I have been working at Pei Cobb Freed full-time (More than a year)
Good Work Life Balance, courteous people, very respectful (in relation to the architectural profession especially!), and benefits are pretty good. Seems like a family oriented environment. Projects are relatively high profile. It seems like a safe haven for recent graduates who want to make up for lost time during architecture school, and go to plays, museums, take weekends off, and travel. Also seems to be a great place for architects that want to have kids and raise families with minimal dignity.
They pay for ARE tests, and for membership to either AIA or NCARB. They are reasonable with personal requests, as well, and employees are able to set limits and somewhat control their personal schedules.
Office Culture + Management Issues - Big Time! Some people can be over worked at times, while others don't do anything for periods on end. If you do well you are rewarded with more work, more complaints. If you don't do well, you get what you want anyways, and you work less.Serious Problem with delegating tasks, be it design-wise or even doing graphics in a powerpoint presentation. The micromanagement is really astounding, and the office fails to see how the architecture and the office suffer as a consequence. It makes employees - especially the younger crowd - not take responsibility for anything they do, let alone have any deep interest in it. The mentality can be quite passive aggressive-they don't like change, and a number of senior employees and partners alike talk behind people's backs with other employees - ragardless of seniority. Design is quite traditional, and slow paced - pretty "in the box" thinking. Harry Cobb is the only one left with any clout or connection with the intellectual architecture world. Creativity is a foreign word.
Office culture makes a funeral home seem lively. I think many workers just want to get paid and go home - happy houris are almost considered an odd exception, rather than routine. Anything associated with "fun" let alone simple professional "communication" is odd to an extreme.
DESIGNERS ARE NOT PROMOTED - only management types.
Advice to Management
If you want talent to come and stay with you you need to delegate more, trust your employees, and understand that an office, no matter what you do, is more than coming to work and going home. In addition, if making great architecture happens to be an objective, then improve intercommunication and office morale, encourage more model making and creativity. that is what architects - especially the good ones - want to deal with, and would be more than happy to do all the technical &*#), and go through all the vices at the office, if only that existed. Good Luck! OH and reward designers in addition to management types!
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