Thursday, October 08, 2009


In the days of the SPAtalli, before facebook and twitter, I read this one post. One of those many adverts, from one of those many offices looking for one of those many architects. An invisible office, making and obscure call for an ambiguous employment opportunity.

“ Architect wanted, with 5 to 6 years experience to work on prestigious projects”

I read it. What firm? No answer. Kind of work? No answer. Pay ? No answer. Location? No. Stature of work. PRESTIGIOUS.

From there followed a barrage of questions. The first, attacking my own(misplaced?) belief in my intelligence. I must be missing some thing, I thought. This was obvious, expected, normal and effective communication. What was rankling me then? In my own preoccupation with an economy of means, and pointedness of purpose had I lost the ability to see what was completetly obvious?

Is prestigious a universally defined, unalterable, and immutable classification? One word, absolute in its defining powers of a project ,unknown, unseen, at an undisclosed location by an anonymous architect?

So I made a post and got this for a reply? (as has been said, “when unable to answer, ask another question”) and got asked back the same question. “What do you think a prestigious project is, fanthome?”

I was quite stumped.

The O.E.D. p-r-e-s-t-i-g-i-o-u-s. That didn’t help.

So what would I call prestigious? Maybe I would arrive at it by progressive elimination! The answer seemed as un-coming as before. The following morning, as I was sitting in the office, skimming through the offices pile of prestigious magazines looking for some defining parameters when a young boy with a New Kids on The Block hairstyle and oversized shorts walked into the office. He scanned the models, the many sheets pinned on tack boards. After a bit came his question, “what’s the biggest building Babu’s built?”

I had no idea, I began to mentally scan through the office work, trying now to judge the portfolio on this one simple criteria of sizing.

The biggest, and there it struck me – PRESTIGIOUS, for the unknown, unclassified, un-locatable, ambiguous, had found meaning. Loosely, - very large. Scale was everything. In a world of assembly, standard detail, standard plan, standard fee, standard façade - size was prestigious.

The IIM Ahmedabad is a prestigious place, but was the project prestigious? Or was the architect prestigious? What makes for this prestige, the institution, or the architect or the edifice? Architectural practices are prestigious. And so are client institutions? And are projects prestigious? Or projects by prestigious architects turn prestigious. Or is the prestigious-ness acquired post building or bestowed?

In an eclectic, pluralistic public opinion, is prestigious an ascertainable classification? Are all projects prestigious and the classification a dubious description? Or in the democratic social system are no projects prestigious?

What would the prestigious project, of an unknown firm, at an unknown site, building the unknown building project, in an unknown style, be?

What should I have written back?


I am an architect with some experience, having worked on some projects, in some offices, I would be very interested in being part of your team to work on some prestigious projects.

I hope to hear from you some time soon

Thank you,

Some architect”

I have long cherished the dream of working on something prestigious. Who would not want his name to be taken in the same breath as Kahn, or Stien or Doshi or Correa. And who would not like to build a Bharat Bhavan, GLI or the IIC. But I could not bear the ignominy of sending a resume, with my name on it, to an anonymous post-office box.

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