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Learning by working is the only way to educate our students

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What is an appropriate way to think about an architectural practice and what, if any, is a practice's responsibility towards architectural education and speculation? Kierkegaard made the following observation: 'Life is to be lived forwards and understood backwards.'

What is certain is that in 100 years' time, we will look back on current procedures as archaic and in some cases cruel. What, for instance, would induce us to lock up young people in schools and impose lessons on them at a time when they can learn from their own curiosity via so many different forms of media? The teacher must learn with the pupils. It is relatively clear to me, although not absolutely, that the architecture studio must become a place of more diverse activity, one that is capable of escaping any particular ideology or methodology.

If I look at the activities of my students in Vienna, I see interests that are very diverse.

Katharina Tiesch is installing a sound transposition of Paris into Vienna as an interactive public space that will allow us all to create music. She has not only conceived the work but has also arranged sponsorship for the event and solved many technical problems.

It does not occur either to her, or to me, to ask whether this is architecture or not. The fact remains that she is influencing a specific environment and broadening people's perceptions and experience. She is well able to do this because of her architectural background, but in the end, who are we to decide what is and what is not architecture any more than it is possible to answer the question, 'What is art?' Another group is installing 'soft'paving into the city. I cite these two examples because I can see that they represent a broadening of architectural practice that the profession should consider embracing, and within this context I am in turn considering the future of my own practice.

Schoenberg considered that a composer should not compose two, eight or 16 bars today and again tomorrow and so on until the work was finished, but rather that they should conceive of the work as a totality in a single act of inspiration. The composer should be intoxicated by the work and write as much as possible and not care for details. They could be added later. How can the office organise itself to allow for such passion?

I see a room with lines of activity. Who knows how the computer will evolve? But I can only imagine that there will be a much more direct link between creative play in both two, three and four dimensions, which will avoid the sea of nasty greyish boxes that succeed in separating people when they are sitting down. Screens will be thin and horizontal to allow tables to be used for other activities. This body of people will include film-makers, painters, photographers etc.

There will be no separation between any of these people and the architects as they work together on a variety of projects that are not always building related. The architect in this office will be absorbed in a variety of work from media to fashion. In this way, architecture remains informed about a wider view of life which is necessary to give a better understanding of the people we serve.

Another line of activity would be working bays for students of all the above subjects. I would shut all the architecture schools, with two or three exceptions, and bring back a system of learning by working. Between these two lines would be a public bar for all and sundry to meet.

This recognises that the best form of relaxation is to watch others at work and the best form of education is to talk to them.

WA, from the Isle of Wight ferry

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