Comments update features a debate over unpaid internships
Serpentine Pavilion 2019 by Junya Ishigami visualisation

"No interns should work unpaid"

In this week's comments update, readers are split over unpaid internships, with some labelling them as detrimental to the industry and others defending them as a vital part of young architects' training.

Problem of free will: news that this year's Serpentine Pavilion designer Junya Ishigami offers unpaid internships did not go down well in some quarters.

"Ishigami must be ditched!" said R Goacher. "We must fight against the barriers to people from lower income backgrounds joining the architectural community, for example unpaid internships; we can't allow students to gain better opportunities just because their parents can afford to fund them."

Others disagreed:

Free will or not you should pay your interns, argued ArchBoi92: "No interns should work unpaid – they are there to not only learn but they are also providing services to the practice, no matter how small the tasks might be."

"This issue needs to be raised more and more," insisted Summusen. "It's a disgrace, and a disservice to our profession. If we don't value our design work enough to pay for it, nor will our clients."

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To pay or not to pay: the debate ramped up a notch when the Serpentine Galleries announced it had read Ishigami the riot act over unpaid interns on the project.

"This isn't good enough," insisted Thomas. "The Serpentine should refuse to work with anyone who doesn't pay all their staff regardless of whether they are working on that specific project. Ishigami could just shuffle around the workloads so those that aren't paid are working on other projects."

Tim was less harsh on the art gallery: "It is refreshing to see that a high-profile institution is taking a stand against an ethically bankrupt practice, regardless of whether it has been the norm or not."

Some were confused that this conversation was even happening.

"This shouldn't even be a debate. Not paying your staff devalues your own intelligence and profession," said Maxx.

"How can architects themselves expect to be paid properly when they're of the opinion that design can be done for free?"

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Quinta Monroy Housing project by Alejandro Aravena's Elemental, who have ended their unpaid internships

Notes on a scandal: following our coverage of the Serpentine scandal, Chilean firm Elemental wrote to Dezeen to announce it was closing its unpaid internship roles due to the negative publicity.

"Wow, what a mob of fools! Yet another example of SJW mobs ruining it for everyone. You are denying young students the opportunity to see first hand, how exceptionally talented professionals in their field actually work and create in a real-world environment," admonished Randal R.

"I never got paid back in the day for my internships. None of my friends did. We have never complained. Today's kids are just soft," Miles Teg tutted.

Questions about the financial viability of paying interns asked some interesting questions.

"We pay all our junior and trainee staff properly, but have then to spend a great deal more teaching them how to do architecture. This combination of costs threatens the viability of the practice," explained Matt Hartley.

"There is little chance of benefiting the time investment into juniors," added Lemi. "As soon as they are up-skilled they're off on an overseas pilgrimage to some rave and/or looking for higher wages immediately."

But some took umbrage at Elemental's attitude:

"Stop acting like it is an honour for a young student to step into your studio or your presence is a blessing for them," said Ali. "This is not the medieval times where you take someone in as an apprentice and provide them a living in exchange for teaching them the craftsmanship."

For one commenter it was a simple equation:

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National Museum of Qatar in Doha by Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Spinning plates: commenter response to the recently finished National Museum of Qatar, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, has been largely negative. 

"I want to go outside and leave a passive aggressive note about washing the dishes when the sink is full!" joked The Nicolas.

Donacio Cejas Acosta elaborated: "Looks like a pile of dirty dishes waiting to be washed in the sink."

"A shameless and baroque monstrosity," added Heywood Floyd. "The vulgar result of an architect enslaved to digital form-making and a future poster-child for the grandiose and stylistically inconsequential architecture of the early 21st century."

Willy Ritch concluded: "It just goes to show... no amount of money, technical savvy, and manpower can guarantee the beauty of a building."

This reader was able to pay at least one compliment:

Do the discs look like dinner plates? Join the discussion ›


Colour-block: a series of renders showing Breakfast With Mondrian, a concept by Brani & Desi for an apartment that would translate artist Piet Mondrian's abstract paintings into 3D form, has faced criticism from readers.

"You will never ever be able to relax. No, never," said a concerned E Smit.

Heywood Floyd had other worries: "Other than primary colours this has nothing to do with Mondrian."

"Horrible!" exclaimed Todd Friedlander. "Mondrian was an artist. What was done here is a frivolous corruption of his work that shows no understanding of it or of what pleases the eye."

Roberto Valenzuela simply concluded: "Gross."

This reader had a physical reaction to the apartment:

Would you be able to relax in Breakfast With Mondrian? Join the discussion ›


168 Upper Street in London by Amin Taha Architects

War zone: commenters are intrigued by 168 Upper Street, a London terrace designed by Amin Taha's studio Groupwork to be a deliberately distorted version of a previous end pavilion that was destroyed during the second world war.

"Looks like something left standing after the Blitz, which is quite apt as the country is being dragged to no deal Brexit," commented Kh.

"I don't like this project," added Cvsf. "That said, it paradoxically makes me like Amin Taha and Groupwork even more. These guys are really challenging. They don't care for a second about "conventional" notions of beauty and they come out swinging hard every time."

Jb was delighted: "This is mind-explodingly brilliant, I can barely believe it's the same architect as Clerkenwell."

"Have seen it in the flesh – it's beautifully tactile and the play with the classical language is at first subtle but clear when walking around it. The world feels a little bit better with architects like these," praised Chris Stevens.

The positive comments didn't end there:

What do you think of the terrace? Join the discussion ›


Summer Norman

April Fools': we tried to convince readers that Norman Foster had revealed plans for The Unicorn, a supertall co-working and living space suspended above Bloomberg HQ. Few were deceived though.

"Nice try," said Giles Heather.

Steve Gates gave other commenters a head's up: "Check the date."

"Oh wait. April Fools' realised Filippo De Francesco.

Architect added: "If only The Tulip had been a joke..."

We did fool one reader though:

Did you believe The Unicorn was real? Join the discussion ›