This is in response to David Sheer, AIA:
I wonder about the notion of bathing architecture students in theory for 4-6 years and expecting them to transform into productive, knowledgeable licensed architects; is this a realistic model in the 21st century? In regards to what Ryan Smith said, I think his recommended direction toward a more collaborative-oriented studio is a good one, in part. In my opinion, a successful architecture curriculum cannot be either/or- all Theory or BIM/IPD infused with history/theory/culture/art- but must be both as well as add a third component, that of better instruction on construction methods and materials.
In Mr. Sheer's post to Ryan Smith, he stated:
"He goes on to advocate a greater focus on collaboration, especially interdisciplinary work with students in engineering and construction management programs. I'd like to say a few words in defense of traditional architectural education, centered on the design studio with coursework that emphasizes architectural thought and history.
The aim of architecture school has never been to simulate practice or even, strange as it may seem, to specifically prepare students for the world of practice. " I think the latter statement is why we've seen almost an epic failure in the advancement of the architecture profession at large- the huge firms are doing well, it's the rest of us that struggle with the day to day mundane- and the misperception of us by the general public.
A curriculum based on theory alone results in turning out professional "artists of the built environment," aka "building designers." Which is great; we need that. However, not everyone will become a starchitect, sadly.
In support of your theory-based stance, I would assert that "art is not a collaborative endeavor." For example, I cannot imagine Leonardo di Vinci consulting anyone during the four years he took to paint the Mona Lisa- which is now kept behind thick glass in the Louvre museum with thousands of people flocking to see it everyday.
And I doubt Michelangelo consulted with anyone on how to depict the stories of Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; he did have help in constructing the scaffolding that he designed and he did receive help from his assistant who developed a better plaster that would not give way to mold.
On collaboration, and in support of both your and Ryan Smith's essays, the great architect Zaha Hadid has said, in an interview available on Youtube, in effect, that "architecture is a team endeavor."
So, based on the above, I believe architecture schools do need to continue to teach the beautiful theory and history of architecture, merging it with the laws of physics, and to provide laboratories of collaborative engagement with related emerging professionals as they learn what makes buildings stand up and how to communicate using BIM and IPD technologies. I think they should still freehand sketch, learn how to letter, use a t-square/parallel rule, build physical models using balsa wood, foam core and glue, and learn Revit, too.
As I noted in my private reply to you, Mr. Sheer, your education is quite complete as you have 6 years in physics prior to 6 years in architecture (2 of which were under the direction of Peter Eisenman)- a total of 12 years of study prior to practice. Isn't it easy for you to say that the architecture curriculum should remain as it is? :)
In visiting various conventions and summits recently, I have heard several architects agreeing with your stance, however. And this has been echoed by the Deans of some of the colleges saying that they are being told to teach the student how to "design poetry."
So, my question to the profession is this: how are interns going to learn what it takes to practice architecture?
Who has time for an MBA or 3-5 years of trial and error in the IDP program (if one is lucky enough to secure work right away); and why reinvent the wheel every time a graduate gets his diploma?
It seems to me that in this rapid paced society, we need equally rapid-paced sharing of technology and information, construction techniques, and how to construct good buildings as well as maintaining the art and beauty of architectural design.
Therefore, I advocate a program similar to the medical profession- where IDP is elevated to a more elegant internship equal to that of a physician in training. This would require firms to be more committed to the interns they hire, for architecture students to be more disciplined in studio (to then get selected by top firms for a more intense, well-paid internship program). It is important to keep in mind, however, that even medical interns are often unintentionally "sleep deprived" and not necessarily given the red-carpet treatment due to the nature of the work.
There is no substitute for hard work in this effort.
If it takes 12 years for a person to become a licensed Family Practitioner or other medical specialty, and as challenging as architecture is- and if true facts and records were revealed- I'd say that it takes almost the same time for one to become a licensed architect (10-12 years).
The question remains, how best to teach the brave new architecture?
Tara Imani AIA
Tara Imani Designs, LLC
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