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We need a foundation course in architecture

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Katherine Shonfield raises the question of admission to schools of architecture by academic success, and 'esoteric interview' (aj 21.1.99). The subject of how we select students for admission to schools of architecture seems to have been widely ignored in discussion on architectural education and is not apparently considered by Stansfield Smith.

The Oxford Conference in 1958 set an academic standard of two A levels and maths and english at O level; this was an attempt to raise the credibility of the profession, which had often been the refuge of those of low academic ability who were good at drawing. Architecture was regarded as more respectable than art, and a more reliable way of making a living.

The trouble is that while examinations are a reasonably good guide to ability in maths or French for students aiming to study those subjects, there is very little in the school curriculum that is indicative of a student's likely aptitude for architecture, which requires the ability to imagine and manipulate complex assemblies of spaces in the head and on paper (or on the computer). This is a very different activity from drawing or painting in two dimensions or making small three-dimensional objects, which is as much as schools can offer. I have met architectural students who are at a total loss to handle something as large as a building.

The problem is compounded by the widespread lack of understanding of what architecture is and what architects do - it is still too widely seen as something to do with drawing but not requiring the imagination to be a real artist.

I believe that we should consider having a one-year foundation course, just as art students do, in architectural studies. This would help students identify their real talents which might turn out to be for some other subject such as industrial or graphic design.

Alan Kennedy

London SW12

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