ArchitectureBoston

Why Modern Architectural Education is Archaic

Posted in Vol 13 No 4 by bsaab on November 10, 2010

Maxxi Museum, Rome, designed by Zaha Hadid

In the 19th century, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris provided an academic approach to architectural training that supplanted the guild system of apprenticeship with master builders that had existed since the Renaissance. This idea of an abstracted aesthetic education in how buildings are designed spread throughout Western civilization and is now the dominant paradigm. But when I entered the field, vestiges of the old system remained: it was still possible to bypass higher education altogether by pursuing a nine-year apprenticeship with a licensed architect.  Those who opted for this path would take the architecture registration exam side by side with those who had a degree and three years of apprenticeship.  This option no longer exists.

What has resulted is a mandatory education for those who want to be licensed architects that distills, disintegrates, and provides its own self-reinforcing echo chamber of abstracted design methodologies grounded in academic theory.  Unfortunately, as soon as graduates dive into a career in architectural design, they (and those who manage them) are confronted with the fact that designing a building is a craft that has layers of design criteria that are simply not addressed in the way most architects are trained.

It is my heartfelt belief that this educational approach has done great damage to perhaps the most synthetic and collaborative profession in the world:  architecture—“the mother of the arts,” as described by Vitruvius.

Where they are acknowledged in curricula, the tangible forces and facts of the physical world are almost universally imbued with a High Green Ethos that now substitutes objective technical knowledge for a moral lens through which to judge all the elements of the physical world –such as gravity, weather, geology, hydrology, electricity, wind forces, wave action, and any and every material used to build a building. A “sustainable” religiosity filters and focuses non-aesthetic physical realities with a canon that has prefab “correct” values and, of course, defines scarlet-letter heresies in a world that was formerly fact-based.

Abstract artistic sensibilities have become the pre-eminent point of departure in architectural education and in those buildings venerated in academia and the professional press.

Buildings must also deal with the world of social context, as almost all buildings are in proximity to others and exist in a cultural reality. Whether taught or not, anthropological, sociological, ergonomic, and historical realities of architecture are in the mix of design criteria by which non-architects judge buildings. Sadly, these non-aesthetic criteria have been back-burnered, lip-serviced, or outright ignored in architectural education. Abstract artistic sensibilities have become the pre-eminent point of departure in architectural education and in those buildings venerated in academia and the professional press.

Under the apprenticeship system, this fine-arts sensibility was considered simply one of many components to be considered in the design of a building.  Today, that criterion has become the near-exclusive educational emphasis.

The net-net is that the practice of architecture has become the cousin, if not the sibling, of the fashion industry. We celebrate starchitects as hyped personalities on a par with the media whores who dominate the PR-driven world of entertainment.  We celebrate the isolated beauty of these built products instead of their usefulness, craft, or contributions to their social context.

A profession built upon itself (rather than upon larger cultural, social, or functional bases) naturally generates obscure language.  With the rise of the Modern Movement in all the arts, abstruse and convoluted verbiage was invented to give the basic ideas and tools of art and design a new-found gloss via obscurity; the resulting language is intentionally off-putting and elitist. Windows and doors become “fenestration,” entries and hallways become “circulation,” walls and floors become “surface articulation,” and rooms become “zones” and “spaces.” This arcane, affected academic jargon effectively holds a potentially judgmental public at arm’s length.

Architects are now taught to design buildings for the approval of other architects—our version of preaching to the choir. Unfortunately, not too many architects hire other architects to design buildings.

The result has been disastrous for the profession of architecture. In a recent MSNBC web piece, the field of architecture was deemed to be the most heavily impacted by the recession.  Anecdotally, at least 30 percent of the architectural workforce is not working, and even more are severely underemployed. A sinking economy lowers all hopes, but why is architecture so dramatically over-represented in the career despair department?

The profession of architecture suffers from a chronic dysfunction that will be terminal unless a bottom-up re-boot is started.

It is clear to me that the architectural profession’s cultural irrelevance (and thus mass unemployment) is born of intellectual distortion caused by an exclusive internal focus and “let them eat cake” attitude of contempt for the “bourgeois” outlook that asks more of buildings than what is asked of sculpture.  The seeds of this attitude were planted in the way architects are educated. The resulting general cultural perception is that architects are as useful as couture fashion designers.

