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Deviating from the norm in this world is never a cakewalk -- especially when it comes to career choices. You can't garner as much support as you'd like and it's not easy to come across firsthand knowledge regarding a relatively unknown or unusual field of work. But if you have the will to do something different and truly believe in your heart that you can achieve it, nothing can stop you.
Writing has been one of my passions since childhood. Having taken it up as a hobby, it never occured to me to take it up professionally. When in my ninth semester of architecture, however, I took up architectural journalism as one of my electives -- in the months to follow, fervent studying and working on submissions made me realise that I wanted to achieve a lot more in the same field. Of course, I had my qualms about such a career choice -- there were no guidelines for me to follow, nor a role model or mentor I could turn to.
After obtaining my degree from the Chandigarh College of Architecture, I wanted to take up architectural journalism as a career, but not knowing enough about the field, I kept my options open. I then embarked upon a job hunt that would last two whole months -- I sought out the advice and suggestions of a few of my seniors from college, from the faculty, from a host of other people and surfed a plethora of websites, looking for something that was of interest to me.
Finally, I heard that A+D (Architecture+Design), the foremost architectural journal of India, had a vacancy -- I jumped at the chance and promptly contacted them. And I then embarked upon the career of my dreams -- a call from the editor a week later confirmed that I would be moving bag and baggage to Delhi.
I was with A+D for more than a year and I have to admit that I enjoyed my stint there. I acquired unrestrained knowledge about varied aspects of architecture on both a national and an international level, interacted with some of the most prominent people in the business, learned of contemporary architectural trends, travelled a lot (even abroad) and indulged my lifelong passion for writing -- my job allowed me to do everything I had always wanted to do.
Looking back, I realise that when a student enrolls in college for five marathon years to obtain a degree in architecture, he/ she is too young and naive to gauge what is of interest to him/ her as a career choice. As your educational journey progresses, you discover the various facets of this immeasurable field. Electives are not to be chosen based on which ones offer shorter lectures, less submissions and an easier pace -- they can help you realise where your interests lie and what the many assorted branches of architecture can offer you.
It's in college that you truly discover what it is you want to do with your life. An attitude of exploration and experimentation should be encouraged in students. A word from one's seniors and/ or experienced faculty members can work wonders, because they have a lot more experience in the same field.
So what is architectural journalism all about? Architectural journalism is a written documentation of architecture -- the field encompasses thorough research and involvement in the latest construction techniques, building materials, specialised services, the coverage of architectural seminars, conferences, features, forms, the analysis of building structures and a lot more. To a large extent, architectural journalism affects the way the infrastructure of a society develops, because architecture is less about the design of buildings and more about an attitude towards life.
The scope of architectural journalism is only visible to those who wish to see it. It is widely accepted as a legitimate architectural course, and a few institutes abroad even offer a Master's degree in the subject. While the scope in other countries is definitely large as compared to India, times are changing -- the Internet now reaches out all across the world, and using it as a medium, anyone can pursue writing for architectural publications or websites. The number of architectural journals being published in India is also on the rise. And why look only to journals? Full-fledged writers can focus on regular architectural features in regional and national newspapers, while amateurs can document the limitations, difficulties and validity of a career in the field.
Architecture is the most public, but least discussed of the arts and arguably also the least understood. For those of us who write about the field, it poses a challenge to explore how architectural forms both influence and are influenced by the larger culture. I have gathered that this is a never-ending learning process. You see and you learn -- and then you write. My career gives me great satisfaction, because I have realised that the exposure it gives me to architecture is something I may have missed out on, had I been a harcore architect.
A job as an architectural journalist is hectic enough to keep you occupied all day. A lot of reading is required -- one has to keep abreast of new trends, architects and techniques in order to avoid stagnation. Of course, if you have an architect's background, you will have the occasional urge to pick up a pencil and start designing something -- if it happens often, it may not be a bad idea to take that up part-time as well.
Times are changing. It's no longer a world where everyone had to be a doctor, or an engineer, or a MBA. Education instills in us the confidence that we know what we want from life and what we want to give to it. But there are still thousands out there who are knocking themselves out trying to do everything they think they should do, and never getting around to doing what they want to do.
So for all those who are genuinely interested in the field of architectural journalism -- go for it. Remember what Gandhi said (I always do when I'm about to embark upon a new venture): "Men often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn't have it in the beginning."
A qualified architect, Apurva Bose is based in the UK and is currently pursuing architectural journalism. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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