Construction is one of the leading industries in Turkey, often mentioned as the locomotive of the overall economy of the country. Even though there are different statistical numbers on this issue, it is obvious that the construction is one of the major business fields in the country; just a short stroll in any part of a city anywhere in Turkey makes this apparent.
Contrary to the scale of the building economy, the architectural service industry is not as developed as the contracting business. Unfortunately CAT cannot provide actual statistical figures about its members' financial and business activities. There are around 40.000 registered architects in Turkey, mostly clustered in four major cities, Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir and Bursa. However it is believed that only less than half of these architects are actually practicing their profession. Also the number of above the line active architectural offices is less than five hundred.
Actually contractors are valued more since constructing a building is more visible than designing it. Either state or private, the clients rarely hang back on the cost of the construction of their buildings. On the contrary, the more expensive materials the better it is. However, they severely cut the architectural design fees, sometimes a quarter of one fifth of the lowest fee that CAT designated.
Constructing a building is more valued than designing it. Even the legal tendering law of Turkey first selects the contractor for the public buildings, including the largest court houses, stadiums, schools etc. The winning contractor of the bidding process is than free to choose the architects they would like to work with. Thus in many public buildings architectural design is seen as a secondary task. Contractors become clients of architects.
In this difficult and harsh business environment where almost 20.000 architects look for commissions in order to survive, the professional competition amongst the architects is also severe, even in some cases unethical. Even though CAT has designated a minimum fee for each type of building for each scale in each city, it is believed that only one or two percent of the overall architects could apply these fees to their project service. The lack of consensus amongst architects on the minimum fee obviously makes the clients' hands more powerful, which in the end creates a vicious circle. Many architects are obliged to design cheaper projects in order to survive.
The motivation to survive makes the owners of the architectural offices to pay less to their employee, to keep their accounting procedures illegal in order to avoid taxes, to work with unregistered software and eventually decrease the quality of the service they gave. It is unnecessary to speak about research and personal development in a situation as such, which is actually a must for the profession itself.
Most of the recent graduates start working in architectural offices with salaries starting from as low as 750 Euros/month which may go up to 1500 Euros. Senior architects' salaries may go up to 3500 Euros. Most of the above the line offices have around 8 to 15 staff. Only a small fraction of the active offices have employee more than 20. Offices which have more than 50 employees are very few.
Architects usually base their fees on the total square meters of the buildings they are designing. As a general estimation the architectural fee is around 1% to 7-8% of the total construction cost of the buildings. This ratio increases to %10 or even %15 in interior design projects.
Foreign architects can work in Turkey, only if they are registered to CAT and have working permissions issued by the government. However this is a very rare situation since many of the foreign architects working in Turkey have local partners registered to CAT which makes them easier to carry on their business.
Turkish architects residing and working in Turkey rarely have the chance of designing for their foreign clients in foreign countries. The ones who manage to design projects out of Turkey are mostly commissioned by the Turkish contractors working in former Russian or North African – Middle East countries.
Turkish architects also pay little attention or reserve no time to promote their works and services abroad. The number of architects who enter international architectural competitions is also very few.