In an era where work-life balance and workplace culture have become major issues in the design industry, Patrik Schumacher says we have nothing to worry about. During a panel at Dezeen Day in London last week, the principal of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) clashed with Pratt Institute School of Architecture dean Harriet Harriss, claiming that measures to limit the exploitation of employees could lead to the “paralyzing” of firms like ZHA. “This is a competitive place where people are eager, have passionate and want to succeed and want to do something,” said Schumacher. “But you can’t do that if you’re told that if work beyond eight hours you can observe exploitation, and something is wrong with you.”
Schumacher’s comments came in response to Harriss’s claim that overtime culture actually curtails productivity. “It’s very important to just bust the myth here that longer hours equals productivity,” Harriss remarked, adding that “What we are doing, arguably, is making permissible forms of labor exploitation, and creating work-life balance that often triggers mental health [issues]. And we know this is a pretty serious issue in education at the moment.”
“I don’t like your philosophy,” responded Schumacher, claiming that it is a slippery slope for a “socialist world of stagnation” that he has observed in European labor culture.
The panel discussion, Fixing Education, also included Neil Pinder, architecture and design teacher at Graveney School in London, and Stacie Woolsey, a young designer who came to prominence after creating her own master’s degree program in response to the lack of affordability in institutional programs. The four professionals were brought together to discuss how to better prepare architecture and design students for the demands of the profession.
The comments were not Schumacher’s first foray into criticizing the trajectory of design education. Over the summer, he published a Facebook manifesto entitled “13 theses on the crisis of architectural academia,” citing issues such as teachers without sufficient professional experience, generally uninspiring portfolios from graduates, and a sense of detachment between education and the profession. The ZHA principal has also come under fire for his stance on unpaid internships, as he claimed in 2016 that such work is “the result of a well-functioning market.”
In an agree-to-disagree resolution, Harriss dismissed Schumacher’s views as outdated, adding that the long-hour discussion is only a small piece of a larger the larger problem of accessibility within the industry.