Think Pieces

THEME: The Future of Architectural Education

Dominic Wilkinson

How Will Architects be Educated in 20 Years Time? | October 2012

Welcome to our inaugural series of think pieces, in which five experts share their views on one of the key issues to emerge from our 2011 The Future for Architects report report; How will architects be educated in 20 years time? We hope that these broad range of speculations about the future of education will provide opportunities for reflection, and you are invited to join the debate using the form on the right hand side. You can comment on both the theme in general and individual author’s response, if you want to react to an existing comment, please make reference using the ‘title’ field. You are required to input an email address to submit a comment, but you won’t be contacted in any way and it will not display. If you would like to join our mailing list, please sign up using the home page

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Despite the risks inherent in predicting the future, I suggest that in twenty years time there will still be architects and they will, in all probability, still be called architects, because like many inclusive yet imprecise things it is a title for a variety of roles; a shorthand that people find useful.

Assuming Architects still exist then they will need to be educated. The generic nature of undergraduate degrees provides the stability (albeit with the distinct possibility of being squeezed into 2 calendar years) that should ensure their persistence. Curriculums at BA level will change in tandem with technology, design and educational fashion, evolving into a non-professional Architectural Studies format.

In contrast the nature of post graduate and professional education, part 2 and part 3, will become increasingly pluralistic. Students will study in research led universities, in teaching practices and in a rump of ‘traditional’, professionally focussed schools of architecture. They will cover everything from disaster technologies to damp proof courses, and the time they take to do so will be determined by them.

Dramatic changes in climate and political/economic systems will demand highly skilled specialists capable of reacting to fast changing situations; multi-disciplinary inter-national research centres will supply the masters and doctorates for these specialist graduates.

Financial strictures and the globalised agglomeration of practices will create new centres for teaching through practice. More than just RIBA teaching practices, these will be the power houses for large projects, new private schools of architecture embedded in work and with enormous resources and clear aims to attract graduates.

The traditional school of architecture will persevere offering a route for the general practitioner, a place to make designs for buildings and question the nature of the subject. The variety of themes in this reduced number of schools will still cover forms and ideas and will still seem in a state of constant self-referential crisis, but they will persist.

The notion of professional education through a single prescribed time-defined route will be gone. Regional clusters will offer final professional accreditation along with specialist business focussed Masters courses and will draw students from all the above sources – an example being the RIBA and Bradford University School of Management’s recently launched Architectural and Construction MBA

The ultimate result of these changes will be Architects taught in Architecture Schools, or Teaching Practices, or Research Centres, and we will have our ‘surgeons’, ‘physicians’ and ‘general practitoners’.

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Dominic Wilkinson is a Senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University. He is President of the Liverpool Architectural Society and Chair of the North West region RIBA education committee.

Jeremy Till

How Will Architects be Educated in 20 Years Time? | October 2012

Welcome to our inaugural series of think pieces, in which five experts share their views on one of the key issues to emerge from our 2011
The Future for Architects report; How will architects be educated in 20 years time? We hope that these broad range of speculations about the future of education will provide opportunities for reflection, and you are invited to join the debate using the form on the right hand side. You can comment on both the theme in general and individual author’s response, if you want to react to an existing comment, please make reference using the ‘title’ field. You are required to input an email address to submit a comment, but you won’t be contacted in any way and it will not display. If you would like to join our mailing list, please sign up using the home page

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  • Education

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The straight answer to the question “How will architects be educated in twenty years time?” is: “Probably much the same as now, but with squeezed institutional resources delivering a lesser education to an ever smaller, and ever more elite, group of students.”

I despair of the stasis in architectural education, perpetuated on the one hand by the validating bodies insisting on rigid routes to accreditation, and on the other by the academy clinging to outmoded pedagogic models that still reward the heroic achievements of aesthetic and technical spectacle. Rather than wallowing in misery of the causes and effects of this stasis, I want to change the question to: “How might architects be educated in twenty years time?”

In England the answer to this question assumes a real urgency with the introduction of the annual £9,000 fee, and with it the effective privatisation of the University system and the spectre of architecture students emerging with over £90,000 of debt if present structures are maintained.

