International Employment

“The world has been flattened… Global collaboration and competition… has been made cheaper, easier, more friction-free, and more productive for more people from more corners of the earth than at any time in the history of the world.”
Thomas Friedman

In the national economy it is no secret that jobs are hard to come by. The United States faces the harsh reality of job outsourcing and as a country we must rely on our solid base of office and service commercial industries, as well as several stalwart production industries, in order to compete in the global economy. More and more American jobs are being assumed by foreign workers who are able to do the same jobs that Americans do, but at far lower prices.

So what is the solution to this national economic issue? We can either embrace the coming change and accept our role as a “creativity economy” or we can take a stand, much as the National Romantics and Arts & Crafts designers of Europe and America did in the late 1800s and early 1900s following the industrial revolution, and we can demand higher quality local services from ourselves instead of cheaper outsourced goods and products. This means we will have to give up such “necessities” as Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon.com, and turn to local producers who produce at a generally higher quality and retail price.

But truthfully, are Americans ready to make this shift? I think not. The typical American is too afraid to life a life without commercial securities. As a nation, we have become attached to large corporations and we would flounder hopelessly in a nation of mom-and-pop retail stores. There must be some happy medium.

What does this mean to design students? Any American design student that wishes to find a place in the global economy must recognize this trend towards domestic reliance on international supply and the role of a designer to take products that would otherwise be viewed as foreign and we must make them appear (or even be) local, relatable, and vernacular.

In the end, a job overseas may not be out of the question for design students wishing to take advantage of architectural development in other countries. Only time will tell, but as Thomas Friedman emphasizes, “There is no substitute for face-to-face reporting and research.” Outsourced design and fabrication can only go so far. Where that limit lies is anyone’s guess, but as the world flattens the possibilities for international trade, manufacturing, and yes, even design, expand into new frontiers every day.


"Death to starchitecture."
-Lance Hosey, 2010

Published last week by Lance Hosey of architecturemagazine.com, “10 for ‘20” is a list that sets out to predict what could (or should) happen next in over the coming decade in a “greening” building industry.

The article focuses on the technical, systemic, and operations management side of architecture, with an emphasis on the potential of integrative design, community development, and ecological inspiration. Hosey centers on how automated process is one of the credos architects should swear by, and the article champions the possibilities of LEED, a system whose impact has grown far beyond its initial expectations and is likely to expand even more in the coming years.

For students, the author writes that an increased valuation of “ecological literary could reform education at every level and transform design schools around a more aggressively interdisciplinary curricula.” This focus, according to Hosey, forecasts how “the glamorization of the individual architect could become less and less appealing as design becomes valued more for how it serves the communities.”

Among its many predictions for the coming decade, the article champions how architects should subscribe to new forms and applications of technology to meet energy needs and community requirements. Students should also embrace this aspect of architecture – being knowledgeable of design potentials and professional practices will lead to a more holistic and genuine form of long-lasting and well-conceived design.