Open letter on the condition of the interns in architecture offices

(UPDATE 23/03/2015) On 19th November 2013, this e-mail was published by

We were asked to remove this document, but we can still tell you that it came from a Pritzker prize winning office, in response to a job application. The applicant was offered an unpaid 3 months student internship, requiring 12+ hours a day, 6/7 days per week. The applicant was no longer a student anymore but the office was keen to make an exception for people who have finished their studies “as long as they accept this role and understand that there is little or no chance of being hired”.

Considering the situation, we couldn’t address directly the office in question, even if their request to remove the e-mail seems to validate its authenticity. Therefore we decided to use this e-mail not as a specific situation, but as a mirror for a much more diffused condition. What is written in the e-mail is in fact happening to thousands of interns around the world.

As members of a project which main purpose is to give dignity and respect to students work, we felt the obligation to say something. We decided to write an open letter to those who are more involved in the system; those who can actually make the difference, and that are somehow related to this e-mail and to the systematic violence it perpetrates.

Dear Architecture employer,

Let’s be honest, we are not stupid. We understand how tough it is to run a business like yours. We can imagine the amount of applications you receive every day and we highly appreciate the possibility you give us to learn from you. We are quite familiar with these situations, and nevertheless in reading such an e-mail we still believe that there is something deeply wrong.

An offer like that shows that some of you haven’t learned the most basic rule of having a productive business: shitty working conditions lead to shitty work. Do you really believe that a zombie employee, after 12 hours of forced daily work with absolutely no reward, is going to be efficient and productive? Do you think one is going to give you their full commitment and all their energy? We don’t think so, and Forbes seems to agree with us. (Read on Forbes how to increase productivity by employee happiness here)

My dear employer, let’s be serious, “hiring” slaves is not making your business better. You don’t need an expert to understand that with job offers like the one in the e-mail you just perpetrate an absolutely horrible working model, based on ignorance and unhappiness, and makes the world a worse place every day. It doesn’t take into account the only good reason that makes a person work even more than 12 hours a day: passion.

Dear Pritzker prize jury ( Lord Peter Palumbo, Alejandro Aravena, Stephen Breyer, Yung Ho Chang, Kristin Feireiss, Glenn Murcutt, Richard Rogers, Benedetta Tagliabue, Ratan N. Tata, Martha Thorne ),

We highly appreciate your work and we strongly believe that your activity have brought in time dignity and relevance to the architecture practice. However, there is something that we want to tell you and we will do it quoting your own words. As your website states, the purpose of the prize is:

To honor a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.”

What does “significant contributions to humanity through the art of architecture” mean exactly? Is it a nice building, sketched by the starchitect of the moment and carefully designed by a team of unpaid young architects working in almost inhuman conditions?

We still believe that an architect can be an inspiration and we really hope that in the future of your award more attention will be posed not only on the individual architectural abilities, but also in the way an architect threats and respects his team and the profession of architecture in general.

Dear Frank Gehry,

In October 2014, at a press conference in Spain, you replied to the first question with a gesture of your middle finger. We won’t question your reaction but we will just emphasize the fact that such indignation is not usual in famous architects like you, and in that specific case, it is related to the critics you received on your work.

It would be nice if such disappointment would be shown also for the conditions of so many interns and young architects around the world. We don’t know what you think, but for us a good reply to e-mails like this one is a good old-fashioned Frank Gehry style “Fuck you”.

Dear architecture students and young graduates,

It is hard to admit it but we are the most guilty. Job offers like the one in the e-mail are there just because there is always someone willing to accept it. At the end of the day it is just the very basic rule of the market: supply and demand. We control the supply. What do you think it would happen if tomorrow everyone just stops working for free? Would all the main architecture firms stop hiring, reducing enormously the amount of projects they can handle? We don’t think so.

In conclusion dear Architecture students and young graduates, please, please, please, accept any kind of job with minimum salary but stop working for free. #stopworkingforfree


Best Regards,

the 3NTA founders and directors





Author: 3NTA Learning From Students

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