Although I am loath to frame the future of architectural education solely in terms of the financial fallout from an ideologically driven educational policy, the introduction of the £9,000 fee is maybe just the jolt that is required to wake the profession and its attendant education from its slumber. The first jolt will be to the word ‘architect’ in the title of the question. As narrowly defined through professional expectations – someone who designs buildings – the ‘architect’ will play an increasingly limited role in the production of the built environment, not least because of the inevitable (and necessary) shift under conditions of scarcity from the production of more stuff to the realignment of stuff that it is already there, and from an economy of financial capital to one of social capital. The demand will move from the creation of new, fresh, buildings to the revivification of old, tired, buildings, and the background will change from one of drawing on an abundance of material resource to the redistribution of scarce resource flows. The reconfigured context for the architect (let’s now call them spatial agents) demands an equally reconsidered model for architectural education. This does not mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater – I suspect there will always be a hardcore of staff and students poring over the canon of received architectural wisdom – but rather the expanding the scope of design beyond the static object and into the dynamics of space and time.

My optimism lies in the fact architectural education already addresses this expanded spatio-temporal field, though mainly by default than intent. Architectural students are extraordinarily adept at understanding social, spatial, relationships and how they might be adjusted, but the limited definition of the term ‘architect’ (against which their courses are validated) means that the development and manifestation of this spatial intelligence is side-lined in the rush to polish the object beautiful. But in 20 years time it should be exactly this augmented spatial territory that will form the basis for architectural education, in which courses will be judged not on the basis of the portfolios that they produce, but on the values and consequences of the spaces that they speculate on. In turn this means that the focus of the validation processes will have to change, because it is much more difficult to legislate on the contingencies of value than it is the propriety of an object.

The expanded role for spatial designers also means that the target for architectural education will be shifted. We all know that less than a third of people entering architectural schools eventually become architects, but we barely admit to it, let alone adjust our courses to serve the remaining two-thirds. The professional brand is so important that we allow ourselves to suffer the absurdity of validators commenting on our first year courses, as if the muse of future architects is hard-wired in those early days. Instead, in 20 years time, the only point of professional scrutiny will be the point of exit, and it will be up to the schools and individuals to decide how one reaches (or not, as the case may be) that gateway. The system of education will then allow multiple routes for both those set on reaching the gateway and for those whose intellectual energy takes them into other spatial fields and does so in a way that does not label them with the stigma of architectural failure. The archaic Part 1+2+3 structure of UK education needs to be abandoned. It has been around since the 19th Century, instigated then to serve and legitimate a small, elitist profession. If it hangs around any longer we will be back again to those Victorian values.

Finally, the length and location of architectural courses will be highly variable in 20 years time. There still appears to be an unwritten assumption that five years secluded away in architectural school are somehow necessary as the minimum period required to receive the holy spirit of architecture. Instead the likelihood is that education will no longer be defined by length of time but quality of experience. Much more of architectural education will be spent in work, credited through critical reflection on students’ practice, which in turn will be refreshed by this intellectual scrutiny.

In 20 years time we will have, and need, structures that allow the development of flexible intelligence rather than the static knowledge on which the Victorian model was predicated. Students will drop in and out of institutional education, accelerating parts of their course and slowing down others depending on their circumstances, judged through the accumulation of intellectual capital rather than through the accumulation of years.

I have said with presumptuous authority that the architectural education ‘will’ be like this. In reality I desperately want it to be like this. My concern with the current system is not founded on a curmudgeonly anti-institutional stance, but on a fear that unless we change the structures and values of architectural education within the next few years, there will not be much left for us to pick over in 20 years time.

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Jeremy Till is Dean of Architecture and the Built Environment and Professor of Architecture at the University of Westminster. His extensive written work includes Flexible Housing (with Tatjana Schneider, Architectural Press 2007), Architecture Depends (MIT Press 2009) and Spatial Agency: other ways of doing architecture (with Nishat Awan and Tatjana Schneider, Routledge 2011). All three of these won the RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding Research, an unprecedented sequence of success in this prestigious prize. As an architect, he worked with Sarah Wigglesworth Architects on their pioneering building, 9 Stock Orchard Street (The Straw House and Quilted Office), which has been extensively discussed and won the RIBA Sustainability Prize. In 2006 he curated the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

In 2012 he was appointed to be Head of Central St Martins College of Arts and Design, University of the Arts, a position he will take up in August 2012.

