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Abolish departments in the search for healthy serendipity

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I was sitting in my department of architecture thinking about the future needs of design and art education and thinking that the future should really not permit departments.

Imagine my feelings of both elation and disappointment, as these simultaneous emotions forced me to leave the building immediately and take a long, deep, breath of fresh air.

I was considering a mission statement for a college of art and design which requires the college to:

1) challenge each student to find a unique voice within a vibrant and creative environment;

2) prepare graduates to excel as cultural contributors to their country and beyond;

and 3) champion the vital role of art and design in society.

The statement is a bold challenge and deserves a response. The most vibrant and stimulating parties are those with a good cross-section of people - they stimulate each other. Yet the majority of schools of architecture are completely separate from other disciplines. The theory of communities states that as soon as a community recognizes itself it starts to create defenses to protect itself which discourage change and stultify the community. (NOT VERY VIBRANT. ) We recognize that schools of architecture exist which develop strange notions about HOW TO MAKE ARCHITECTURE ('WHAT IS ARCHITECTURE?') and, more worryingly, WHAT IS NOT ARCHITECTURE. These schools sometimes develop loftier ambitions or 'manifestos'. The book Programmes and Manifestos in Twentieth Century Architecture, edited by Ulrich Conrad, collected together a series of dictates for virtually every year of the twentieth century, all of which claimed to be the ultimate answer to the problems of the world. These are writings by the well known. Imagine the collection of the often contradictory truths by all the less well known, as well as the totally unknown. All exist as a result of groups of people reinforcing each others' view. The abolition of departments would at least be one small step to encouraging an ambience of challenge at the beginning of new 'movements'. ARCHITECTURAL DOGMA IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MAJORITY OF BAD BUILDING IN THEWORLD.

One of the healthy aspects of architecture today is the rumour that we live in the age of 'POST THEORY' (if only). Behind this gossip is at least the recognition that there is no absolute, right way to make anything. In the absence of a guiding theory, architects must rely on only two things to determine the work: themselves and the 'moment'.

If you are working alongside a fashion designer and a product designer, with a painter across the way, the chances of the 'moment' informing the work will increase. I have found that my own studio is increasingly inhabited by people from a variety of disciplines. We have in our ranks graphic designers, artists, photographers, quantity surveyors and poets. This reflects my idea of non-departmental schools. Serendipity is a powerful quality to cherish, and devour, in the twenty-first century. I wonder what would happen if members of HM Treasury were mixed in with those in government who try and promote culture. And transportation.

Even if the trains did not run on time at least one would not be paying through the nose to be late - and the experience could be both enriching and beautiful.

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