High demand across the board for architecture graduates

Real Estate July 26, 2013 00:00

By Ponn Virulrak

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Each year, a little over 1,000 graduates with a bachelor's degree in architecture enter the workforce after completing programmes accredited by the Architect Council of Thailand, with these degrees certifying them to practise professionally as architects.

Architecture is generally considered by clients as a “first factor” in a building project’s success. In an era of booming real estate, lucrative commissions overwhelm architectural firms. Architecture graduates are pursued aggressively by these firms, especially larger ones in serious need of production capacity.  
Since the beginning of the present decade, corporations and industries outside of architectural design have been recruiting architectural graduates. Many of these corporations are engaged in building construction, building materials, real-estate development and/or environmental consulting. 
Surprisingly, other industries unrelated to building construction – such as the retail, oil and gas, and pharmaceutical industries – have joined the practice of recruiting architecture graduates.
In this post-digital world, corporations have to think outside the box in order to maintain their competitive edge. The traditional patterns of recruiting among graduates with core competencies in business are no longer standard.                   
Reasons for needing architecture graduates vary by industry. Some corporations need to expand their real-estate asset-management arms, while others prioritise design skills.
However, all corporations can benefit from the following skills intrinsic to an architectural education:
1.   Creativity: Architecture students are trained to think outside the box and to come up with new ideas, all of which operate within practical constraints such as the law, budgets, client expectations and climate. Creativity is absolutely necessary for corporations seeking to achieve innovation.
2.   Strategic approach: Architecture graduates are trained to begin with the “end” in mind. The term “design” itself signifies the act of problem-solving. Building design is a problem-solving process with a high level of complexity. An example of this is the exercise in developing complementary scenarios of use for a single given space or set of spaces.
3.   Conceptual thinking: This aspect of design challenges architectural graduates to collect, analyse and synthesise information for conversion into a design programme, which is then translated into a building design. This has parallels to the marketing process, in which needs and trends guide product development.
4.   Project-based thinking: Design projects in architecture school are often building projects, which represent the core of an architectural education. All graduates are trained to deal with projects with incremental levels of complexity, from a simple house to structures with more complex briefs, such as a 200-bed hospital. Such training enables students to “scope” – that is, organise and strategise – their thought process and to maintain a “solutions-oriented” attitude.   
Contradictory to the belief that architectural graduates primarily subscribe to an aesthetics-oriented mindset, we now observe the phenomenon of graduates pursuing master’s degrees in divergent fields such as business administration, finance or management information systems – perspectives that are often neglected in an architectural education.
These young men and women have the potential to impact other fields immensely with their “architecture +” training.  
Corporations interested in hiring architectural graduates usually focus on the added value of innovation that these potential employees could bring. The organisation, however, must also take responsibility for educating graduates in management, finance and other necessary skills in order to ensure that both employee capability and company growth reach their fullest potential. 
Ponn Virulrak is a faculty member in the Architecture Department, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University.