But architects build their art with other people’s money in a world that exists outside the realms that their education prepares them for. Unlike law or medicine, where cases are won or lost and patients are cured or not, architects have effectively evolved a system where they themselves define what is success—and it is almost exclusively in the realm of fine-arts expression. That elitism is a narcissistic exercise that virtually ensures a tiny market share in a world that demands far more of its buildings than abstracted aesthetic expression.

The sad truth of the present state of architectural education—rampantly self-manifesting over the last 30 years—is that the rules of the game are being written by the players, who have determined the supremacy of the high-art intensions of buildings. These judgments by the educational elite on practitioners are self-justifying and simplistic. “Hacks” design buildings that reference history, mesh with their neighborhood, or embrace dominant existing building technologies. “Designers” invent on every level; if patrons do not value their work, the patrons are at fault.

The bottom line is simply this: The profession of architecture suffers from a chronic dysfunction that will be terminal unless a bottom-up re-boot is started. Increasingly, the practice of architecture has been subjected to a level of artificial distinction, disintegration, and specialization that creates a profession that is viewed as irrelevant, inefficient, and tone-deaf to the concerns of those who could use our craft.

Unless an increased diversity of acknowledged design criteria is allowed to flourish in architectural journalism and academia, architects will continue to be marginalized in public perception.

The next boom that follows this bust will, as always, provide temporary distraction from a reality that is ultimately undeniable: The profession of architecture is losing value for more and more people. Unless architects recognize their atrophying state and reinvent the way they are taught and practice, they are a dead profession designing.

Maxxi Museum, Rome, designed by Zaha Hadid. Photograph from the Wikimedia Commons.

23 Responses

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  1. duo dickinson said, on November 11, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I asked the Dean of one of the truly Great Schools of Architecture in America whether this piece was heretical – his response:

    “Not heresy. Perhaps a bit overstated, but firmly rooted in the way things are, alas.”

    admitting a problem is the first stepp in making things right…

  2. michael Imber said, on November 11, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Brilliant and insightful article!

  3. Terry Cline said, on November 11, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Duo,

    Far out man. Bravo! Superbly put! On target. Timely.. Bravo to us all who are opening
    to the reality that, as best stated by Sir Winston Churchill: “We shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us.” I told Sarah Susanka that her next book should be “The Not-So-Big Architect”

    Riding The Edge,
    Terry

  4. John Fulop said, on November 12, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Here..here!!

  5. News « Saved By Design said, on November 12, 2010 at 10:21 am

    […] A critically important piece in this week’s issue of Architecture Boston online – please viraliz… […]

  6. […] This from Duo Dickenson of CORA about the relevance of architectural education. (or lack thereof) It is clear to me that the architectural profession’s cultural irrelevance (and thus mass unemployment) is born of intellectual distortion caused by an exclusive internal focus and “let them eat cake” attitude of contempt for the “bourgeois” outlook that asks more of buildings than what is asked of sculpture. The seeds of this attitude were planted in the way architects are educated. The resulting general cultural perception is that architects are as useful as couture fashion designers. […]

  7. Jerome Morley Larson Sr EAIA said, on November 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Beaux Arts taught how to design space for people using axis – because humans are binocular – organizing space along axis gives you the most information for the least effort, a natural function. Throughout history, man has defined space using familiar natural forms as decorative elements to give human scale which makes the spaces comfortable for the users – making spaces weathertight and secure completed the architecture – variations on these principals formed styles, the most pleasant of which were constantly repeated throughout the ages.
    The bauhaus, confusing the decoration as the architecture throughout everything when they railed against the decoration – and the baby went out with the bathwater – the weatherproofing as well as the spatial relationships – and just as important – the art of drawing the spaces – when you have decoration it is possible to get a feeling for space by doing a rendered section with the shadows and the decoration giving the sense of scale and therefore the space – since modern spaces were so difficult to draw, the spaces became irrelevant and were replaced by theory fo “how the wall wants to feel” and such other gibberish that education became a mockery of self important pedantseach viewing with each other to create the most obscure and meaningless menagerie of architectural terms – so convoluted several generations later that the language is incomprehensible – the simple art of architecture is lost. (It is a simp art the way chess is a simple game).
    Architecture is the design of spaces for people – the spaces are arranged along natural axis and are experienced with light and movement – all changes to the natural world are architecture because everything man does changes the quality of the space – be it plow a field, plant a tree, build a road, a bridge, a dam or a building – it affects the space – it is architecture – the beaux arts recognized this and planned whole cities as architecture, something we haven’t done since 1948, the last time the beaux arts was taught (to fill the gap they invented Planning which is like kissing your sister or trying to make the omelet without breaking eggs – you get rotten eggs and nothing to eat.
    The only test of architecture is wether the users like it enough to write the check each month to pay for it – great architecture sells or rents and is cherished by its users – no exceptions!.
    Then we got computers and stop the drawing process completely – now the poor students have no way of knowing what their production means becaust the hands are deprived of the learning.
    I say ban the computers until you are licensed, bring back the beau arts section renderings in all historic styles and require students to sketch every day – restore the apprentice system with the young people helping with design presentations and document layout and construction administration and freehand details of waterproofing – and rough scale models and red lining and research of materials and mechanical systems and bathroom layouts and filing and organizing and brochures and and and-… let them buy computers after licensing if they wish, but alt least they will know what they are for!

