DY Patil College of Architecture, Kolhapur
Indus University, Ahmedabad
LS Raheja College of Architecture, Mumbai (LSR)
National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur (NIT