I hire people with strong process,design skills and clear architectural aptitude — Henri Fanthome

About the Author: Henri Fanthome is the principal architect at Henri Fanthome Office for Architecture, New Delhi. He attended the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, where he earned an Undergraduate Degree in Architecture in 2004. He also teaches at the Dept. of Architecture, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and School of Design, Ambedkar University, New Delhi. He has been a member of Juries for various design schools. 

Internshala: In a Portfolio of potential Intern, what is more important for you? Design process or product?

Henri: For me, as an architect, I look for process. I like to see how someone thinks, and how the thought is carried and translated into design. A product becomes important only after the process. Product is important, but, as I believe, only after indication of a structured process and logic.

Internshala: How do you prefer to review applications (including portfolio): digital or hard copy format? What attributes/skills do you look for in a prospective intern?

Henri: I do not mind either digital or hard copy for review. However, I do not base my judgments on the documents alone. I always conduct an interview, either in person or via Skype, to speak face to face with the applicants. I think it’s important to understand their attitude to their own work, their personalities and their interest in working with us.  We are a design focused firm; and, to us, it is very important to have the right kind of energy. We are a small team, and we like to keep our work environment fun!

Internshala: How much software skills matter on any portfolio?

Henri: I’d say that it depends on the level of work that one sees. While looking at portfolios, you look for the strength of each applicant and how they would potentially contribute to the team. As a small team, it is very important not to have replication of skill sets.  I prefer to hire people with adequate software skills, but strong process and design skills, and clear architectural aptitude. And I’d say– design skills over software skills any day!

Internshala: On a scale of 1 to 5, how much sketching skills matter on any portfolio?

Henri: I would say 5, but again, the kind of sketching that most students show, is rarely of any use. The perfect still-lives etc from the graphic studio exercises are not particularly of any interest to me, or the perfect sketches of monuments. I prefer to see how the individual has used sketches as a thinking tool and a problems solving tool. How sketches have been used to communicate and build or search out ideas that then are processed into design decisions.

Internshala: What are the most common mistakes potential interns make on their applications?

Henri: For me, the most frequent mistake is bad formatting, untidy and in-essential pictures/ data to beautify the portfolio which usually is unnecessary. Also, the use of loud fonts/type.

Internshala:  What is your message to students who are looking for internships?

Henri: The idea of an internship is to work and learn. I feel you need to carefully select an organisation or firm you want to work with. An internship is the first professional interaction you are undertaking as an architect. Many students make choices based on size of firm, and stipends offered, which I think is not a good idea, and I do not encourage it at all. It is best to work with an organisation whose work you admire, or would like to be a part of as well, where you can get a wide exposure to many processes and aspects of the profession. Small firms that are design focused and are not market driven would be far more useful to work with in the long run. Also, I would advise students to travel and work in places they have not been exposed to. To find offices and architects and places they would like to explore. An internship is a learning opportunity. It should not be treated as employment, and one should avoid firms that hire interns as cheaper substitutes for qualified architects.

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