The opportunity for younger and older architects to engage with each other as equals in discussions about design is one of the best ways in which we can continue to learn and develop as designers. This rarely happens, and almost never inside schools of architecture in the UK, since most part-time tutors are just setting up in practice (it is assumed that after a certain point you become too busy, and rich, to teach). Full-time academics actively resist the intrusion of practising architects upon their theoretical turf.
After conversations with older colleagues, I’ve been thinking more about Hannah Arendt’s essay ‘The Crisis in Education’ (see Lynch’s column in AJ 17.01.08). She writes: ‘To educate, in the words of Polybius, was simply “to let you see that you are altogether worthy of your ancestors,” and in this business the educator could be a “fellow-contestant” and a “fellow workman”… Fellowship and authority were in this case indeed but the two sides of the same matter, and the teacher’s authority was firmly grounded in the encompassing authority of the past as such.’ Arendt concludes that ‘an education without learning is empty, and therefore degenerates into moral-emotional rhetoric.’
I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some much more experienced architects recently, yet it’s only my good fortune that an enlightened client chose to allow me into a discussion with them. None of these architects teach in this country, and unless you work for them you’ll never see them outside of a lecture hall. But, like other eminent colleagues, they all teach abroad. Without apologies for being blunt, the best architects in Britain are welcomed at Harvard, Yale, Penn, Delft, ETH, Mendrisio and Lausanne, but not here. I fear that we are all suffering from lack of contact with the best minds in
British architecture (see Kieran Long’s observations of a Yale crit on pages 24-29).