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Recent grads lacking architectural basics

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Hooray for Rab Bennetts (AJ 2.3.00) and Stuart Barlow (9.3.00)! For too long, the development of knowledge and skills within our profession has been hijacked by well-meaning theorists with little or no practical, let alone artistic, experience. The arguments have, of course, been well rehearsed and the 'old fuddy duddies' out in the field, so to speak, have often raised their voices previously (even in my own time at the AA, 19671977). But it all seems more pertinent now in the emerging virtual environments we are able to create with technologies that run the risk of eroding such basic skills as the co-ordination of hand (ie drawing), eye (perception) and brain (thinking). Originality is not and never has been commensurate with creativity.

Stuart Barlow refers to the nuts and bolts of putting buildings together - perhaps as realistic is the learning process of taking existing buildings apart and their refurbishment. His reference to the desire of many 'young architects' to take charge of design (is this media driven? How about the AJ doing a feature on 40 architects OVER FORTY? ) arises in my mind from the failure of our educationalists to understand, let alone being able to impart, the intricate subtleties of the briefing process. Banwell 1964, Latham 1994, and, most recently, Egan, all point to the failure of not only our profession but the industry as a whole in this fundamental sequence in the design and procurement path.

In addition to a lack of basic construction skills, there is a lamentable deficiency in the management of projects (I avoid the 'PM'term, as it often raises hackles). It seems clear to me that the emergent graduate is barely aware of the process of change, which is the common factor in the development of the built environment (ie as architects we change space, light, time, etc), but worse, as a result, they have no skills or expertise in the management/control of change and thus cannot comprehend the consequences of their actions nor consider themselves responsible.

How can we help? Well, we could try to clone Sam Webb, to name but one whose contribution has gone against the general trends. But seriously, if we as 'practitioners' want better 'results' we shall just have to roll our sleeves up and try to get involved. The profession can only be what we want and make it to be.

However, judg ing from the apathy of the profession evidenced in the turn out of the recent ARB elections I suggest that we don't hold our breath.

Simon Danischewsky, Fulbourn, Cambridge

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