Where has the debate about British architectural education gone? Abroad, it seems.
I commented here before Christmas about the upside of British architectural education – its diversity and openness. But writing this week about my visit to Yale’s architecture department in the US has made me realise that UK schools are lagging behind.
Let’s look at just a selection of UK-based people teaching abroad. Switzerland loves the Brits, for example – Caruso St John are at the ETH in Zurich, Sergison Bates in Mendrisio, and Jamie Fobert in Lausanne. In the US there’s FAT at Yale (see pages 24-29), Cecil Balmond and Homa Farjadi at the University of Pennsylvania. Engineer Hanif Kara is at Harvard teaching under Mohsen Mostafavi, and Farshid Moussavi of Foreign Office Architects is also a professor there. Her partner Alejandro Zaera-Polo was until recently head of the Berlage in Amsterdam.Tony Fretton has been at Delft for years. Even our columnist Patrick Lynch, who decries this situation this week on page 20, is teaching in Dublin and not a UK school.
I could go on, but you get the point. This is a brain drain of epic proportions, and we should be worried.
How can it be fixed? Heads of UK schools need to create institutions that people would love to teach at. This can be done in many ways. Clearly the quality of the debate needs to be high. But if you teach at Yale, for instance, you are quite likely to meet someone who wants to commission you – this is part of the attraction. It is no coincidence that Michael Hopkins’ visiting professorship at Yale coincided with his commission in 2005 for the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies there.
What British architectural education probably needs is a recession. Then all those jetsetters
might find themselves attracted to teaching jobs closer to home. Until then, UK schools need to find ways to prevent our students being subjected to an education from the best of the rest rather than the leading practitioners.