In its first year, the Annie Spink Award for excellence in education has been won by Elia Zenghelis, a man who describes the art of teaching design as the ability to uncover ideas which students hold but do not know how to articulate. It is a view which assumes that the teacher's obligation to listen to what the student has to say is as, if not more, important than the obligation to impart knowledge and ideas.
As Zenghelis observes: 'in the end it is almost impossible to gauge when it is the teacher and when the taught who benefits'.
The idea that one learns as much as one gives is well established in education, but perhaps less so in architectural practice as a whole. It is much easier to assume that the architectural profession needs to 'educate'clients, the public, government, planners - anyone whose views might come into conflict with its own, rather than to accept the fact that others have important things to teach. After years of feeling that architects need to protect their turf, it is particularly tempting to choose not to listen to related professions. But non-architects are keen to learn from architects - as is shown by the fact that some of them read the AJ - and to share their views. On this week's letters page we have a building surveyor making a point about an AJ technical article, an engineer discussing the Millennium Bridge and a member of the RICS pleading for better communication between the professions. Not to mention letters from a client body, and a member of the British Sundial Society.
If the learning process is two ways, it stands to reason that we have the most to learn from those whose ideas and experience are very different from our own. Zenghelis suggests that the cross-fertilisation of ideas in the studio is more exciting than in the office because offices tend to be groups of like-minded individuals whereas 'the studio is predicated on potluck'. He goes on to say: 'Often those you learn most from are the ones you have the least overlapping interest with: the ones that keep you on your toes'. Quite.