Episode 05- Denmarkitecture
Hey Alina, what do you call an architect who has never built anything?
This episode celebrates our 1 month in Denmark!
And by the look of things, the end of our month-long summer this year…
During our month here, we have met with many architects and designers, and have begun to build a picture of the architecture profession in Denmark. In this episode we will explore the things we have discovered, and how it differs from Australia.
We have learned that the profession here is split into two categories: Architects and construction architects (‘konstruktør’ in Danish). This division is made during university when students choose to follow one path, and has been evident in some of the offices we have visited, where even the seating arrangements are split between the design architects and construction architects.
It seems that the design architects work mostly on competitions (of which Danish firms do a LOT) and the early-phase design work. The project is then handed to the konstruktør team who take the project through design development, documentation and construction. As a result, many of the design architects in Denmark lack the knowledge of construction, detailing and all the ‘fun’ contract admin tasks that many Australian architects perform regularly, and the construction architects have very little experience in conceptual design, massing studies, formal development etc.
This also makes it challenging as an Australian architect looking for work because many of us have experience in both aspects, making it hard to know which jobs to apply for.
It also feels as though the architecture profession here is much more regulated, and consistent with the Danish socialist attitude. Salaries are all regulated by the union, resulting in a more even distribution of wages. The Danish salaries are also considerably higher than in Australia, although the taxes are also higher. Even so, the average architect in Denmark is doing better off than in Australia, and especially when you consider that the cost of living is also cheaper here!
A reflection of the value of architecture and design in Danish society perhaps?
Working hours are also better here- the ‘Danish hours’ are 8am-4pm or 9am-5pm, including a 30 minute lunch break. Generally the offices also provide lunch; there is a small cost to the employees, but it works out to be only around two dollars per day! Gender equity is a big concern here with many of the offices proudly boasting to have 50/50 split for both employees and management. Annual leave is generally 6 weeks per year instead of the 4 that we get in Australia, and amazingly overtime is (almost always) paid!
Seriously! Paid overtime!!
The other noticeable difference in the profession here is the prevalence of the intern culture. In Denmark, the majority of larger offices have a high proportion of interns, and although they are not always paid, most offices offer the minimum wage. The employment of interns is strictly controlled though, and you must be enrolled in higher education to qualify for employment as an intern. This is also how most people get into jobs at the big firms, and often they stay on for permanent employment at the end of their studies or internship contract.
The large number of interns also explains how so many offices in Denmark are able to participate in so many competitions, as the interns provide cheap labour, enabling the offices to enter open (unpaid) competitions.
Now, we know than many of you will be booking tickets on the next flight out to Denmark after reading this, so it is important to also note that the above reasons have contributed to a serious over-population of architects in the country. There is a lot of work happening, but competition is also high for the available positions. As we said in episode one however, anything worth doing is hard.
Check out some photos from events we have visited over the last few weeks, and stay tuned for our review of BIG Architects offices in our next post!
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