Most prospective architects have their first practical work experience in small and medium-sized offices. 
A closer look shows why this is so. 
As different as the big players among architectural firms may be, they too have something appealing in common.

If you are at least involved in decisions in an architecture office, you understand some relationships better than if you just got the decision communicated.

By Fabian P. Dahinten

Working in an architecture firm during your studies is definitely a good idea. Not just that you can earn something on the side. You also get to know the everyday working life early and realistically and after five years of study you are not completely surprised at how much time you spend with Excel instead of sketching paper. But which office size is best for starting a job? Is it the small office with ten to 20 employees, the medium-sized office with up to 50 employees or is it the architecture group with several locations?

With my high school diploma, I even started to work in a small architecture office in my hometown before I started studying. I was there for a total of five years and learned a lot. Especially because I kept getting different tasks and was allowed or had to do a lot early on. Twelve years and six offices later, I realize that I've always stayed in small and medium-sized offices. Now I wonder if it wasn't even time to get to know a bigger office.

Flat hierarchies are good for learning

Even with offices of the same size, the differences were sometimes very large. It starts with the structuring: If there is a flat hierarchy or several decision-making levels, this is particularly important for the learning effect. Because if you are at least involved in decisions, you understand some connections better than if you just got the decision communicated. That's why I always appreciate it very much when my boss lets me take part in the deliberations.

In addition to the corporate culture, the personal relationship in a small office is also completely different. That's probably also the reason why I've only ended up with smaller offices so far. I had never applied for a position, but was always approached by the owners if I would like to work there. It's more complicated in a larger office. It doesn't work without an application.

 survey there showed that it is 84 percent and only 16 percent work in larger offices.

Think big: initiate creative processes in the architecture office

I asked why that is so: @bauer_natalia said, for example, that she previously worked in an office with 80 employees and is now in an office with 30 colleagues. She feels that the smaller office is more familiar and more considerate. @rebekkagsn is also in favor of a smaller office and thinks that she will get more varied and more responsible tasks there.

So the trend seems pretty clear, but why are the big offices so successful? Foster und Partner has 1,300, BIG over 400 or Snøhetta up to 500 employees. These three examples alone are probably more different from their corporate culture, as one can hardly imagine. But they all have one thing in common: Despite their size, they manage to initiate creative processes - at a high level.