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KATHERINE SHONFIELD

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How do architecture schools stop themselves from being moribund repositories of dead ideas?

The tried-and-tested way to remain intellectually alive has been to encourage as much interchange as possible between colleges and practitioners. This is why so many architects say that the best teachers they had were the part-timers. Pity the traditional academic subjects. The only place they can get the equivalent shot in the arm is from the dubious source called 'research'.

This unorthodox, unique exchange between practice and teaching is currently getting less than no support in educational establishments nationwide, which persist in seeing architecture as a dodgy lodger rather than as a fully mortgaged resident. A growing proportion of schools' income comes from their research 'rating'. The problem is what research 'rates'. At the moment, astonishingly, there is no officially acknowledged research category called 'architecture'. Architecture's efforts are assessed under art history or in the general area of the built environment. In neither category is there any place for the kind of urgency which drives practising architects to seek out new solutions through their most effective medium of research projects, realised and unrealised.

Built architecture is not accepted as a 'legitimate research outcome', or indeed the most effective site for research itself. This means that virtually every aspect of Charles and Ray Eames' work, currently celebrated at the Design Museum, is ineligible as 'research', but that an indifferent, uninspired written record of it by A N Other is research. This works directly against the project-based core of successful architectural teaching and practice everywhere.

It is now time, before the next national research audit, for the riba, the arb and the rest of us to expose this idiocy as the dangerous nonsense it is. Otherwise we risk the ultimate irony: that research will kill invention.

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