Does architectural education need an overhaul?
Architectural education must adapt to the needs of a rapidly changing profession, writes Christine Murray
Does the Part 1/2/3 structure of architectural education need an overhaul?
The shape and duration of qualification is an oft recurring debate, from how it affects women in architecture to whether it accurately prepares students for practice. But action has become more urgent, with tuition fees of £9,000 per year, the difficult job market, and the RIBA salary bands stalled at £17-21,000 for a Part 1, £23-27,000 for Part 2s, and £30-34,000 for Part 3 graduates.
There is also the question of whether architecture students are being adequately prepared for life in modern practice. I asked associate director Susie Le Good for her opinion on students applying for work at AHMM and was surprised to hear that some of them can’t draw well enough on computer to be seriously considered for a job. ‘They come in with beautifully hand-drawn portfolios,’ said Le Good. ‘But they can’t draw in 3D or design on computer.’ Surely this is negligence on the part of the schools, for misleading students into thinking that practices value penmanship over creative minds with computer skills.
The other concern - heard most recently on a visit to the University of Sheffield last week - is that schools don’t encourage enough collaboration among students, and churn out too many iconoclastic sole practitioners. The call is for more team-based working, but also to encourage collaboration with other disciplines.
Paul Finch’s recent column (AJ 25.10.12) on the late Ted Happold’s combined architecture and engineering programme at the University of Bath - whose alumni include Patrick Bellew of Atelier Ten and Peter Clegg of Feilden Clegg Bradley - discussed the merits of this combined course, concluding that perhaps Happold’s approach failed because the programme was neither one thing, nor another.
What is clear is that architectural education must adapt, and quickly, to the needs of a vastly changing and increasingly disparate profession, divided between small businesses and large collaborative teams, between specialist practices and generalists, and increasingly, between design architects and delivery architects.
The AJ has agreed to act as a forum for this debate for the Built Environment Education (BEE) taskforce, which is collecting views on the future of architectural education with a view to proposing radical change. BEE’s pan-industry thinktank is spearheaded by Ryder Architecture with representatives from Arup, The What Now? Collaborative, the Bartlett, Strathclyde University, KPMG, Laing O’Rourke and the University of Bath. I urge students, academics and especially practicing architects to get involved by visiting TheAJ.co.uk/students and joining the AJ’s LinkedIn group to add their voice to the debate.
Does architectural education need to change, and if so, how? Please share your view.