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Editorial View: Architectural Education: A call to arms

The crucial issue of how to prepare the next generation for a life in architecture

This issue celebrates the Global Architecture Graduate Awards (GAGAs), the AR’s exciting new award for outstanding student work. Over 350 students from 38 countries entered the award in its inaugural year, and the winner and the nine shortlisted projects are shown in detail from page 33.Does the world really need another student award? We think so, because now more than ever we see a need for students to think radically and propositionally, engaging with wider issues, rather than simply toying with dystopian scenography.

Yet for all the evident creativity of the GAGAs, it is evident that architectural education is facing a crisis. In 1989 Peter Buchanan penned a diatribe for the AR entitled ‘What is Wrong with Architectural Education? Almost Everything’. Two decades on, not much has changed. A recent front page splash in the London Evening Standard featured 24-year old Debo Ajose-Adeogun, an architecture graduate with no prospect of work. The aim was to highlight the corrosive effects of the recession on young people, but the focus on someone who had chosen to make a life in architecture seemed emblematic of the schism between architectural institutions and the real world.

In England, the new university tuition fee structure that takes effect this academic year will propel architecture, one of the longest and most demanding courses, into a league of stratospheric expense, transforming it into an elitist pursuit for the especially well-heeled. But as the world changes with daunting rapidity, it’s clear that the way architecture is taught has not kept pace with the challenges of epochal or technological change. As Peter Buchanan points out in this month’s Big Rethink, the groves of academe are seen as increasingly detached from critical realities. Architectural schools are still preoccupied with cultivating
the lone genius rather than the enlightened collaborator. What is urgently required is a new and more fully human paradigm for architectural education that genuinely and intimately engages with culture and society.

Some sense of how those paradigms might play out and feed into the mainstream can be discerned from an analysis of alternative approaches to architectural education. From Beatriz Colomina’s conception of Radical Pedagogies that characterised the modern era to Will Hunter’s contemporary vision of a new kind of architecture schoo, which inculcates the buccaneering commercial and creative opportunism of emerging practices, it’s apparent that the ossified structures of architectural education are starting to creak and shift.

Yet without the roots of professional practice being nourished, energised and sustained by new ideas and new thinking, the profession is in danger of atrophy, fatally disconnecting from society. If this issue feels like a call to arms, then it is. How we prepare successive generations for a life in architecture is a subject too important to ignore.

Catherine Slessor, Editor


More Education Debate

Radical Pedgogies in Architectural Education
Beatriz Colomina surveys radical strategies of architectural pedagogy, asserting that the discipline can best be changed by revolutionizing the way it is taught

Problems in the British Architecture School regime
Kevin Rhowbotham says Today’s architecture students are locked into an ossified regime not unlike the Beaux Arts orthodoxy of the nineteenth century

Lessons from Prince Charles
Alan Powers remembers his time at the Prince’s Institute, which was not as stuffy as its patron’s reputation might suggest

Alternative Routes for Architecture
Will Hunter presents the urgent case for a new school of architecture

The Big Rethink: Rethinking Architectural Education
Peter Buchanan proclaims education for architects must be radically reconsidered, through a new, more fully human paradigm that engages with society and culture

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