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Leicester seen through rose-tinted 'specs'

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I just couldn't let you get away with your rosy view of Leicester School of Architecture (AJ 1/7/99). I would like to share with you a few of my own anecdotes from my time as a diploma student from 1989 to 1991.

I arrived from the University of Dundee (and a year out in Cambridge), hoping to find at the Polytechnic a liberal intelligence, only to find the same old battle of wills between student and lecturer, the 'high tension crits' mentioned by Theo Matoff which serve only to boost egos, and tired old staff, flogging their personal obsessions. The series of accompanying pictures with your article accurately served to illustrate the 'house style', any deviation from which led to blank faces. I remember at my first crit being asked, as justification for a design, for a list of precedents. Students may have been better served if staff had retained an interest in architecture as well as in technology; I remember Charles Doidge on a field trip to Glasgow exclaiming, as our minibus drove towards the Burrell Gallery: 'I know it looks like a sports centre, but don't worry. It's marvellous inside!' and Gil Lewis asking for a justification of the importance of Alexander Thomson.

Narrowness is the enemy of creativity and Leicester exuded it. However I don't believe it is on its own - aggressive, macho, defensive teaching is the norm in most schools. This ethos is plainly the reason why there are so few women in the profession and why there is such a high drop-out rate among students.

So next time you decide to feature a school of architecture, leave out the hagiography and delve a little deeper. You might even find out why heads of school retire early.

Crawford Wright, Taunton,


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