Working For The Mayjah Starchitect


For all of you who think that working for an architectural studio of a high profile, such as SANAA of Kazuyo Seijima and Ryue Nishizawa, is a joyful experience filled with rainbows and unicorns, this is proof of how mistaken you are. An architecture student blogged about her experience as an intern at SANAA in Tokyo and what was told is not pretty. We’ve all probably worked at a studio before and it can get frustrating, I’ll agree. But it was never anything like this story – working for free, all the time. I strongly disagree with the statement they usually throw in your face – that you should be glad you’re even a part of the team and will benefit from the internship in a way money can never cover. Understandably don’t let you do the concept, or let you pick the materials, or define the structure; you are not a part of the creative process and we all know what’s left for us to do. But the conditions you live and work under are dehumanized beyond belief. It has become a common thing that architecture students are treated that way and it is wrong. Can big studios today even sustain without the (nearly) free flow of students/ graduates? What is sad is that when you come to a point in your life when you need to get employed, the portfolio with the ‘starchitects internee’ written on will probably nail you the job – when the employers themselves know it’s a load of crap. The circle is vicious. I hope they’re providing her with food and shelter but they probably switched meals with food pills years ago.

They took the translation off the internet already and the student seems to have locked the blog and made it accessible to firiends only. But it’s ok and I completely understand the situation. It’s fragile and can cost one the internship, althought it shouldn’t. This is how it is. So here are some snippets of it:

”Most interns work as I do, for free for about 5 months. In addition to the large office space, there is a model room. This space is twice as small and twice as chaotic.”

”Around 11 o’clock I went to work. I had to bring my own laptop because of the lack of computers. And to see that there was a lack of space. ”

”Apparently here you fight for your own square meter to get a reasonable amount of space to work.”

”These working conditions would qualifiy as illegal back home .”

(Google Translate/) ”The working conditions in the workspace would Up Netherlands illegally hesitate to call. Thirty man works, eats, smokes and sleeps in a room without light. The furniture is high to be replaced; chairs and tables are missing arms held together with tape. And then the working… Itself in Japan are known for their architectural long days, so that says something. Six, but often enough even seven days a week, everybody drops between 12 and 16 hours inside and not leave the area for 12 hours later. Except than even a microwave meal convienent to get to the store, then back to the computer to eat. From sleeping colleagues, I look no longer, you can find them everywhere: on the ground, in front of his computer at the bank. The bureau is open 24 hours a day, which is very useful for the time difference with the current projects in Mexico, France and Germany. I am happy for an excuse to 12 hours to leave the office, then my last train. Then I feel a little guilty because I am one of the first to leave. Apparently, the more accepted for late than early way to go. But so do I, in any case still a reasonable life after. Unless I miss this train of course, then I caught on the desktop until the first train, at 5 o’clock in the morning.

Where I still remain the most surprised about is the chaos at the office, the rubbish and the inefficient way in which certain things are arranged. And while SANAA has become so famous for their bright shapes and simple solutions, which gives a lot of light and transparent materials are used. What a contrast with their own desk.” (/Google Translate)


21 Responses to “Working For The Mayjah Starchitect”

  1. 1 ex intern April 19, 2008 at 9:02 am

    no, of course they don’t provide food or shelter..

  2. 2 wai April 19, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    That’s what I thought.

  3. 3 Courtney Fromberg March 18, 2009 at 6:46 am


  4. 4 Olivier Jacques April 1, 2010 at 7:47 am

    It would be a pleasure for me to share similar (sometimes worst) stories about Atelier Bow-Wow. Working as an architect in Japan is filled with fear and trembling…

    • 5 wai April 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm

      Is it now? Dang. Pease do share, maybe I don’t want to go work in Japan after all.

    • 6 Edouard Marechal April 14, 2010 at 9:36 pm

      Interesting article.

      Hey Mr Jacques it would be really interesting for me to hear a little bit about how are the conditions at Bow Wow office.

      I was planing to try to get an internship at this office.

      Hope to read something in the next week.


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  1. 1 A Look at SANAAs Relationship as They Ready the Serpentine Pavilion | Trackback on June 25, 2009 at 2:03 am

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