Educating Architects

Thought 09

November 2012

In November 2012 the Edge gave evidence to the SCHOSA Review on UK Architectural Education (UKAE)

The Edge first listed some of the problems associated with current architectural practice and education and then proposed a number of ways forward:

1. Architectural education is self-focused and lacks adequate concern for the wider world. The result is a self-satisfied culture with an aversion to risk and a lack of entrepreneurialism

2. The role of research in schools of architecture is underdeveloped and tends to focus on architectural history rather than the effectiveness and performance of architecture. Architects need to be trained to participate in evidence-based design and decision making

3. Architectural education is unhealthily fixated on object buildings and those who create them, rather than the role of architecture as part of urban and social development

4. Architecture by Metaphor has become rife – see Susan Sontag’s concerns in ‘Illness as Metaphor’ (1978). AbM distracts from the practice of a truly outcome-based architecture

5. Architectural education is still focused on the development of the individual architect rather than their part in a collaborative team.

Although these points do not mention sustainability / energy / carbon / etc. or professional and ethical responsibilities directly, these issues are implicit in all of them.

An architectural education should make the transition that medical training made a long time ago from a system based on a complex metaphorical system of diagnosis and treatment to one based on technical learning, hands on experience, evidence-based decision-making, attention to and contribution to the latest research findings, combined with humanity, aftercare, a good bedside manner and a wide range of additional specialist skills.

Architects are prone to ‘magical thinking’; a habit inculcated during their education; and need to learn a far more rigorous approach to their discipline.

The Edge’s key recommendations:

1. An evidence-based approach to be taught in schools of architecture

2. Multidisciplinary teaching and assessment to be used

3. Specialist skills should be developed alongside the core general skills

4. There should be multiple routes into the profession

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