Vinu Daniel Wallmaker

We do not pay our interns, because we are an alternate architecture practice. – Vinu Daniel, WALLMAKERS

On the larger issue of unpaid architectural internships in India, with Vinu Daniel's comments.
Vinu Daniel Wallmaker

In India, where the landscape of architecture profession is ever-evolving, the issue of unpaid architectural internships has emerged as a silent yet significant concern. This practice has inadvertently perpetuated an inequality that undermines the very foundation of the profession.

As we set our focus upon the architecture profession in India, it’s startling to realize that many aspiring architects, driven by their dreams and aspirations, embark on internships that offer experience but withhold a crucial element: fair compensation. Even within the corridors of well-established architectural firms, the haunting reality persists that a significant number of interns remain unpaid for their relentless dedication and innovative contributions.

We recently came across architect Vinu Daniel, India’s one of the emerging architect’s Instagram post, where several people complained about unpaid internships at his firm WALLMAKERS. Screenshot of the post and some comments below:

We do not pay our interns, because we are an alternate architecture practice. - Vinu Daniel, WALLMAKERS 1
Original post (Now deleted) by Vinu Daniel on Instagram

We reached out to Vinu Daniel to know his views on this. He shared (unedited quote);

“My views on this is very firm . We are an alternate type of practise and unfortunately the institutes donot teach it . Architectural interns have to learn about our practise and techniques first . Asking the one who puts in the effort to teach, to pay is against every principle of education . Once the intern or architect is familiarised or trained in our line of work we start paying them.”

He added,

“For an alternate practice like ours, we cannot sustain the conventional model of architecture practice.”

From the heart of large cities to the far reaches of remote towns, the issue resonates across the nation, underscoring the need for reform in an industry that thrives on ingenuity and inspiration. As we navigate through the narratives of talent untapped and potential constrained, let us examine the implications, ripple effects, and reasons that fuel this unsettling status quo.

In 2017, ArchitectureLive! had raised this issue where opinions of professionals, academicians and students were invited. The discussion can be accesses HERE.

In 2021, Prof. Habeeb Khan, the then President of the Council of Architecture had sent an advisory to architects in India about the internship guidelines, which along with several other norms, also mentioned;

“Provide the Trainee with a Stipend, and declare value of the same in the LoA. The amount of this Stipend must be at least between 50% and 80% of the salary paid to a fully qualified Graduate-Architect working at the Firm.”

Also, Council of Architecture’s ARCHITECTS (PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT) REGULATIONS, 1989, mentions that every architect in practice should provide their employees with suitable working environment, compensate them fairly and facilitate their professional development, and, provide their associates with suitable working environment, compensate them fairly and facilitate their professional development.

The unpaid internship is a relic of a bygone era. It is time for the architecture profession to move on and pay its interns a fair wage.

For too long, we’ve romanticized hard work without pay in our profession, inadvertently dampening its true spirit. To nurture independent and innovative thinkers who contribute positively, we must not only provide them with firsthand architectural experience but also ensure their financial independence.

Rajesh Advani, Founding Editor, ArchitectureLive!

Below are some reasons why we think compensating architectural interns fairly will help the profession in the longer run and create a healthy environment for practice.

  1. Recognizing Contribution: Architecture interns bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and boundless energy to your projects. It’s time to acknowledge their invaluable role with fair compensation.
  2. Investing in Future Talent: Paying interns is an investment in the future of the architecture profession. By supporting them financially, we nurture a new generation of skilled professionals who can shape our built environment.
  3. Learning is a Two-Way Street: While interns gain valuable experience, firms benefit from their passion, enthusiasm, and dedication. Compensation reflects the mutual exchange of knowledge and effort.
  4. Quality over Quantity: Quality work requires time and focus. By compensating interns, you enable them to dedicate their attention to projects, leading to higher quality outcomes.
  5. Diversity and Inclusion: Unpaid internships often exclude talented individuals who can’t afford to work without pay. Paying interns promotes diversity and ensures that all aspiring architects have an equal opportunity to contribute.
  6. Professional Growth: Interns who receive compensation are more likely to commit to the field, resulting in a stronger talent pipeline for the industry’s growth.
  7. Ethical Responsibility: Fair wages uphold the principles of ethical treatment and respect for labor. Show your commitment to ethical business practices by paying your architecture interns.
  8. Inspiring Loyalty: Compensation demonstrates that your firm values and respects interns’ contributions. This fosters loyalty and encourages them to consider long-term partnerships with your organization.
  9. Boosting Morale: Compensation boosts morale, motivating interns to give their best effort, resulting in increased productivity and a positive work environment.
  10. Reducing Financial Stress: Architecture interns, like any employees, have financial responsibilities. Fair pay eases their financial burdens, allowing them to focus on their roles without added stress.
  11. Innovation Flourishes: Adequate compensation empowers interns to explore ideas fearlessly, driving innovation and creativity within your firm.
  12. Positive Public Image: Demonstrating your commitment to paying interns enhances your firm’s reputation as a socially responsible and ethical entity.
  13. Setting Industry Standards: Compensated internships encourage top talent to stay within the architecture industry. Also, by leading the way in fairly compensating interns, your firm can influence the broader industry and prompt positive change for all aspiring architects.

