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The Diary of an Anonymous Student #1

The first in an ongoing series about the day-to-day travails of a student battling through the architectural education system. This week: Studio Marketplace

Returning from a temporary stint in practice to a School of Architecture brings frustrations. I was under the impression architecture school should allow you to explore your creativity and flourish as an architect, all the while preparing you for a life in practice.

If this particular school were a professional practice with paying clients as opposed to paying students, I would bet a considerable amount of my student loan it would fail. With a limited number of lectures, meetings or even crits starting on time, it makes me wonder if many of the tutors have ever worked in a professional environment where a day/week/year has some structure.

If this particular school were a professional practice it would fail

Apart from the discouraging disorganisation of this particular higher education institution, there is an annual event which is held at the beginning of each school year which takes my frustration to a whole new level – Market Day. It’s a day which kicks you right back to your worst memory of not being chosen for a team in Primary School.

Market Day begins - an hour behind schedule - with unit leaders individually presenting their project brief for the coming year and revealing the all-important site location.

You’re under the impression you’ve the power to chose the most suitable unit for you. You don’t.

Lulled into a false sense of security, you are under the impression that you have the power to chose the most suitable unit for you. You don’t.

You wait nervously to be called for an interview with the unit leaders – portfolios in hand – in their chosen order. As the units fill up, the studios begin to resemble a cattle market, a raging sea of emotions and panic as people get rejected from units and find themselves begging for a place in their second/third/fourth choice units. It is essentially a day where the most sought-after unit leaders get a chance to take a pick of the thoroughbreds.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Other schools have the system of randomly placing students in one of their top three units based on their completed form – with fifth years getting the priority. Sounds fair.

Having already been screened prior to the offer of entry to the university, is it acceptable for tutors to select the students they want to mentor from the top of their ivory towers and remove all opportunity from a student who doesn’t appeal to them?

It makes me question why certain tutors decide to teach. Is it a pursuit of power? Were they unsuccessful in practice? Or do they live for the thrill of encouraging dream-like projects which have no hope of being realised?

But then, perhaps I’ve misunderstood the entire event. What if it’s their perfectly well-thought-out plan to test us and push our boundaries, with a hope of making us more likely to succeed in large practices full of egotistical creatures? Whatever may be behind this ridiculous method of selection, it isn’t fair and it’s not how it would be conducted in the ‘real world’.

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