Practices are claiming architecture schools don’t teach the practical skills. Isn’t that their job? asks Rory Olcayto
According to a new survey for the Royal Institute of British Architects, four out of five employers believe architecture schools are failing to provide students with the skills needed to practice. You’ve no doubt heard this many times before. As one comment on our web story says: ‘Are we not raking over old ground here? This matter was raised over 35 years ago.’ Maybe so. But clearly it’s still a relevant point. Yet having studied architecture at university myself, and worked in practice for a number of years, something nags.
Our story would make as much sense if the headline read: ‘Four out of five students believe employers are failing to provide them with the skills to practise’. After all, isn’t it the duty of the profession to train prospective architects? Isn’t that why there are two years of practice training in the seven-year slog required to attain the RIBA’s seal of approval?
Call me a cynic, but what four out of five architects seem to be saying in this NBS poll for the RIBA is: ‘Students – and the universities they graduate from – are stifling our profits.’ This goes to the heart of a profession unable to fulfill both its desires and obligations. If the work you take on doesn’t allow you to pay overtime, for example, or provide the extensive in-house training graduates need, then perhaps you shouldn’t be taking that work on. The findings also raise questions over what we think universities are for. My own view is that they shouldn’t be used to cookie cut oven-ready fodder for the workplace. If that was all university entailed, who would even bother to study architecture? Yes, this debate is set to continue – for at least another 35 years.
The Ada Louise Huxtable Prize
This year we have created a new award for the Women in Architecture programme: the Ada Louise Huxtable Prize. The criterion – women who have made a significant contribution to architecture but who are not architects – doesn’t trip off the tongue. But, given the number of great names who fall into this category, it’s a prize well worth celebrating. The inaugural winner too, sets a high standard for future candidates. If you don’t know Jane Priestman, she’s the woman who, as design manager of the British Airports Authority, commissioned Norman Foster to design Stansted Airport, and as director of architecture and design for the British Railways Board, did the same for Nicholas Grimshaw at Waterloo. Many congratulations Jane, from all at the AJ!