Sebastian Macmillan

How Will Architects be... | October 2012

Welcome to our inaugural series of think pieces, in which five experts share their views on one of the key issues to emerge from our 2011
The Future for Architects report; How will architects be educated in 20 years time? We hope that these broad range of speculations about the future of education will provide opportunities for reflection, and you are invited to join the debate using the form on the right hand side. You can comment on both the theme in general and individual author’s response, if you want to react to an existing comment, please make reference using the ‘title’ field. You are required to input an email address to submit a comment, but you won’t be contacted in any way and it will not display. If you would like to join our mailing list, please sign up using the home page

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Poppy looked around the group of seven other students. Today they would be presenting their ideas for the conversion of a former cotton mill in Burnley. With London inundated by flooding and south-east England extensively concreted over, Government had declared a moratorium on building south of Birmingham and the previously ignored cities of the north were, at long last, being revived. She welcomed this. As a student of the built environment in the displaced University College London, now renamed the University of Burnley, she could see how important it was to be creatively adapting and re-using, rather than demolishing, old buildings and infrastructure. Not only did this respect the achievements of past generations, it was also a vital low carbon option.

Her fellow group members were mostly female, though there were two chaps – one training as an interior designer, the other to become a specialist in managing buildings for the elderly. The others – the girls – were focusing on civil engineering, structural engineering, building services, building procurement and building economics. She herself was mostly interested in becoming an architect, although these disciplinary definitions were becoming largely obsolete as, once qualified, all would become members of the Royal Institute of the Built Environment, RIBE. They had joined the university’s School of the Built Environment together and had shared a common first year. Their second year had been more specialised; some were attracted to engineering topics, others to climate adaptation, building economics or procurement.

She found herself more drawn to three dimensional spatial layouts in what used to be taught separately as ‘architecture’. Perhaps it was in her genes as her aunt was an architect, and so was her grandfather. She knew from him it was only two generations ago when architects hand drew – yes hand drew – plans and sections with pen and ink on tracing paper and posted out printed copies! At least her aunt had grown up with computers and used them to generate and visualise her design work as part of a comprehensive building information model, although the data entry procedures sounded from her aunt’s description to be incredibly old fashioned and tedious using a mouse pointer, keyboard and touch screen!
Much as she enjoyed sketching buildings for pleasure, thank goodness that today WikiRIBE contained complete downloadable details of every UK building larger than 100 square metres, and more international buildings were being added daily. As well as full plans, specifications and cost information, there was feedback from building users operational information including not only energy and water use but measures such as commercial productivity in offices, footfall in retail centres, recovery rates in healthcare campuses, and educational attainment results in schools and colleges.

Having these details in WikiRIBE was an amazing resource although Poppy was fully aware of copyright restrictions and the university rules on plagiarism. Her course also emphasised site assessment, contextual analysis and placemaking; you couldn’t just copy and paste. However, there were model schools and model homes available that had been so refined over time that they far outperformed one-off designs and could be freely used.

Fully prefabricated complete buildings could now be bought off the shelf, either in a basic version or customised with different finishes, internal services and so on. They all looked quite different but, remarkably, underneath they were all from the same mould. The cost of school buildings had almost halved thanks to economies of scale, erection by robots, and healthy competition among suppliers. And because suppliers delivered so many repeat units, it was rare to find defects; there was certainly no need for the mandatory three-month period of ‘sea trials’ required for one-off prototype buildings. Even so, quite a few clients understandably wanted a building tailored to their specific requirements and many supply companies could provide more or less bespoke versions. Refurbishment and conversion of existing buildings, on the other hand, was more challenging and inevitably required a one-off inventive and original solution, which was why university projects were often now based on them.

So it was that Poppy’s group found themselves working on the conversion of an old mill into a modern hospice for the elderly. She intended later to choose one of the RIBE Part Two courses that majored on hospice design and specifically the design of facilities for those suffering from dementia for which, sadly, there was still a growing demand. Not only was it a way to serve society, but this particular specialism – tough as it was to assimilate all the design research literature – would help ensure her future employment.