  8. chris said, on November 12, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Well. 4 years of Arch drafting class in HS started me out. Went to builders. Told them I can design homes. Engineers looked over the plans and approved them for build. Little things like electrical, HVAC, truss and floor joist are warranted by there manufacturers. So whatever I draw on these parts would have to be drawn over. So I never draw them. Heat calculations, window manufacturers. Put all there imput into a set of plans for building department approval. Not only done by the professionals going to do the job, there guaranteed. So lets move on. Carnegie Mellon University. Nothing better off the working with a rolling scholar from top Arch University in America right. How I get this job? Only one question, can I draw. Answer, yes. Got the job. Move on. Next Architect, ask. You working with this rolling schlor, can you draw. Answer, yesd. Got the job, doing large commercial and Government contracts. How did I do this?
    I had no money when I left HS. So I started working!

  9. david said, on November 13, 2010 at 9:05 am

    your words remind me of Phillip Johnson’s quote
    “give me a high school drop out with 12 years experience”

    as a non degreed architect gaining licensure thru the old experience formula I feel superior to fellow dipolma compatriots.They have missed out on the reality of architecture thru the master/apprentice relationship

  10. Richard Malinsky said, on November 13, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Brilliant observation! There are parallels to this throughout the fine arts.

    When the universities appointed themselves the arbitrators of art they decided that a 4 year BFA degree provided you a base line to enter the field. However, if you continued on for 2 more years and earned an MFA degree you were qualified to teach. What possibly could happen in those 2 years to leap ahead to the status of educator? Is there some magic knowledge that only they posses? If you apprenticed for 2 years with one of the major artists of the time in the real trenches you would not be qualified to teach. If you went out and set the art world on fire you would not be qualified to teach. Mind you, the majority of MFA students have no real interest, or skills, in the education of students.

    Universities need students. The longer they can keep you there the better they benefit.

  11. Richard O.Byrne said, on November 25, 2010 at 10:05 am

    So well said. Vitruvius not only described architecture as the “the mother of the arts,” he also said a building to be successful must be firm, commodious, and have delight; and that buildings were constructed by “homo faber” …man the creator, and “homo mechanicus” …the trained labor who built. The “firm and commodious” part of the equation has, in large been mastered, so what remains is the “delight” part. By gathering the entirety of the homo faber task unto themselves, the architectural profession has excluded so many who could offer “delight” to our buildings, i.e., master craftsmen who once built beautiful structures by the score without any architect present. These master builders have said “bugger off” to this arrogance and exclusion and have taken their skills elsewhere where they are wanted and not insulted.

    The architectural profession has sat on their frozen hinders and have allowed the ugliest built landscape to evolve throughout America the world has ever known when they should have been the leaders who saw that this did not happen. As a profession “questa carne è gusta.”

  12. william bates professor of architectural drawing and design American College ofthe Building Arts said, on November 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    the fear is that architects have “put off” so many in the intervening years of modernism that those who would put Vitruvius back where he belongs have sunk below the critical mark. That there are simply, now too few people with the power to make change.

  13. Seth Joseph Weine said, on November 27, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Greetings.
    Nice article, and a fine beginning.
    Three points:

    — 20-20-20 vision:
    The average 20 year old draftsman in 1920 knew more about good design & building than any 20 architects today! And chances were that he was trained largely in the office.
    — The real source of the problem:
    It originates in the vision of the architect as a Romantic [as in the Romantic movement] singular towering genius Artiste. Given that, a whole bunch of dominoes begin to fall: the need for each oeuvre (and the components of each) to transcend and be strikingly different from all previous and neighboring and colleagues’ work; what Alan Forrest called “the assassination mentality”: the need to kill off one’s predecessors; the snideness about even the possibility of learning from the past; disrespect of basic human needs (like orientation).
    — Medicine is a better metaphor than Art, for architectural practice:
    Instead of going into a situation looking to make “a bold statement” and be “cutting edge” and “break new paths” [all ever-so-endlessly repeated cliches of the design press], how about we approach each design problem like a humble doctor. What would a design-physician do? Probably look/ask: What’s going on here? How can I help? What’s not working? How can I make it better? What’s really needed? How can I serve the people and my community?