While there is no denying that the architecture profession in India is in a precarious state, and needs an overhaul; it is equally crucial to ensure fair compensation for architecture interns. This practice revolves around recognizing young professionals’ contributions, nurturing healthy growth, and shaping a brighter future for the profession in India.

We highly recommend our readers to read more articles on the issue, by clicking on the image below:

We do not pay our interns, because we are an alternate architecture practice. - Vinu Daniel, WALLMAKERS 15

24 Responses

  1. Can we bring to light architecture firms paying a meager salary of 20-25k for architects with 1-2 years of experience and let’s not even talk about any benefits ( cause for all the modern techniques we are incorporating, they seem to be running on a medeival business model) . How is the salary structure regulated for architects.

  2. Hello Rajesh Advani,
    I am extremely elated to see that this thorough article exists. No one imagined, predicted or thought that one comment under their post would get this far after an year. It clearly resonated with the communities’ shared experiences and the practise was called out for the same. I remember how I was publicly accused of ‘internet trolling’ for comments made by architects from all over India just because I had asked a very simple question that started it all- “Amazing but have you started paying your interns?”
    Thank you for being a voice for many.

  3. Likewise many experts in the field of professional development and workplace ethics suggest that providing fair compensation and a positive learning experience for interns is a responsible and ethical approach. It can benefit both the interns and the architect’s practice in the long run.

    However..It’s important to note that even the Council of Architecture (COA) overlooks a crucial point. If internships take place during a student’s college tenure, then the parents of the students are paying fees to the college for that period. The hours that students spend in an architect’s office to gain practical knowledge are also hours against which fees to the college is paid. Therefore, colleges should consider compensating architects with a portion of the tuition fees and from that the architects can pay a stipend to interns. After all, the architects are supporting the learning of college students

  4. The story changes when you start your own practice, hire interns and they end up not being able to do a single thing that they could do as per their portfolio or interview. Then you or other architects end up taking overnight shifts to rectify their work. People, don’t be so quick to judge.

    1. I’m sorry to say this Ilaa but seems like such practices are not good at hiring then. It’s that simple. No one is forcing practises to forcibly take any intern from anywhere. If there’s an interview process in place, one can take multiple tests to determine the intern’s basic competency and/or diligence. I personally know of practises that have proper hiring systems in place to do this. They don’t complain later about doing the wrong hiring.
      But to talk about another side of this topic which Architects who share your school of thought completely miss out on-
      1. Interns are literally there to learn about the field. They are not going to know things, that’s a given. You’re expecting them to have knowledge equal to a graduate professional it seems.
      2. They’re required to be paid a “STIPEND”. I urge everyone to please look into what this word means. It’s not a salary, I don’t undertsand what the noice is about.
      3. You need to be a damn good leader and TEACHER to be able to get work done with your team.

      I would’ve understood the “interns don’t know anything” perspective if the interns were not from architecture schools. Try hiring a non-architectural intern and very well know the difference. When they won’t understand any concept, any jargon, any software, nothing. Then if I hear this rant, it might still be acceptable.

      1. I’m definitely not defending not paying interns, so it’s not my ‘school of thought’, no thanks to you for jumping into that wrong conclusion and going on to ridicule.

        Unfortunately it’s not that practices aren’t good at hiring. That was quite a silly remark. Architects working at all sorts and sizes of firms complain the exact same thing, not always, but quite often.

        I’m a new graduate. I didn’t get paid at my first internship, it wasn’t easy financially, so I’m in no way saying interns shouldn’t be paid. But there has to be a system where interns need to be more liable.

        Kindly keep your pseudo-intellectual opinions to yourself, since you clearly misunderstood my comment and went on to ridicule.

