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Students' excellence in design undermined by poor writing skills

How desperate is the state of architectural education? For all the bureaucratic in-fighting and scaremongering about standards, it appears that the students themselves are delivering the goods.Winning entries in the Oasys Awards (pages 50-51) show that students have moved on from an initial fixation with exploiting IT's ability to produce endless quantities of obscure graphs and diagrams, and are increasingly using computers to communicate ideas with images which are instantly accessible. The Liverpool footbridge featured on our cover and in the Working Detail started life as an experimental project by a final-year student, and is now a functional, elegant structure which makes a real contribution to the city.

Thankfully, the current crop of college work suggests students are oblivious to the notion that there is a distinction between the 'intellectual'and the 'vocational'. The President's Medals (pages 25-39) show the impressive range of work coming out of RIBA courses as far afield as Chile and New Zealand. Many of the projects are rooted in a theoretical agenda, but all result in buildable proposals that the most conservative would recognise as conventional 'architecture'. To see the projects in more depth visit the RIBA before 8 March or go to the RIBA's website at www. architecture. com The over-riding impression is of a generation of students that is both exploratory and employable - with one clear weakness: there is a striking mismatch between the clarity of architectural thinking and the impenetrability of the accompanying text.Students who have clearly grasped the worth of concepts such as simplicity, economy and efficiency in their drawn work feel obliged to produce copy which is convoluted and obtuse. It is often easier to ignore the 'explanatory'text altogether and to concentrate on the drawn work.

This makes it particularly welcome that the RIBA has decided to increase the profile of the dissertation prize by awarding the first dissertation medal. If we are failing our students, it is not by teaching design in the 'wrong'way, but by failing to provide them with the written and verbal skills to explain just how good their work really is.

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