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Pavilion of Protest at the RIBA

[THIS WEEK] Is it brave or foolish to host Pavilion of Protest at the RIBA? James Pallister

‘Better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in,’ Lyndon B Johnson famously said of J Edgar Hoover, in a pleasingly vivid summation of the politicking of inclusion – killing through kindness. With its current show at Portland Place, the RIBA has taken wily LBJ’s strategy to heart. It has invited the Pavilion of Protest into its central space, the Florence Hall. The show is made up of illustrations by architecture students, depicting the struggle and strife of their education. While the brief doesn’t rule out a celebratory view of architecture teaching, its intention to publish a ‘compendium of architectural defiance’ makes its stance clear.

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The exhibition follows up on research (AJ 25.05.11) on the huge increase in the cost of qualifying as an architect between 2000 (£36,000) and 2011 (£88,726). The figures took into account the minutiae of an architecture student’s life: study trips, laptops, pens, lectures, coffee. As curator of the exhibition, Pol Gallacher (a member of ZAP Architecture) says students’ dissatisfaction comes from the ‘disjunct between the costs of gaining an architectural degree versus the remuneration once it’s won’.

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He’s keen that it does not come across as ‘a moan, or a whinge; we don’t want to sound bitter, rather to have a positive discussion’. But there’s plenty for his generation to be upset about. Theirs is a crippling double-whammy: entering the job market in the worst recession for over 20 years, with tuition fees – non-existent 14 years ago – tripled.

Michael Lewis, former Wall Street trader and author of Liar’s Poker, recently told GQ magazine: ‘It’s remarkable it’s taken so long for the political energy to develop. It’s so obviously outrageous what is happening.’ He was talking about the unregulated financial sector and the Occupy Wall Street movement, but this might also apply to the situation facing architecture students. The question is, where do we go from here?

Visit Pavilion of Protest, the RIBA, Portland Place, London W1, 25 October – 17 November 2011, free

Readers' comments (2)

  • perhaps a bit more finger pointing would be ok. I see a huge amount of wastage at university. Instead of tackling this issue caused in part by their enormous size, they have simply put the fees up and carried on regardless.

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  • Sheffield Uni Architecture School just increased its Masters program massively with intake of about 120 oversees students on top of the already full M- ARCH program. This massive increase in numbers has decimated the studio atmosphere at the school as both programs are taught together. Surely if decision making goes this way, of increasing numbers to bring in more money the problems are only going to get worse, e.g. you will be paying more for a worse education. Lets stop blaming the government and look at the real causes of the problem - university management and business plans.

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