By Dr. Suneela Ahmed
Assistant Professor, DAP-NED
A session under the banner of ‘Windows into Tomorrow’ (WIT) was held at the Department of Architecture and Planning, NED University of Engineering and Technology, on the 28th of July 2017. The objective of WIT has been to either showcase the works of different practicing architects to a wider audience or to discuss and debate general aspects related to the practice of architecture in our context. This WIT was entitled ‘QUALITY JOBS IN ARCHITECTURAL PROFESSION’ and was designed as a panel discussion. The Panel consisted of representation from PCATP, IAP, practicing architects and academia. Mukhtar Husain (FNMH Architecture), Asad I. Khan (Chariman PCATP), AdilKerai (Habib Fida Ali Architects), Amir Nazir (Vice President, IAP Karachi Chapter), Sami Chohan (Faculty/ Coordinator Architecture Department, Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture), Faryal Sikander (Faculty, Department of Architecture, Dawood University Engineering & Technology, Karachi) and Tooba Khalid (Alumni Department of Architecture and Planning, NED UET) were the participants.
During the past several years, the number of young graduates in architecture has increased. This is the consequence of more schools of architecture being opened up, primarily in the northern part of the country. Like other professional disciplines, there is a need for such architects to get absorbed in various design offices and allied concerns in a bid to begin their professional career. When one views the scale and profile of additions made to our built environment, the scenario appears very promising. However the numbers of fresh graduates getting absorbed in their first job of choice appear limited. With conventional market forces at play, some young people do obtain jobs of reasonable potential and promise to launch themselves in the profession. According to many human resource studies, it is vital that the graduating young people access a job in the relevant area of interest with commensurate benefits and promise. This step enormously helps them in retaining the faith in profession and working hard to explore new horizons in practice.
The following matters needed an appraisal, which formed part of the panel discussion:
Number of fresh graduates versus the approximate openings in design practices and allied offices (national level and Karachi level) – a supply and demand equation.
- Career aspirations of young architects
- Skill sets, proficiency levels and general conduct demands by employers
- Salary, timings, working environment, effort and value addition
- Possible career job options and long term associations with design firms.
The session started with an introduction by Dr. Noman Ahmed, Chairman Department of Architecture and Planning, NED UET, in which he highlighted the scope of the panel discussion, stressing on the disappearance of architectural practices which used to nurture professionals, and offer long term associations and career jobs for architects and its repercussions for the young professionals. The panel discussion was termed as a ‘reflective exercise’ in which the issues faced by young professionals, current and future employees were intended to be highlighted.
The panel discussion was initiated by Architect Tooba Khalid (Currently working for Osmani and Co), where she shared experiences of her recent transition from student to professional life. She shed light on career aspirations of young architects, the requirement for greater skills sets required during five years of education of architecture and the compatibility of the working environment. She also advised her fellow students to cherish their time at the university and to give due credit to minor courses, like interior design, landscape and structures, because these are some of the areas that the recent graduates lack expertise and skills in.
Architect Mukhtar Husain, as a response to the points raised by Architect Tooba Khalid, discussed the role of women in the field of architecture, and how they have to put in extra effort because of architecture being a male dominated profession, the role of creativity and ability to conceptualize the build form and the development of skill to work within a team. Mukhtar Husain also stressed that graduates need to understand that being an architect is not a nine to five job, and one has to internalize this profession, and make it a part of oneself, in order to excel. He also pointed towards the professional satisfaction within the profession, which works as a reward for young people, and may not always be financial. He also stressed on the need for good professionals at the stage of detailing and preparation of construction drawings.
Architects Asad I. Khan and Adil Kerai, pointed towards the requirement of graduate architects to be able to learn and develop on the job. Both these architects stressed on the necessity to take on a job in an architectural office and be willing to learn the details of construction, for at least two to three years, at the start of the career. The issues of PCATP licensing viz a viz the license requirements of different professional bodies were also discussed, and it was clarified that these are issues beyond PCATP’s jurisdiction because they involve the federal government and will take some time to be resolved.
Adil Kerai also stressed on the fact that as an architect leads any project, and buildings are known by his/her name, thus he/she needs to be responsible for structures, electrical, mechanical, landscape, interiors etc. And developing an understanding of these traits needs time. He also emphasized that students should be aware of the local architects, and their work, and decide whom they want to work for. Employers want people to work for long periods, as the company invests in their development.
Architect Amir Nazir emphasized on the lack of technical knowledge of fresh graduates, and stressed on the ability and willingness of young professionals to learn this on the job. He also pointed towards the fact that if a fresh graduate shows potential then he/she achieves a steep rise in the payscale within a short span of time.
Architect Sami Chohan stressed on the requirement to understand the city as a larger whole and not just to be engaged in the design of buildings. He also pointed towards the possibilities of creating design jobs within different low income communities. He emphasized that although in the professional life, young graduates feel bogged down because they cannot think holistically and creatively, the way they were trained in school, but they must aim to learn other aspects of practicing architecture while on a job. They must learn about construction techniques, building bye laws, structures and materials. They must invest at least three years in an architectural office, while keeping their creative and theoretical capabilities animated, and then go on to start their own practice.
Faryal Sikander, also emphasized on the need to through the grind, and find alternative means of practice, like getting involved in academia. Academia offers secure jobs, and because of shorter working hours, also gives the possibility to run one’s own practice.
There were discussions around the understanding of the holistic role of architecture in Pakistan, possibility of involvement of architects in building bye laws, development of design specifications for architecture, lighting, signage, landscaping and master planning. If this understanding is developed within the community, then there will be more job possibilities for young professionals.
There was deliberation around obtaining licenses and permits from different authorities (Sindh Building Control Authority, Defense Housing Authority, Cantonment Authority etc.) and ethics of practicing architecture. The fact that architects give importance to obtaining building permits for the jurisdiction they are practicing in, vis a vis the importance given by them to other bye laws like disability access, emergency exits etc., was also debated.