Last edited 23 Aug 2021

The future of architectural education

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[edit] Introduction

Architectural education should not just aim to provide the necessary skills for practice, but should also prepare students for changes in the profession, the building industry and the way we live; for the uncertainties of climate change, population increase, and resource depletion.

[edit] Changing role

Historically, architects could design buildings without significant specialist input. As Robert Linton (1970) describes “Building technology was simple enough to be fully understood by the architect and there was little need for advice from other sources”.(i) Today, however the elements of buildings have grown more complex, meaning they cannot be fully understood by just one individual. Projects now involve many other specialists, tackling more and more complicated design problems, and as a consequence, a great deal of teamwork, collaborative practices and communication skills are necessary.

The 'studio' has proved to be one of the most useful teaching tools. It gives students a chance to improve skills in communication and presentation and to understand and develop their own architectural design processes. Donald Schön (1987) describes the studio as a “Practicum”(ii) whereas the studio acts as a ‘virtual world’ in which students learn by doing, in a manner such that it becomes free of the pressures, distractions and restrictions found in the real world. However learning in this way isolates the student from engaging with clients and handling the 'real-life' issues they will face in practice (iii)

‘All School Projects’ may help prepare students for working as part of a larger team, in order to enhance skills in communication and collaboration. In addition, Pilling (2000) suggests that “...schools should engender a more client-centred approach in the educational process and develop the necessary skills of listening, extracting the brief, negotiating agreements, making presentations and managing client relationships”

The Critique can be used in architectural education as a tool for development in presentation, communication, ‘selling skills’ and to improve relationships with 'clients'. However, according to an RIBA survey ‘Strategic Study of the Profession’, it was found that “...architects were generally not seen as good listeners, communicators or team players”.(iv) The survey continues by addressing problems with the communication skills of architects - “They’ve [architects] got a vision in their head which we can’t see, it might be a fantastic vision and they might be able to draw it down in time and have a contractor produce it, but it’s no good if we can’t see it.”(v) Schools may need to equip their students with better skills to be able to explain their ideas to a wider range of audiences.

[edit] Technology

As technological science constantly advances, so does the need for architects to equip themselves with the skills needed to exploit that technology, whether CAB, BIM, innovative products, new materials or construction techniques. However, the head of Sheffield School of Architecture, Prue Chiles, told the AJ in an interview that whilst architectural practices were complaining about the lack of CAD knowledge acquired by students, “We send out these broad, intelligent students with an ability to think for themselves…How long does it take an intelligent person to learn that (CAD)" (vi). She stresses that future architecture students need to be educated in a broad context in order to function effectively in a multidisciplinary and expanding field.

Providing students with a broad knowledge of the construction industry and basic skills in communication and presentation, will help develop architects in a way in which they can adapt to the many different situations they will encounter in their careers.

[edit] Global issues

Students need to be increasingly aware of wider issues that will affect the profession. Over half of the planet's population now lives in cities. This figure is predicted to rise to more than 70% by the second half of the century, a figure made even more startling by the fact that the human population will have increased by two billion in the same time-frame (xi). In the UK, according to the RIBAArchitecture is responsible for about 45% of the carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) emissions”.(ix)

Schools of architecture should prepare students for these challenges of increasing population, urbanisation, resource depletion and climate change.

[edit] Conclusion

The experience gained in studio work, critiques and teamwork exercises can equip students with a diverse range of skills that can be adapted to the ‘multidisciplinary’ field of architecture.

However, architecture schools need to give students the skills to adapt to change and to contribute to the resolution of the world's problems. To do this they will need to work in collaboration with other trades and professions, planners, developers, the public, and central and local governments. Students of architecture should be given the broad knowledge they will need to play an influential role within this ‘team’ and to help create a better built environment for future generations.

NB There is concern that architectural training has become relatively expensive now that universities can charge fees of up to £9,000 a year. Training to become an architect takes at least seven years, with four or five of these at university. Adding in necessary living expenses on top of university fees, it is thought that the total cost of training to become an architect could be as much as £100,000. This may result in architecture becoming the preserve of students whose parents were able to support them through their training. Whilst the number of applications for places at schools of architecture remains high, increasingly this is from students outside the EU, with applications from UK and EU students decreasing.

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[edit] External references


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