Interview with Alan Cohl, Architect
A special thanks to Alan Cohl for participating in this interview. Alan is a registered architect in both Israel and the US and practices in the Greater Jerusalem area and the Central Region. His projects range from corporate interiors through all aspects of residential design.
What work settings are available in Israel?
Working in a firm is essential at first, in order to get your feet wet and to allow time to adjust to the culture and language. As an immigrant, your ability to advance within a firm is limited; the likelihood of becoming a partner in a firm is small, because those positions generally remain within the Israeli community. If you have strong skills and the desire, it is advantageous to begin working on your own, privately, once you have the experience. Word of mouth is the best marketing strategy. In addition, your projects will likely be residential work for clientele who are originally from the United States.
What licensure is required?
Obtaining a license to practice architecture in Israel is quite simple. After acquiring your accredited architectural degree, you must work for a licensed architect for 3 years and then apply for your registration. The registered license will enable you to sign permits or open up your own company.
Do I need to know Hebrew?
You can succeed up to a certain level in a firm with no knowledge of Hebrew, because many local architects have studied abroad for some part of their studies. However, if you intend to obtain a very high position within a firm, or work privately, knowledge of Hebrew is essential. Consultants and other co-workers are obviously going to be Israeli.
What experience do I need?
Life after school is a bit different in the U.S. than Israel. In Israel, you are immediately given a large scope of responsibility relating to areas including design, management and details. The system works as a sink-or-swim filter. With an American education, you are very marketable directly after school if you have great computer drafting skills, but it is strongly recommended that you obtain 2-3 years of work experience before making Aliyah, to ensure your ability to handle all the demands required for Israeli architects.
What is the market like?
The market in Israel is healthy overall, particularly within the central region (including the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas). There are some contextual limitations in Jerusalem, however, the demand for architectural services for apartment renovations and private homes is high.
What is the relationship between interior design and architecture in Israel?
The educational system for architecture in Israel does not comprehensively include aspects of interior design. Education in the U.S. and U.K., however, do. This is one of the advantages of educational programs abroad, and it is a huge selling point for services in Israel.
Are there any technical differences to be aware of?
The only major difference is that the Israeli program requires the design to include a bomb shelter. Other than that, the palette of materials is quite limited, but if trained as an architect in the States, you will possess all the necessary knowledge of materials and their applications.
What is the average salary range?
Average salary range is around (net) 5,000 NIS/month for a starting level draftsperson position working in a small to mid-sized office, and can range up to 18,000 NIS/month at management level. Financial reward is a direct product of work ethic, skill and luck. In addition, if you open your own practice, offering “American-like” customer service will allow you to charge more because you are providing more than typical service.
What are the best routes for continuing education?
To keep up with current trends, the best options are to subscribe to architectural periodicals from the States and other design journals in print and on the web. In addition, the Jerusalem Seminar on Architecture, sponsored by the Rothschild Foundation every two years or so, can be a good source for listening and meeting the current stars of the profession.
Do I need to join any professional organizations?
There is an organization called the Association of Engineers, Architects and Graduates in Technological Sciences in Israel. It is based in Tel Aviv and holds seminars and conferences that supplement an Israeli architectural education (in Tel Aviv only). Affiliation is not mandatory.
How do you feel (in general terms) about working as an architect in Israel?
The job satisfaction is fabulous. The whole concept of building the country is something you live, breath and touch every single day. It is a spiritual and practical reason for being here. Why do it anywhere else?