    Respectfully submitted,
    Seth Joseph Weine
    Fellow, ICA&CA
    sethweine@aol.com

  14. Sully said, on November 28, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Excellent article. I have a Bachelor of Architecture degree, and was fortunate to have some excellent teachers, both in school, and in my summer internships. What worries me is that the B.Arch programs are rapidly disappearing. I’ll put my education (both in terms of architectural training and general education) up against any 4+2 education (4 year pre-professional undergrad +2 year professional masters.) As Bachelor programs disappear, we are not only providing a less architecture focused education, but also keeping students out of the workforce for an additional year (where the real learning happens), all the while burdening them with an additional year of schooling expenses.

    Don’t get me started on the whole issue with NCARB and licensure.

  15. Todd Jonas said, on December 9, 2010 at 3:39 am

    Our profession is riddled with academic dribble.

    I am reluctant to hire new graduates.

    The economic devastation reeked on our profession has left the schools the only ones standing. They promote themselves and what they sell; more and more classes more, more language that no one understands.

    The lawyers control the courts, the doctors control medicine, the teachers control the schools. ARCHITECTS do not control building. This role diminishes everyday. Until this is resolved the schools will continue producing more and more inflated ego’s in a deflating profession.

  16. john messina said, on December 10, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I taught in a state school of architecture for ten years, but I am not saying that I taught architecture, because there is far more than a grain of truth in the statement, ” architecture cannot be taught, it only can be learned. I have also heard the eternal cry from the profession that students, upon graduation, are not prepared for practice. Both remarks are valid and probably inevitable. The art and science of making architecture will not be learned in school but in practice. School provides something else. That something else is, hopefully, critical thinking, and currently and to a large extent digital skills (much desired by practice).

    In my thinking the problem today with architecture schools is not what is attempted to be taught – abstract or not – but that they are administered by deans, directors and heads who are on a career/salary climb (understandable), but do not care about faculty and see them as the cheapest possible labor pool (adjuncts are their favorite type of servant). Faculty, on the other hand and with some exceptions, have chosen teaching in order to escape the impossibility of practice, and instead are forced into finding funded research- a much overrated activity – sit on useless committees. produce redundant reports for the deans,directors or heads, and seek praise worthy student evaluations. All of this breeds paranoia, envy, pettiness and horrible morale.

    Architecture schools are so depressing that I am happy to be out of the academic quandary and back in the impossibility of practice.

  17. Joseph Edgecombe said, on December 14, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Bringing Educational REFORM, CHANGE and improvement to Architectural Education and the problematic educational system/programs at Boston Architectural College…

    Reforming the BAC by getting the BAC on the right track:
    The BAC has very low graduation and retention rates far below National Standards – therefore the school has a high fall-out/drop-out and/or transfer rate because the program/system is poorly designed and is often a waste of a student’s time /bad investment for achieving students who could have gone to another school/college to excel/receive their degree without the problems that are created by the faulty program/staff and problematic leadership at the BAC.

    Often the system at the BAC leads student backward instead of forward in the professional workplace.
    Therefore, Reforming the BAC by getting the BAC on the right track by demanding /challenging the BAC to follow the U.S. College National Standards of promotion/recognition of student achievement & success toward graduation is in order because students at the BAC are getting the shaft and being cheated manipulated by the failed structure/system of the BAC program.

    Additionally, the Associate degree is the foundation of academic accomplishment and the BAC is lacking this very important and critical degree – in the steps of students matriculating and becoming successful Architectural Professionals in today’s very busy workplace (without this degree the student does not have any foundation to stand upon in a long program such as the BAC’s or if any issues arise on the path to the Bachelors’ Degree.

    The BAC has yet to offer an Associate’s degree for students who have passed the 4/5 level during their program at the BAC, although they have passed the Associates level and are moving toward a Bachelors level, they are still left without holding a Degree or Certificate that they can present in the workplace in which they are employed and are moving ahead,
    without this degree the student does not have any foundation to stand upon in a long program such as the BAC has- without the associates degree BAC students are losing ground in the workplace and the problematic/failed program of the BAC works against the success of student/professionals who are therefore often seen as less than associates in the Architectural workplace especially if you are a Black/Minority or African-American.

