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The Crit: An Architecture Student's Handbook

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Charles Doidge et al. Architectural Press (Butterworth-Heinemann), 2000. 136pp. £12.99

When you started college you were probably given sheaves of student welfare office pamphlets advising against drugs and excessive sex and recommending instead that you devote your time to student politics and sport, writes Gerry McLean .

It is also probable that, being architects, you did not read these pamphlets but outdid the advice anyway, abstaining from politics as well because it seemed just as dangerous as drugs or sex. Now a book in the same tone has been produced specifically for architecture students.

As temperance tracts go, the book is, at least, professional-looking, but that is its first and last merit. Appropriately, it provides the grounds for its own criticism on the back cover, which says it offers 'humourous, accessible advice', is 'readable ' and has 'telling cartoons'. It does not. It is written with impressively sustained earnestness, and illustrated in the cloying style that school prefects affect when 'joshing'with teacher. If such features appeal to you, you may find the book accessible. If not, you will probably find it extremely irritating.

Among the glib, provincial tutor-pleasing tips on how to be compliant and sell your wares to the encouraging but challenging audience that makes up the book's idealised crit panel, one particularly insidious intention stands out. The book aims to 'prepare the student for more creative relationships with future clients and users across the industry'- important because 'the workplace is competitive and those who pull the purse strings also judge your performance as an architect'.

On this basis, architecture should be taken out of academia entirely: architects do not have to be educated, they only have to be trained, and schools should be judged on their students' employability, not their creativity. For educators to spend such effort telling young architects how to present like photocopier salesmen is not only an abdication of responsibility as teachers, but an attack on the idea that architecture is something more than a white-collar trade.

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