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Welsh head: ‘Rarefied design risks painting architects into a corner’

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The new head of Cardiff University’s Welsh School of Architecture has warned the profession must cater to the ‘needs of ordinary people’ to remain relevant

Christopher Tweed’s criticism of architects who value conceptual design over technical ability follows the opening of a major RIBA-led review of architectural education.

In a statement, he said: ‘Many architects today risk painting themselves into a corner by privileging highly conceptual design, which is often rarefied and detached from the needs of ordinary people.’

But, he argued: ‘Architecture needs to maintain the connection between design and people for it to remain relevant.’

Under his leadership, Tweed said the school would cultivate ‘multi-skilled’ students ‘who employ an imagination infused with psychology, science, theory and art when developing and delivering a building.’

He continued: ‘I want our students to embrace the grittiness of design; to have the technical prowess of knowing how to build a design.’

Tweed’s remarks come just three months after RIBA council signed up to the most ambitious overhaul of architects’ education in 50 years.  The review could see parts Parts 1, 2 and 3 scrapped by 2016.

Commenting on his appointment, Tweed said: ‘We live in an increasingly complex world full of wicked problems. My vision is to create an environment where we can produce students and research that will contribute to alleviating these problems.’

He said the school would focus on three key themes - models, meanings and making – to focus debate around the evolving practice of architecture.

Tweed continued: ‘I have a passion for creating an environment that enables people to do their best work, whether it is students, teachers, researchers or support staff. That, coupled with a fervent belief that the best architecture comes from imagination informed by rigorous inquiry, and is directed towards improving the quality of life for all, are what I hope to bring to my new role.’

Tweed – who is from Northern Ireland – started his undergraduate architecture degree at Cardiff in 1974 and later completed a doctorate in buildings’ energy usage at the same university.

He later worked as head of architecture at Belfast’s Queen’s University and then as visiting professor in the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. In 2007 he returned to Cardiff as director of the Building Research Establishment.

Commenting on his return to high-profile university, he said: ‘I feel very privileged to be able to lead this wonderful school and to give something back to the institution that set the course for my entire working life.’





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