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Fretton: ‘Raise the bar higher at the schools’

Tony Fretton has claimed entry requirements for architecture school should be ‘much higher’ and has advocated a tougher four-year course ‘with a high failure rate’.

Speaking to the AJ, the founder of Tony Fretton Architects and recently a visiting professor at ETH Zurich, said: ‘There should be a shortage of architects in the UK: fewer bad architects, fewer good architects.’

While there was a small drop in the number of applications to architecture schools, according to UCAS, 35,042 would-be architects applied for full-time courses this year. In 2003 just 18,516 students applied.

Fretton also thinks that ‘there are too many architecture schools’ and ‘it would be better if there was more concentration’.

He added: ‘The problem is that you need strong practitioners as teachers and quite often it’s difficult if you have a large number of smaller schools for local practitioners to be available. The model that’s interesting is Switzerland (three major schools) and Holland (two major schools). They become large but attractive to high-level teachers. Facilities are concentrated.

‘The schools there reach into policy, they have the capacity to do research that helps local authority interaction with practice and public building.’

He added: ‘I would go for a number of highly facilitated schools that are very hard to get into and I think that course could be four years. Schools need an overall didactic system; it should be much more structured: demanding, with a high failure rate.’

Readers' comments (2)

  • I couldnt agree more, the schools should be more demanding on several key components, such as design, construction, theory, the role of the architect and architecture as a business model. Having qualified for my Part 2 last year and on gaining a placement in a local practice I have found that the rigorous teaching that my peers and I went through during the MArch program was in many ways completing out of touch with what the practice was pursuing. Of course skills and method are transferrable and having gone through many long tedious and painful yet joyful nights chasing dealines and adapting schemes it becomes pretty easy to evole and learn what the practice preaches. That however dosnt justify the fact that many young architects are leaving education with extremely high debts, extremely poor prospects, no idea what so ever on the real role of the architect and more importantly how to run a business.
    But where does the blame lie? In the schools maybe, with the teaching staff, or maybe simply with less capable students.
    No I dont believe it does.
    The problem lies with the so called governing bodies or registration boards who demand that in order to become an architect a student should be commited to all that it stands for, which in fact, in todays society is really very little indeed, a mere smoke screen hiding a huge precentage of practitioners struggling to find work never mind enjoy the creativity they were once granted in school.
    These boards offer nothing to architects in terms of employment, in terms of protection, in terms of a structured profession.
    This is why cracks are beginning to show in its very foundations, so maybe its time we considered ditching these unneccesary loads.

    Gavin Sloan
    Belfast

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  • Given the state of new build architecture it is unclear that a more rigorous university curriculum would result in a more pleasing built environment. The modernist style and its permutations is all that is acceptable within the architecture profession. This is a style that is not intellectually demanding and forms a comfortable refuge for the C+ design partners. If architecture schools turn out mediocrities there is room in the glass box world for them too.

    Sam Hepford
    Washington, DC

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