With the virtual reality tools at her disposal and the resources of WikiRIBE, together with the integrated suite of lighting, structural and sustainability analysis tools the others in the group used, it had taken them only a fortnight to prepare their detailed design proposals. How this contrasted with the days of her grandfather when hand drawing and baton-passing around different professions took months and resulted in just one design option being explored. Even in her aunt’s day developing multiple options to give clients a choice of schemes, each with a different profile for cost and performance, was rare. Today though, the virtual reality prototype design tools were so quick to use that they could offer dozens of alternatives if they wished.

She thought about the process she’d been through with the group. With the specialist expertise around the table that the eight of them had, design decisions were based on a wide range of issues like capital cost, practicality and safety, maintenance and running costs. Her grandfather had told her that in his day clients deferred to the expert judgment of the architect. But she knew those days were past; the most knowledgeable clients knew their way around WikiRIBE as well as, or better than, many designers and were always asking for the evidence from various disciplines that underpinned proposals.

In part the move towards evidence-based design had been driven by the sustainability agenda where many early examples of low carbon buildings had failed to deliver the expected improvements in performance, and it had become apparent that sustainable buildings needed integrated teams. Without it, ambitions such as energy efficiency could easily become a casualty not only of poor communication but even inter-professional rivalry. Once the benefits of integration began to be clearly revealed in terms of better performance and improved value, clients had begun to insist on it. Much of the skill of design had become one of understanding what value meant to clients, and then as an integrated team developing a shared vision that would deliver it. Interdisciplinary design was widely acknowledged as the way, in practice, to design better buildings, and now formed the basis of built environment teaching in academia.

As had become the norm at Burnley University, quite a large group of stakeholders was assembled for the crit. Although she found it hard to believe, grandfather had assured her that in his day there would be only a couple of architect tutors present, who were not at all explicit about the criteria they were using to assess the proposals, and whose interest often seemed to lie primarily in the artistic quality of your rendering, since that was something they could readily judge. How different it was today! At their team presentation they were expecting not just an architect, a structural engineer and a mechanical specialist, but also a building control officer, climate adaptation specialist, and two end users – a medic and a senior manager from the nearby hospice. And the discussion was likely to revolve around a huge range of issues from the social and cultural, to the economic and the environmental. No one individual could know the answers to all the stakeholders’ likely questions. And there would be no hiding place if the team hadn’t done its background research in every aspect of the project.

Still, Poppy knew they’d designed their scheme in accordance with the best practice literature on hospice design and drawing on international projects audited as exemplary. Their three alternative schemes were fully analysed structurally and optimised environmentally; they were costed and the options for procurement were carefully set out. She herself had led on producing the most enthralling totally immersive virtual reality 3D presentation to convey their proposals to stakeholders. She wondered what her grandfather would have made of being so immersed in the representation that you were convinced you could talk to the nurses and reach out to touch the walls.

The team stood eagerly ready to start the presentation, and had agreed Poppy should be the first on. She knew how important it was today for each of them to be able to speak confidently to an audience and, although not a natural presenter, she had attended transferrable skills classes in public speaking offered by the university. She felt sure she would inspire her audience as she launched into the presentation: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our group’s proposals …’

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Sebastian Macmillan trained as an architect at Liverpool University before completing a PhD at the Royal College of Art. After a decade in practice, he became a founding partner of a specialist built environment research consultancy in Cambridge and has written many publications about design, value, and sustainability. He is currently Course Director for the masters programme Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment at the University of Cambridge.

Ruth Reed

How Will Architects be Educated in 20 Years Time? | October 2012

Welcome to our inaugural series of think pieces, in which five experts share their views on one of the key issues to emerge from our 2011
The Future for Architects report; How will architects be educated in 20 years time? We hope that these broad range of speculations about the future of education will provide opportunities for reflection, and you are invited to join the debate using the form on the right hand side. You can comment on both the theme in general and individual author’s response, if you want to react to an existing comment, please make reference using the ‘title’ field. You are required to input an email address to submit a comment, but you won’t be contacted in any way and it will not display. If you would like to join our mailing list, please sign up using the home page

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The future of architectural education will be one of increasing collaboration across the built environment.

Breadth of knowledge and strategic understanding of the agenda for development will be as essential as the passion of the designers and the technical knowledge of those that construct the buildings. All of this should be supported by shared research that improves the prediction and the performance of the building.

There is nothing new in the premise that architects, engineers and surveyors, educated together for at least part of their early years in higher education, will acquire some of the knowledge and understanding of the cognitive processes of the other disciplines. The need for teamwork is understood in order to prepare the student for the reality of their future working lives. However, attempts to harmonise the early higher education experience have frequently reduced the teaching to a common denominator rather than led to enriched understanding and, as a consequence, have prompted a retreat back into the silos of the individual professions in order to restore the level of educational outcomes and to redefine the uniqueness of the offer of each profession. It has driven us apart rather than brought common understanding.

What has rarely been attempted is harmonisation of high-level knowledge across the built environment professions with the result that each discipline’s knowledge and values are held in common across the team. Future success depends on the recognising that teambuilding needs to share reliable research data and have effective top-level management, not just early-learning.

It is not easy to arrive at the point that each member of the team – across the design, detailing and delivery of a building and its subsequent management – will subscribe to common values such as its environment performance, flexibility for long-term use, ability to inspire users and to be a careful component of a wider urban design. There are ingrained behaviours and different perceptions of what a successful outcome for the project might be. Others in the team might say that cost effectiveness, ease of maintenance and profitability were the key measures of success. At the moment we are all trained to support our values against those of others not to share them, an education that defines and holds values across the team will make the process more effective without diminishing the outcomes.

Such an education must be supported by research that gives certainty to those values. However there is a paucity of research that supports even widely held beliefs, for example, that we are all nurtured and sustained by beauty in our environment; that well-designed buildings and places enhance our happiness and well-being. There are several reasons for this; not least is the complexity of the drivers that shape our cities making cause and effect impossible to extract from complex and conflicting data. However it is necessary to understand and support these desirable attributes in order to hold them in common with the rest of the team. The next 20 years should see research into these areas drawing on the skills of social scientists and health professionals to untangle the web and uncover irrefutable truths.

The new ability to identify and support tangible attributes for new buildings is the built environment’s greatest opportunity. To date the only prototypes we have been able to test are the completed buildings and the results of this research have not necessarily supported anyone’s agenda for the buildings. Our new opportunity is Building Information Modelling. BIM will bring us to multi-disciplinary working and drive forward effectiveness. High-level knowledge that will be obtained by testing the virtual model can support shared objectives across the team. This needs careful and strategic management to avoid distorting values in the outcomes, there is a danger that without shared objectives early outcomes from the BIM process will reflect whichever team member has had control. The need for our new multi-disciplinary education is already pressing.

In 20 years time architectural education could be seen as one component of a built environment education that is, to coin a term from the designers, T-shaped; a specialism within a faculty sustained by high-level research across the built environment and that is undertaken collaboratively with a shared objective of excellence. There may well be a common professional qualification for all built environment professionals, with identified specialisms that can be developed or supplemented throughout a career. This may even lead to a merging of professional institutes. In such an educational environment I do not fear for the values of architecture whatever name they go by, the attributes of architects are broad and deep, they also now need to be collaborative.

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Professor Ruth Reed is the Immediate Past President of the RIBA and Course Director PGDip Architectural Practice (Part III) at Birmingham School of Architecture, BIAD, Birmingham City University.

Steve McAdam

How Will Architects be Educated in 20 Years Time? | October 2012

Welcome to our inaugural series of think pieces, in which five experts share their views on one of the key issues to emerge from our 2011
The Future for Architects report; How will architects be educated in 20 years time? We hope that these broad range of speculations about the future of education will provide opportunities for reflection, and you are invited to join the debate using the form on the right hand side. You can comment on both the theme in general and individual author’s response, if you want to react to an existing comment, please make reference using the ‘title’ field. You are required to input an email address to submit a comment, but you won’t be contacted in any way and it will not display. If you would like to join our mailing list, please sign up using the home page

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The future education of architects depends on three shifting and compelling areas for consideration: The notion of ‘profession’, the nature of higher education and the dynamics of architectural practice.

