UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS: INDIA, AUSTRALIA AND THE CHANGING DIVISION OF LABOUR IN ‘OFFSHORE’ ARCHITECTURAL PRODUCTION AND EDUCATION
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As with many other ‘industries’ routinely engaged in the digital production and exchange of information, global interconnectivity is driving a worldwide relocation of architectural design production and documentation facilities from higher-wage to lower-wage regions. With common professional and linguistic legacies from the colonial past, India is emerging as a key provider to Australia in this emerging market of offshore architectural services. Conversely, India is also one of Australia’s most important emerging consumers of architectural education. Until recently, a ‘foreign-returned’ Indian architect with a degree from an overseas university could anticipate architectural employment in an ‘upstairs’ position of responsibility and prestige. Overseas qualifications typically entailed overseas work experience as well, and the enhanced professional judgement these implied to perform the higher order ‘symbolic analysis’ of a designer or project leader. It was the ‘downstairs’ staff of locally trained drafters and technicians who did the ‘routine production’ and were paid accordingly. With the rapidly increasing volume and sophistication of ‘offshore’ architectural work now being ‘outsourced’ to Indian firms, however, the old ‘upstairs-downstairs’ division of labour and expertise is no longer clear. This paper interprets relevant findings from the Indian case study of a larger comparative study of the changing geography of architectural work. Here we question what an Australian architectural degree is actually worth, or should be, to an Indian graduate architect when locally trained architectural technicians based in Delhi, Mumbai, and even provincial Kanpur are routinely working on major projects around the Globe as remote digital collaborators with some of the largest architectural firms in the world.
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