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Student dance lessons helped inspire results

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Will Alsop's article (AJ 20.9.01) reminded me of a visit I took part in to a School of Architecture in South America.

The RIBA visiting board was advised that weaknesses in secondary education were manifest in underdeveloped skills in creative work. This had been revealed in difficulties encountered by students in the first year - you can imagine the problems:

stiff, nervous, constipated responses to design discussion and opportunity.

The school had engaged a dance teacher to work with these students and he set a first-term project involving teamwork where students had to create and perform dances about a variety of topics such as autumn/volcano/ sadness, etc. No musical instruments were allowed other than makeshift ones - pots, pans, spoons - for rhythm.

There were brilliant results, which impacted upon the later design work that we had the pleasure of inspecting in a school that has since been validated by the RIBA.

In a time of ever-hardening criticism of the schools of architecture in the UK - often by people who have no real evidence upon which to base their criticisms, and little awareness of the tremendous work that is done - we should remember that providing an education in a creative discipline like architecture is immensely complex, and often extraordinary techniques such as this experiment will produce wonderful results.

Few know this better than Alsop, who has combined a lifetime in practice with a long association with St. Martin's School of Art.

Will's comments on the state of work on his drive to the bar of the Goat Gap Inn may strike a chord with us all, but we only have to turn the page to see Richard Murphy's wonderful project for the Maggie Cancer Care Centre in Edinburgh to realise the power of architecture at even the smallest scale to provide delight and to lift the spirit.

That spirit is first kindled in our schools - something that despite our concerns to ensure appropriate standards of competence in building delivery, we should never forget.

Paul Hyett President, RIBA

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