Peter Buchan: 'Architecture education is over-regulated and sterile'
We must have a holistic education system that recognises that our industry is complex and demands multiple skills, writes Peter Buchan of Ryder
‘Architectural education in the UK is over-regulated, sterile and increasingly detached from the needs and aspirations of a wider society. Indeed, it has not changed significantly since the current system of part 1, 2 and 3 professional validation was set up to deal with the rapidly expanding profession in the post-war period. It is well past its sell-by-date and has become a victim of the regulatory conservatism which is debilitating a broad spectrum of opportunities and, in turn, stifling the profession.
It does not respond to the many, pragmatic ways young graduates are enabling and supporting positive change in our built environment
‘Most importantly, it does not respond to the many, pragmatic ways young graduates are enabling and supporting positive change in our built environment.
‘Architecture today is the product of many disciplines: urban design, planning, cost management, engineering, environmental design, technology, materials science, product development, construction, facilities management … the list goes on. Our education system therefore needs to promote new generations of these wide-ranging professionals, diversely skilled but with a common entrepreneurial approach to collaboration and creativity in problem solving.
Architecture is no longer simply about designing buildings, places and spaces
‘Architecture is no longer simply about designing buildings, places and spaces. In many countries this share of the economy has fallen sharply over recent decades. Construction as a percentage of GDP is at its lowest for 55 years in the UK, a 19 year low in the US and a 25 year low in both France and Denmark. Both the profession of architecture and its uneasy bedfellow, architectural education, now require a systemic shift, recognising the sea change required in problem solving across the built environment brought about by global realignments in economies, energy production and urbanisation.
‘Over the summer Ryder decided to make a concerted effort to move on from the usual ill-informed moaning about our disjointed industry to see if we could do something about it.
‘With more than a little trepidation we approached a group of industry movers and shakers to see if they were prepared to dedicate some time to discussing the wider subject with us. They included leaders of three of our most prominent schools of architecture, a voice from new graduates, the global building chair of ARUP, the European head of graduate recruitment of Laing O’Rourke and – as we are great believers in learning from professions outside our industry – the head of graduate recruitment of KPMG. It is an impressive line-up.
Our first meeting found a shared frustration and sense of huge disconnect between our education processes and our industry aspirations. The biggest surprise to all of us was that after a couple of hours discussion there was an enormous level of agreement. All feared that pejorative phrase “practice fodder” - trotted out whenever the worlds of practice and education get together. But it was as if the floodgates had suddenly opened, and we realised that for too long we have been talking in silos, architects with architects, academics with academics – a guarantee of stalemate.
‘We want greater engagement in the education process to foster future generations of effective, creative and entrepreneurial leaders’
‘Our academic colleagues crave the freedom to offer programmes which respond to industry challenges and needs. As an industry we want greater engagement in the education process to foster future generations of effective, creative and entrepreneurial leaders with a range of skilled professionals who can work collaboratively and creatively whatever their specialism.
‘We must have a holistic education system with recognition that our industry is complex and demanding of multiple skills if we are to deliver excellence. If we are to develop further as a nation in the context of increasing levels of international competitiveness, creativity and innovation must be placed at the core of our education system.
‘Over the coming weeks we will develop themes, gather opinions and, with the support of AJ, develop consensus and frameworks for a radical overhaul of education for the built environment. There is a real opportunity for the RIBA and collaborative institutions to participate in developing new agendas which will reshape our entire industry. We believe a total reappraisal is long overdue and if it is not grasped by both academia and industry in harmony then it will be lost in increasingly exclusive legislation, irrelevance and lack of political impact.
We call on you to engage with us in our campaign to affect lasting change.
Peter Buchan is senior partner at Ryder Architecture