Professions

Futurologist Alvin Toffler, in his 1990 publication ‘Power Shift’, suggested a demise in the panoply of ‘classic’ professions. In moving toward a service economy he believed there would be an inevitable rebalancing of exchanges between what had once been the ‘educated’ and the ‘proles’ and stated the need for a new, consumer-focused contract – “Society needs all kinds of skills that are not just cognitive, they’re emotional, they’re affectional. You can’t run the society on data and computers alone.” (1)

The rise of service industries, the increasing spread of education and corresponding demise in the status of professionals convinced Toffler that the gap between producers (professionals) and consumers would increasingly be closed, leading to an emergence of “Prosumers” who would fulfill many of their own needs through ‘open source systems, assembly kits, freelance work’ and various other mechanisms. The current rhetoric around ‘localism’ and ‘open source planning’ is remarkable, given the fact that Toffler was discussing this 21 years ago.

In this fast shifting context we might want to ask how professional institutes are likely to fare. Are they destined to be the Guilds of tomorrow – representing archaic trades that were once the mainstay of European economies and yet, for all the good they quietly do, now feel irrelevant to you and me? Or will they be lightening rods for all forms of expert thinking, crucial to our understanding of pressing future challenges?

According to a 2006 summit on the ‘Future of Civil Engineering in 2025’ prepared
by the US ASCE Steering Committee, civil engineers will “serve as master builders, environmental stewards, innovators and integrators, managers of risk and uncertainty, and leaders in shaping public policy”. This sets out a powerful if slightly puffed up message; in fact, it might be our own. But then, what is ‘our’ message? How will our profession reach out to the wider world and its needs rather than potential clients alone, and what will it advise when market forces, environmental shifts and seismic changes in attitude leave us uncertain and unsure? Can we react quickly enough? Can our role responsively and rapidly evolve?

On the other hand – what is a profession that continually changes? What does it profess? Perhaps the central question is – what is our ultimate creed?

Education

Universities are moving inexorably toward industry / research clusters where ‘education’ is seen as a direct economic feeder rather than an academic and ‘removed’ environment. This is echoed in Vince Cable’s recent foreword to the September 2011 University Alliance publication ‘Growing the Future’ – “I want all our universities to look more closely at how they work with business: to promote better teaching, employer sponsorship and innovation”. In that publication a strong picture of our universities role as innovators and partners to industrial capital is presented.

Sir Patrick Stewart, Chancellor, University of Huddersfield, has observed this behavior, citing Jaguar / Land Rover’s location in Warwick, Boeing in Sheffield, Lloyd’s Register in Southampton and the BBC in Salford as all evincing strong examples of “businesses taking a hard, practical, profit or mission driven view of university knowledge and backing it to be a source of major competitive advantage”. Lancaster University’s recent purchase of the Work Foundation provides another example of collaborative development.

Turning to architectural education we may ask – who are our industry partners? Though some schools will have relationships with manufacturers, most do not. If we, as a profession, eschew direct associations with the ‘construction industry’ and instead want to be counted among the ranks of our growing ‘creative industries’ as the 2011 Building Futures publication ‘The Future for Architects?’ suggests – then the profession may already be more diffuse than thought and the parameters for industry partners may be considerably widened. Will universities change too? Will new, private sector ventures compete for a share of the education market? Will knowledge be a networked commodity rather than something provided on campus?

Whatever the future of private sector educational ventures it is clear that there are tough times ahead for traditional UK universities. In response to Government austerity measures affecting university funding, Russell Group director general Wendy Piatt warned in a letter to the Guardian: “It has taken more than 800 years to create one of the world’s greatest education systems and it looks like it will take just six months to bring it to its knees.”

For architecture courses which need workshops, dark rooms and 1 to 1 tutorial systems seldom required by other fields of study, required resource may lead to presumptions against accommodating the course, or of upping the tuition fees even further, especially where HEFC, industry or private sector research funds are scarce. Until a viable alternative emerges the pain will continue to be passed on to our students who are already reeling from the escalation in tuition fees. In the year that saw annual fees of up to £9,000 kick in, it is no surprise that applications for our profession declined significantly with a 20% slump for some schools of architecture.

Architecture takes a double hit through being a five-year courses alongside ‘medicine’ and ‘law’, while offering shaky economic prospects by comparison. This suggests that radical measures may have to be found if courses are to survive, especially in cities where living costs are already high. One such avenue might be a split between academic training and ‘learning on the job’, the latter a form of part time employment that could offer practical experience and some income.

Architecture

It seems that we need to consider, now more than ever, whether architecture is primarily a technocratic skill or, at least partly, a discipline of social care that goes well beyond bricks and mortar. As the built output of our profession impacts more on people, for more of their lives than the output of any other profession, shouldn’t \’people\’ be at the centre of our considerations? Yet, many architecture courses don\’t seem to spend too much time on this, or on social science, human geography or anthropology. In fact, since the post war \’divorce\’ of town planning from architecture, there seems to have been a diminished level of consideration for anything outside the physical dimension of architecture. The question seems to be, is architecture here to serve itself or the people who will use, live in, work at, pass through and in any other way experience the building and the impacts it has on everything from lighting levels to the local economy?

If it’s ‘people’ then architecture magazines of the future would not only be saturated with images of buildings but of accounts of the way in which they are implemented and occupied and of their contribution to enhanced land values, safety levels, communal activity, decreased pollution, local jobs and better skills. This would help the profession to be seen in a different light and the fruits of its efforts more widely and deeply appreciated. It is interesting that many of the students who took part in the Building Futures research for “The Future for Architects?“ publication said that they had chosen to go into the built environment professions with a social agenda and that the architecture profession brought a ‘social science’ aspect to the building process that engineers often lacked.

Yet, is there room within the prescribed RIBA accredited course for these considerations? Would we have to swap nuts and bolts for psychometric charts and social science modules?

At London Metropolitan University (LMU), where I taught for many years, only two of the current array of eleven courses clustered around architecture and design are RIBA accredited courses. The others pursue varied and emerging agendas such as ‘digital design’, the ‘architecture (of) rapid change and scarce resources’, ‘energy and sustainability’, integrated ‘renewable energies’ and the multi-disciplinary course I helped set up about ten years ago; the MA ‘cities, design and urban cultures’ course.

For me, this is quite telling. It suggests that real discussions, those most relevant to contemporary conditions, are somehow exiled from the professional course on architecture, though of-course, architecture students are encouraged to dip into these rich fields.

Prof. Robert Mull, Dean of LMU’s faculty of Architecture and Spatial Design and the person directly responsible for the rich education on offer there says, of the new wave of students who are grappling directly with localist agendas and slim resources “If education and the profession can match the clarity and compassion of students and reform themselves then in time there is the promise of a more relevant profession willing to act collectively, to engage with compromised realities and humble building types.”

So – let BIM become the province of engineers, and architecture the new home of the ‘emotional’ and the ‘affectional’. As Toffler said ‘You can’t run the society on data and computers alone.’

In conclusion

If the RIBA can find a way to represent a broad creative body in a stimulating but friendly manner while breaking free of a singular definition of architectural practice; if our universities can find ways to make education pay for itself through research, live projects and paid, practical skilling and if our profession and its architects can evolve to match their social duties better, then the future’s bright! ……. If

(1) Alvin Toffler interviewed by Norman Swann, Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio National, “Life Matters,” 5 March 1998.

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Steve McAdam is a founder and director of Fluid and has led major urban regeneration projects in both the public and private sectors in London and across the UK. In 2003 he was appointed to the London Olympic masterplanning team by the London Development Agency to direct all aspects of stakeholder consultation, public sector engagement and responsive masterplanning. Prior to this he project-led the public consultation programme for Argent’s Kings Cross Central project, for which Fluid received a CABE award for innovation. Steve is a consultant to the Council of Europe, and a visiting lecturer at London Metropolitan University.

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THEME: The Future of Architectural Education