    • Adam Mitchell said, on January 30, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      Wow, I am currently enrolled in the BAC. I would argue that most graduate architecture degrees would offer a similar degree of “education”. The problem is widespread among architecture schools in general and there needs to be some sort of reform especially if it is now required in most states for a person to obtain a masters degree in architecture to receive a license to practice. Right now these schools have zero accountability. They answer to NAAB ; which is a very curious organization.

  18. antobian said, on December 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    As to the viability of professional architecture for our time into the future it is necessary to realize and understand the basis of its 5000 year intentional founding, as a class status differential “exclusively” for the privileged.

    Architecture was never formulated to become a great aesthetic entity in and of itself, available to all, therefore its only distinction is in its academic varietal derivations of wanton trends, styles, movements, all contrived to satisfy every emotional status-seeking patron all “happily” accommodated by every available “over-stocked” institutional commodity-trained and controlled designing professional, therein reducing the architect to become the age old “eternal-agent-dupe” of the patrons of whimsy and conformity.

    If you are interested in receiving further knowledge concerning this commentary, visit antobian-astratect.blogspot.com

  19. Joseph Edgecombe said, on December 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    THE FAILURE OF ARCHITECTURE EDUCATION & THE PROFESSION

    Many architects or should I say Registered/Traditional Architects fail to live up to the standards of ethics, diversity and social advocacy-activity/concern required to define themselves as Architects, not only the profession but in the real world of both business and society. Therefore many so-called Registered Architects are not truly Architects in our society at all both in the literal or figurative sense, this is why the architectural profession has a bad, unimportant or non-critical name or often generates negative types of connotations as related to the construction, development planning and/or problem solving of society or the urban context/issues as related to other professions that are seen or perceived as being part of the greater-good in society such as Law, perhaps Accounting, Medical/Doctor or Engineer related fields. The Architect is often seen as shallow or meaningless in the broad scope of things or society/economics or affairs which are often political but as well very technically intelligent but lacking a true cause, reason or place in society and the business world or fickle/powerless. The field Architecture is also seen as very limited in America and as well the term Architect often synonymous with very negative images of a non-diverse, elitist/problematic field, the field lacks racial balance and ethical/societal address-fortitude as well as cultural meaning. There are many architects in our society, software architects is just one example of the term, Figuratively speaking the business and technology world are full of progressive professionals (knowledgeable, active and educated) or architects that is why they capitalized on the term architect, as well there are many social Architects in community development who want to create better cities and urban/community environments for all. Architectural Professionals lost the battle for identity way back during the 1990’s. Many Black/African-American & Urban/Minority Architects in general are now trying to save and redefine the profession in a positive manner which relates to the need of people and the needs of our society, therefore changing the Archetype of the profession and the model of architectural activity /business or agenda/concern. As for mainstream Architects the battle has been lost, the only hope is the current broad based/environmental green – sustainable, building design-technology movement which helps define Architects in a better light- often called “Green-Architects”.
    Professional architects are often seen as very narrow-minded/ limited, unconcerned and self-centered professionals, ignorant and problematic.
    On the other hand Planners (government), City Planners or perhaps Urban Planners are seen as the true Architects in American society as well as Real Estate Developers.
    Beyond Buildings….Are Architects truly Architects?
    As Architects we must learn how to break or change some of the negative stereotypes that plague the profession. All professions/industries have similar these problems – such as Lawyers etc., but beyond that lawyers are regarded as the advocates for the disadvantaged and keepers of Law & Order in society. They are sometimes criticized or defined/stereotyped negatively but also they counteract those negative perceptions and are able to carry and project a very positive Image of responsibility, and concern for justice and fairness not only in society but in their daily routine/objectives and activities.
    Professional Architects are often seen and perceived only as technical building/construction specialist who are not socially active and not truly educated or knowledgeable as many other people and professional who have graduated from colleges and universities and moved on to have an impact in society.
    In essence Architecture is seen as the most backward, problematic and stagnant profession in America
    Until our universities and colleges can graduate better educated/knowledgeable and well rounded people that are concerned about their city and/or the countries future – Architecture Graduates/Professionals who use the term Architect to describe themselves will always be seen as a negative socially and professionally and therefore always adding to the negative state of affairs instead of the positive or productive, other professionals computer geeks/architects have more concerns and interests both within their field and otherwise.
    Times have changed and the schools of architecture and design are not graduating Architects only Designers or Design Techs (Architects).
    Architectural organization and schools may have to redefine themselves as design organizations and drop the term architect.
    The calling today in the society and world we live in today is for Architects in business, technology, society/urban community and cultural developments in many ways Traditional (perceptions) Architects are part of the old world and today they are only Designers or technical artistic professionals.
    But, for now I will say that graduate student professionals who have both completed/graduated from a so-called architectural college (5 year program) and completed the NCARB /IDP standards/ requirements for the completion certificate- whom may take the ARE or perhaps going into another related field/education-professions such as planning related areas – are Architects and/or emerging-professional architects within that industry by education and trade.
    The Traditional term of Architect as a technical designer /Registered Architect is problematic is regard to the State (city/state of affairs)- because Architects in many have failed to live up to the needs or true calling of the profession and society and therefore they are not Architects at all.

