By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Students shouldn't go along with the stylistic supremacy

When a new student begins their course of study in architecture I hope they already have a passion for the subject.This would normally be displayed through travel, drawings and reading. The school, which should be open to anyone regardless of academic qualifications, should expect nothing less than passion.

Inevitably the entry into the college will be thrilling, as the student is exposed to all sorts of new points of view and information.They become excited as they see beyond the often turgid grooming by their class teachers at sixth-form level. As they proceed down their chosen route, the young architect often comes across a particular theory or style that they find interesting. At this point they have no eyes for anything else, having convinced themselves that it is their only way to approach design.

I think this process is very important as they are forced to promote and defend their discovery. It toughens them up.The good news is that it is not forever, and they will travel through this stage until something else replaces it. The bad news is that many students do not emerge and become more and more entrenched in an adopted school of thought - that ultimately they are consumed by someone else's work. The even worse news is that, if this group goes on to some position of influence, their adopted point of view becomes the accepted way to make architecture.

Such architects are agents of ossification and impair the nation's readiness to accept change.

Worst of all, we are denied their own talent and individuality. The student who goes through a number of different theories will slowly - by mixing, confusion, misunderstanding or plain ignorance - emerge with something difficult to define and, more than likely, interesting.

I cannot understand why we are producing 'good honest Modernism'today, which is less interesting than that produced by the people who first pioneered it. I can accept that many of the valuable aspects of Modernism were lost in the confusion of Prince Charles and PostModernism in the '80s, and much needed to be done to refocus our efforts.However, the '80s fling should not be ignored completely. It reminded us that a multi-pronged and richer texture can be achieved, and that today, in particular, we are allowed to get beyond the singular point of view of a stylistic supremacy.

The evolution of culture is obviously complicated, and it does not necessarily follow what is being explored and discussed by the major protagonists, due to politics, fashion and the constipation of aesthetic advisors; but, as with schools of architecture, we must change the structure of the school.

Think of Gunther Domenig in Graz or Hans Hollein in Vienna.Both ran extremely successful schools that produced some very capable architects.As both gathered strength a style emerged, which eventually became expected and dull.The quality of surprise is often underestimated. In art, the strength of Pollock or Rauschenberg came from the peculiarity of their product initially.Compare the power of Anthony Caro in the '60s with his ultimate effect on the 'B'course sculpture department at St Martin's School of Art, where welding and heavy metal became the order of the day and therefore uninteresting.

Schools of thought and action tend to become an excuse for not thinking and only producing. In architecture, one small solution to avoiding this problem is to let no one qualify until they have absorbed at least three different models of architectural practice and moved onto a territory that is unfamiliar and possibly even unique.Many would never qualify, which would save the world.

But who would judge?

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters