On Wednesday, I joined a merry band of WMBBers as they headed out to two very different architecture firms: PTW and Cracknell & Lonergan. Having written about them before, I was keen to see what these two (very different) firms were like in terms of amenities and culture. I was not disappointed.
The first, unavoidable thing you notice about PTW is its size: this place is huge. Spread over two floors at 9 Castlereagh St – itself designed by famous architect Harry Seidler – this place is an endless sea of computer screens, punctuated by large reefs of thick, white paper. With many hundreds of employees and a number of overseas offices PTW tends to do very big jobs (like office blocks, hospitals, and apartment buildings) with design and construction periods that can spread over many years.
Moreover, because of the size of the jobs, and the sizes of the teams that work on those jobs, lot of people have very specialised roles in the organisation: there are dedicated designers, project architects, business developments, project managers, specifications writers and construction managers, among other things. This means that, if you’re very good at one thing – say, designing building façades – working in a large architecture firm means that you have the opportunity to play to your strengths.
Finally, big firms like PTW offer graduates the opportunity to meet people like them: not just in terms of working style or compatibility, but also in terms of finding commonality in matters of taste. Their are undeniable benefits to working in a place with that many people.
Conversely, the offices of Cracknell & Lonergan are extremely modest; the firm is based out of a small converted residence in Camperdown which – except for the piles of paper everywhere – couldn’t be more different to PTW.
The size of the jobs that Cracknell & Lonergan perform reflect their relative size: although they do design and direct commercial structures, these still tend to be smaller than those designed by larger firms, simply by virtue of the fact that they have fewer resources at their disposal. However, unlike in large firms, small outfits give their employees the opportunity to do a little bit of everything: because the teams aren’t big enough for a single person to only do one thing, everyone does a little bit of everything.
This also means that employees of smaller firms tend to have more to do with the projects over a longer period, rather than the project shuttling through various teams to completion. It can be extremely high stress – particularly given that the stress associated with the project cannot be diffused amongst a large group of people – but it does mean that the work can be pretty exhilarating!
The whole experience was extremely interesting, and showed two very different sides to working in architecture and construction. Not having known a great deal about the process before, I was fascinated to discover not only the breadth of the work that architecture firms do, but also how they do it. It seems that, regardless of your preferences, there’s a little something for everyone.
Thanks very much to both PTW and Cracknell & Lonergan for your help!