    Joseph Edgecombe,Scholar

  20. Dan Gorski said, on December 22, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I’ve been an architectural interior designer since 1974. Not an architect, but enough has rubbed off so I feel I know a thing or two. A few years ago i found myself explaining what an Eaves Fascia was to a recent graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. When I asked him what exactly did they teach him on the “hill” to told me a visiting starchitect once gave an assignment to design a building using a shoe as the point of reference. That just about explained it all to me.

  21. Adam Mitchell said, on January 30, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Thank you so much for this article it hit the nail on the head! I think the next step is establishing what we can do about it. We could start by evaluating the success of the NAAB accrediting system. Perhaps the AIA should have a greater degree of input in what the future architects are learning. Right now it is set up with zero accountability to the schools and NAAB hand selects the AIA representatives when evaluating schools. Many of those people have very biased approaches as to what architecture is and what students should learn. This is probably the MOST important issue to face for the future of the profession. If architects are being trained to be primarily a conceptual design artist then we are giving up a lot of responsibilities and craft to other professionals who will eventually absorb the entire profession. I am getting my masters degree because I was forced to by NAAB. I am now being trained to be a sculptural artist. Any thesis ideas that I had that would have provided a real source of research like studying peoples behavior in public courtyards via observation, or writing a construction analysis on the proper design of roofs for temperate climates–were immediately shot down and then my advisors got very hostile and asked the inevitable question: So you don’t think architecture is art? I always respond “of course it is” but it is also a craft, a profession, a technology, a trade, and a set of skills. They didn’t like that and have been after my throat since then.

  22. Beatriz Maturana said, on April 17, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Thanks for such an important article.
    I don’t believe architectural education is archaic, I think it has been robbed of all substance–a postmodern approach to architectural education gone terribly wrong. The notion that architecture as the “mother of all arts” has been misused, to justify focusing on aesthetics at the expense of other forms of scientific/ material knowledge. When Vitruvius pronounced those words, he was himself an erudite–his notion of art was about pursuing knowledge–true knowledge (astronomy, mathematics, physics, biology… and not want I want or I feel) and not relativist personal preferences.
    I don’t believe in heresy. In a university all questions should be asked. Although I agree that questions as those posed by this article are almost heresy in the current university environment–and this is lamentable.

    I don’t believe in heresy. In a university all questions should be asked. Although I agree that questions as those posed by this article are almost heresy in the current university environment–and this is lamentable.

    I have no problem with architecture moving from a craft to a profession. However, as noted in this article, a profession has privileges and responsibilities and among the responsibilities is service to society. We cannot have it both ways–the “freedom” of the artist (meaning no need to respond to societal needs), while calling architecture a profession.

    The author claims that, “Sadly, these non-aesthetic criteria have been back-burnered, lip-serviced, or outright ignored in architectural education. Abstract artistic sensibilities have become the pre-eminent point of departure in architectural education and in those buildings venerated in academia and the professional press”.

    An almost purely subjective approach to architectural education cannot rightly demand a serious role/place in a university based on humanistic/scientific reason. Neither can demonstrate its relevance to society and its needs, in other words its own significance beyond that of a luxurious art item. It should not come as a surprise that involvement of architects in the production of housing in Australia is as low as 5-8%. Lack of a firm figure in this regard is not my fault—it may be telling that it just does not exist.

    Do we (architects) have the right to be taken seriously by the general public? I don’t think so and I suggest that we need to reassess architectural education and its premises.


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