        1. Hello Ilaa,
          I apologize for misunderstanding your comment. I couldn’t sense any support for the cause whatsoever earlier since you hadn’t actually said that at all. You simply questioned an intern’s conpetency and wrapped up your comment.But now since you’ve expanded your thoughts and expressed your support, I can understand better. It’s a shared battle and I wouldn’t want us to polarize. Thank you.

  5. It’s really a matter of choice if interns are informed well ahead of the non pay. If interns are ready to work and study non conventional architecture or skills which are difficult to teach and which is seldom taught elsewhere and they think it’s worth it then leave it to them. However they should be educated what the standard pay is and the reason of non pay for them to take a well informed decision. I personally feel that these are the skills that would make them ready for the real world mostly than some mundane
    detailing or rendering being done over and over again ! Moreover in this case they are likely to become sustainable architects of the future with hands on experience in sustainable construction methods !

  6. Rajesh Advani,good to have brought up this issue. Acting upon this may help to give a boost to the profession.

  7. It’s just excuse they are teaching us. They took us as labour push a load of works on us, teaching my foot. Its just they found a puppet where there they we have to move as we don’t have options to choose. Sometimes some firms staff behaviour with interns is so bad that they leave that office in 10-15 days. Moreover some firms deduct money from that amount which is although very less but they have rules what to say. A normal engineer from any unrecognised college can get package of 3.5 to 4 lpa but us freshers what we get after spending lakhs and lakhs of money for a professional course just a package ranges between 10k – 25 k on an average is this for what we did Architecture.

  8. I agree and wholeheartedly support the issue raised in this article. Fair compensation for architectural interns is not only a matter of ethical responsibility but also a crucial step towards nurturing a vibrant and innovative future for the architecture profession. By recognizing the valuable contributions of interns and providing them with financial independence, we can ensure that young professionals are empowered to shape our built environment with passion and dedication.

  9. Just as CSR is part of most corporates, it is both a moral and social responsibility of Architectural Firms to not just hire but teach in the real sense of the word, where they return to College to complete their education with real practical experience. These young aspiring architects bring a freshness to a design studio with their questions. And it is imperative that they receive a fair salary. At the end of the day you are giving back to the profession.

  10. This issue goes so so deeper than just about stipend. It’s as good as you being professionals are demeaning the name of your own field.
    In most small scale offices, an intern works the same as a junior architect, still they question the skills and potential that an intern brings to the firm! Like, it’s so stupid to debate that they don’t know anything. And even if they don’t (which can be true in many cases), why would they? They’re not graduates. But you still need them right to finish the very projects that you are getting paid to do?

    It’s a two way street. It’s not just about teaching them, it’s also about managing people with zero practical knowledge. It’ll eventually help you grow as a firm. Running a practice doesn’t just mean finishing projects, it means building a team with the calibre to finish those projects.

  11. Habeeb Khan Sir himself doesn’t pay and he is saying that other’s should pay. A very very sad reality of such a great profession.

    1. This is absolutely false and baseless allegation. This is deliberate maligning of my name and seems to be some kind of personal agenda to attack my reputation. The person passing this loose comment should be condemned. I would have trained hundreds of trainees over the last 35 years and all have been paid. The website moderators should verify the comments before they are posted.

  12. If some one is hired as an intern, they need to be paid – period. I am.unsure why this is a matter of debate. Interns should not work for free – they should know that it is exploitative and possibly illegal.

  13. The quality of architectural education regulated under a spineless system has to be questioned before questioning the industry-value of such individuals entering the industry. There is no place for an artisan or anyone outside the fraternity to even teach at these regulated institutions. ONLY registered council members can hold offices in these institutions. Architecture under such as system has reduced to a mere tool to sell industrial products, like medical representatives do, and earn commissions while doing so.

    Large majority of architects and students cannot address the needs of the common man with their education. To simply be relevant, sensible students are thirsty for relevant hands-on alternative practices or alternative systems of thought. When one looks at alternative architecture, apprentices without formal architectural education are better prepared than students spending the same amount of time in school.

    Vinu is a beacon of hope for the new system of thought and the students who flock to him know it. Clearly the author does not understand this, or takes the liberty to demean the sensibility of his practice. Interns should PAY masters like Vinu, to have an opportunity to learn from him and his practice. You either learn or earn. You go to a firm like Wallmakers to “learn”. If you are demanding pay here, the institutions should also PAY students to teach them to be salesmen of the construction industry.

  14. As an architect intern I think it should be paid we are not only learning but also providing our skills to complete the projects the company has. Just considering one side isn’t the right thing.

  15. This is preposterous! Free work is slavery. However alternative the practice is, it doesn’t deem any free work from anyone. These guys should be banned from any professional practice.

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