Architects are a part of an industry which contributes to 11% of the GDP of India. They are professionals who deal to a great extent with a plethora of people, among other design professionals. It would be really interesting to take a glance at a typical day in the life of an architect.
The early morning hours is probably the best time for the family, especially if there has not been any late night commitments, business meetings or social encounters. The process of getting ready for the battle follows suit, since mornings are the best time to set up activities on meeting fronts and site commitments. Hurried breakfast and a quick glance at the newspapers are part of the mundane routine.
A new addition to the routine is the modern day instant communication via WhatsApp or blackberry and sometimes, the now rarely used phone calls. Exchange of texts with office groups, getting reports from them on work sequences and matters of discussion for the day are the modernized versions of the morning regime.
The office routine begins at 9:30 with a team huddle, setting the agenda for the day. This is not necessarily a compulsive commitment for the top Hierarchy, but definitely is for the design teams. What follows next is official communications, sending emails, texts and other dispatches to concerned parties.
Generally, Architects prefer early morning meetings with routine or prospective clients for presentations and discussions, as the rest of the day is then free for both parties to get going with the discussed matters and divert to other areas of importance. The discussion generally alternates between the two parties, where you listen more and speak less, but when you do speak, you sell dreams like no other salesman on earth. Marketing and sales is a quintessential virtue of a good architect.
After the meeting, you race up to capture a project that came via pitching, a concept where multiple firms and architects apply for the same project and then a tough competition follows on merit of the schemes proposed, and some times even into other unfortunate zones of under cutting, etc. Architects need to keep their fingers crossed, as only handfuls in a year turn out to be fruitful projects. You call the team to your cabin, pulling up the drawing board (or the modern replacement- laptop) in excitement, with an all new hope of converting yet another project!
Somewhere around 11.30, you find yourself caught with other meetings with agencies like the MEP and structural consultants for an ongoing project, or vendors, or site contractors who require some site or drawing briefs. Structural consultants and contractors are a bunch of those people whom you love and hate at the same time. These are also people who would negate you the most, telling how certain things are impossible to do. You have to negotiate hard, explaining and understanding every bit of detail, to make the impossible possible. This meeting was supposed to be a half hour ordeal but it extends beyond lunch hours. You are glad that you came out victorious; soon this glory is cut short when you realize that you have to reach a site at 2. Another lunch break just went for a toss- you grab a quick bite and rush.
Site visit is a different story altogether, it’s a tale of the battlefield, where everyone is just waiting to pounce on you with their problems. You prepare yourself for it, take a deep breath and then plunge into the field. The client, contractors and the helpless laborers, just about everybody is waiting for your arrival, for redressal of their grievances. Being the architect, you take them all, one by one. The clients are annoyed with the time and budget overshoot, yet they want changes. You calmly find your way through, incorporating some changes, discarding some. The client then walks you to spots where he is unable to understand what is happening, and you have to explain the situations in detail even though in most cases, they are matters not worth discussing.
Now comes the contractor, who had been waiting all this while, he begins with discrepancies in the drawings, which are there because someone back at office forgot to recheck the details. You assure him of a fresh, detailed drawing the next day. He then asks about the drawings for the next stage of construction due very soon, this is the moment where you wish to bury your face in sand, but being an architect is also about being confident in adverse situations- you call up your office and yell at a few people and ask them to get the drawings by the next morning. Another issue resolved. Now you take a walk around the site, trying to see what laborers are doing- laborers for some reason always find you the most amusing person on the site. You stop by a random person, and throw some furious questions, to which he has no answers. Nevertheless, the client is impressed and ascertained of his choice of architect.
Right after this site visit, another client needs to be catered to for a material selection at a
local store. You show up at the store and help the client with fabrics and upholstery for his interior project. Convincing them to choose a product that would be apt for their space is a challenge under-rated.
Between all this, you take moments to glance through all whatsapp communications and storm out tasks and crucial information to the teams, ensuring smooth work flow and bridging communication gaps.
It is 6, and you discover a saleswoman from a tile company waiting for you at the office. You sip through a wonderful cup of tea while watching her showcase just another product in the market as the best innovation in the architectural world. You grill her with technical and non-technical questions, waiting for the moment where she gives up and concludes the presentation with the catalogue she got for your reference. The catalogue finds its way to a shelf in the office and life moves on.
You now take a stroll in the office while everyone is in pack-up mode. You check the drawings for corrections and discuss design details with your team. The discrepancies lead to an impromptu team meeting, where you yell your hearts out and make sure that everything is set right for the day that follows. A final addressing to the team, gearing them up to be better architects tomorrow, and you let them take off. You decide to stay a bit longer, sketching out thoughts and ideas, having nothing or no one disturbing your world of design dreams.
At 9, you get back home and ask for dinner. Just when you are about to relish your meal, you get texts from clients about their thoughts on a design executed or one that can be added on to their dream home! The text takes you back to the journey of design dreams, and you are lost in the loop yet again. You snap out of it when your wife repeats her question to you for the 3rd time- this time louder that the former. Reality sinks in, and you leave the rest to the day that follows. And in that moment of solace you tell yourself, being an architect was a choice, a wonderful choice. And mind you, this is when architects aren’t superheroes.