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a diverse profession

Claire Jamieson COMMENTING ON The Future of Architectural Education 09.04.12

Increasingly, discussions on the future of architects and architectural educations appears to split along similar lines - exemplified by these 5 thought provoking pieces. There is on the one hand an attitude that embraces the erosion of the architect's traditional role and the inherent interdisciplinarity and 'flexible intelligence' of those trained in architecture, and on the other a line of thought that tries to position architects alongside engineers - a profession scrambling to catch up with the rest of the design team and reestablish their role as coordinators or leaders of the construction process. As a member of a younger generation only recently out of architectural education, not represented by these five contributors, I wonder if there is space for both approaches in the future of architectural education. What all the think-pieces seem to share is the idea that architectural education should become more plural, allowing multiple routes through, and this seems key, for even now there are graduates of architecture who revel in the concept of the spatial agent, the broader creative practitioner and the emotional skills that Steve discusses, but also those whose passion lies in the detail of construction, the process of building and the interaction of the construction team. This is probably quite obvious, and something that is reflected in the difference between schools of architecture. For me, the future of architectural education should see schools of architecture differentiating themselves much more strongly from each other - it should mean something to be education at a certain school, and it should impact upon the path that graduates take after graduation. The networks, contacts and other disciplines that the student has rubbed up against during their education should help define what sort of practitioner they become. As always with these conversations, the last word nearly always has to mention the RIBA. With such a huge network of RIBA validated courses worldwide, it feels now that it has become such an inflexible and unwieldy body that bold and innovative changes to the validation of architectural education seem unlikely....but I have my fingers crossed.

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THEME: The Future of Architectural Education

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING...

Mr

Michael Badu COMMENTING ON The Future of Architectural Education 29.03.12

As a Glaswegian friend of mine would say, this is 'pure snash' from Till. The role of the architect in the construction industry started diminishing long before this latest recession.  In fact successive recessions have lead to the expanding of the academic aspect of the profession and the proliferation of ever more varied lines of 'theoretical inquiry' to sustain it.  In fact it has been this 'unnatural proliferation' that has led to the profession's shifting of focus, which has in turn led to to its increasing marginalization in the construction industry.  But now the party is over, schools of architecture are not going to get as much government  money for taking on students in the future as they did before so they are having to adapt or die.  In my opinion, it is in this context that Till's overtures to 'Spatial Agency' need to be understood-ie yet another unnatural proliferation in response to a recession- his linking of this 'new direction' to the current financial crisis being, in my view, purely opportunistic. In spite of Till's deprecation of the art and teaching of building design and his characterisation of this aspect of the profession as increasingly irrelevant, the fact remains that most people find contemporary architecture decidedly 'un-beautiful'. This suggests that we need more effective teaching in this area, not less. The architectural profession has always existed as the chief agent of aesthetic as well as functional efficacy in the built environment.  In our mature industrialised society functional concerns are increasingly very well served by informed, engaged and professional clients, leaving the ability to confer that 'special mark' of organisation and clarity that we know as 'beauty' on products of the built environment, as the only legitimate monopoly of the architect. This ability 'depends' on the architect having a unique ability to hold the theoretical, the practical, the scientific and the humanitarian together and in balance.  The problem with architectural education currently is that these inseparables have become increasingly separated, perhaps partly to make it easier for prospective students to get on to architecture courses (and hitherto line the pockets of the institutions that run them).  Those that can truly hold the aforementioned aspects in balance in such a way as to produce truly successful buildings are rare individuals indeed, as contemporary architectural production illustrates. Outside the increasingly self-referential world of the profession, it not on our published papers, our affiliations or our oratorical ability that we architects -both teachers and practitioners- are judged, but on the quality of our buildings that we produce in partnership with other members of the construction industry, and that is how it should be.  If I had my way, in 20 years time, architectural education would take much more account of this fact, indeed it will have to do this if the profession is to survive, rather than seek to encroach on the territory of the Linda Barkers, Claire Sweeneys and Nick Knowless of this world, or worse still, try to charge people for the kind of transient DIY work that they would do with more heart, sincerity and success themselves. Michael Badu

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THEME: The Future of Architectural Education

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Grammar and creativity

Bob Keats COMMENTING ON The Future of Architectural Education 20.10.13

Pedantic point- in 20 years time should have an apostrophe. I should read "in 20 year's time". More importantly how should architects be trained to increase their creativity to respond to the needs for greater innovation. Innovation does not appear to feature in the QAA benchmark statement for skills development. Why is it not a requirement for universities to teach it?

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THEME: The Future of Architectural Education

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How will architects be educated in 20 years time ?

Helen Storey COMMENTING ON Jeremy Till 14.10.12

you have gone one step further than i have been thinking, for educating as a whole - the opt in, opt out, of education over time, mirrors beautifully the desire( now requirement) for universities to have, as a minimum, two way osmotic walls, where inside world and outside world apply pressure and reality to keep both in perfect balance - The only conditions under which 'intelligent hope' might be delivered.

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