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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Architectural Education: Part 1

Portions of this were originally published as “Beyond the Renaissance”. The logic involved has been revised to improve its use as a preamble to architectural education. I’ve separated the preamble to keep these essays brief. This is a topic I’ve frequently thought about but have never attempted to address. My intent is to offer format suggestions for practice, management and leadership skills with immediate employment value beyond the narrow market currently available.  

Architecture is presently trapped in an engineering current flowing from its previous success in The Renaissance. It may be trying to empower its intuitive approach to creating order, form and appearance from confusion with a new search for knowledge that can defend its recommendations and claims of public benefit. It is presently limited by the project boundaries of its client and the format of its pattern language; but some appear to recognize the sprawl this adds, and the need for a better form of expression to identify, evaluate and recommend alternatives.

The goal is a symbiotic relationship between The Built Domain and The Natural Domain that does not compromise man’s quality of life. This gives new meaning to the concept of minimum standards; and will require advanced knowledge of shelter intensity options, ratios and human impact within environmental limits. Architecture can make a contribution when it collaborates to accumulate context knowledge for the architecture of city design. This is an objective in a campaign for survival. It is not rebirth built on ancient trains of thought. It represents new birth from the more ancient instinct to survive.  In other words, the architecture of buildings will always be needed, but the future is challenged to build on the past with the collaborative architecture of city design and the power of information technology. 

Civil engineering is a branch of the engineering movement that has the capacity to serve entire cities with public benefit. Civil architecture is still associated with cultural monuments because it has not expanded its scope of concern. Public benefit has been limited as a result and broader impact is constrained by the knowledge, education and information technology available on a scale that would provide expanded benefit within a limited Built Domain. It is an interesting contrast, because civil engineering comprehensively contributes to The Life Support and Movement Divisions of The Built Environment; but architecture randomly contributes to The Shelter Division on a much smaller scale. Open Space is the remaining division, and it has been sacrificed by all concerned to create the speculation, sprawl and intensity we face today. 

Architects are trained as leaders without the scope of knowledge required to consistently defend their opinions and recommendations nor the power to enforce them. The building code has actually been helpful in this regard, but the zoning code illustrates the gap in knowledge that must be filled before city planning for land use separation and annexation becomes the architecture of city design for a symbiotic future. Land has actually been squandered by the planning process because development capacity has been inadequately forecast as part of a city design for the public welfare, or quality of life. It has simply been viewed as a building platform for speculation with open space remaining as a scrap on the table. 

Many architects will respond that there is no market for city design. Therefore, it is not part of architecture; but this opinion reveals the focus of a practitioner. He or she cannot be expected to conduct theoretical research in the hope of future employment. This job falls on the shoulders of institutions and governments who must build the knowledge, create the tools, and teach the skills required. In the case of architecture, this will require an increased emphasis on research rather than practice to improve the advice given; and a revised educational format focused on practice, management and leadership that produces equitable employment and enhanced design credibility.

Architectural design is a leadership thought process taught to students who graduate as draftsmen unqualified to lead without further training. Design decisions are only implied by appearance. These decisions reflect the cultural /political influences and knowledge of the time; but a leadership thought process taught to those without adequate preparation is a recipe for limited job opportunities and minimum compensation.  

This essay will be continued as an educational installment in the future.

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