Date of Award
Master of Architecture (MArch)
Young professionals entering the architecture industry face an imminent and abrupt realization of the disparity between their academic training and the reality of what a career in practice entails.
The architectural industry has long been susceptible to criticism for unpaid internships and overtime. The issue stems from an ambiguity of architectural practice as neither a service or an outcome product, isolating the perception of our work from constructors, lawyers, doctors and even artists, and making it difficult for design labor to be commodified, or for the value of design labor to be asserted, consolidated and fiscalized1. This thesis aims to calibrate the lens through which we view architectural labor; to elevate aspects of design professionals’ work that are typically overlooked - towards a goal of taking agency over the time and labor of the architectural professional.
To this end, a question is posed:
How can architects think of the design of systems as a method to help streamline workflow, create efficiencies and remuneration, while also acknowledging the importance of individual fulfilment?
The critique of work methods is particularly imperative with the impending Industry 4.0 which concerns job security for architects as it did for draftsmen during the digital revolution. The transition from manual labor to immaterial labor brings new power relations and repositions labor as a political command within capitalist production. The product of architectural labor is not a commodity, but rather a type of information handling that is evaluated by the degree to which a problem is solved. Specialization of tasks firmly plants architects in the realm of management of social relations and communication. It is much more abstract and ambiguous, and involves the subjectivity of the worker, presuming workers to be “active subjects” and self-valorant.
The self-valorization of architects stems from capitalist production, but also internally from architects themselves. The architect’s attitude toward design is that “for passionate workers, work itself is its own reward.”, therefore enabling capitalist exploitation because of the self-inflicted notion of answering to “a calling”. This emotional mindset of this calling obscures the fact that designing buildings is also a
practical profession, deeply rooted in engineering and management. Therefore, the actions and qualifications that produce designs should not be divorced from the ideas of work, labor, value and remuneration.
The death of the calling does not equate to the death of passion. In fact, self-valorization is the very force that drives architects to thrive. Architectural labor should be clarified not just for clients, but also for architects themselves. The purpose of this thesis is to bring clarity to architectural labor by developing a language for the legibility of labor, which serves as grounds for the critique of workflows and use of tools. This harnessing of agency to time and value for labor equips architects with more opportunities for individual fulfillment internally and potential to strive for better design.
Tang, Yuqi, "The Design of Consequences" (2023). Masters Theses. 1070.
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