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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Architectural Education Dialogue: Part 3

The following comments sparked some thoughts that I hope will add to the dialogue. The comments are in quotes and the thoughts are in italics.

“…In fact, the mere mention of the other more successful education/practice models of Engineering & Medicine is quite a relief.”

The distinguishing feature of these models, in my opinion, is not the quality of practice taught, but the research path that can be chosen to support the continuing improvement of practice. The result is acknowledged public benefit and willingness to support further effort. Architecture has no comparable career choice that can not only improve its relevance, credibility and contribution; but prove its public benefit beyond code compliance. This is one reason why I have created tools that can be used to build convincing physical, social, psychological and economic arguments in support of architecture and city design. It all depends on an improved understanding of urban intensity and its architectural implications, in my opinion. Symbiotic functions and sustainable activity will be a future benefit from engineering and scientific correlation. In the meantime, practice relevance, credibility and contribution will benefit from association with the goal. This is the lesson from engineering, law and medicine.

“…It can be argued that schematic design alone influences everything else …”

This statement has a flaw that is corrected by the later comment, “…Good schematic design relies on a wealth of pre-design knowledge….” Don’t forget programming, research, and development capacity evaluation that provides “intelligence”. Schematic design provides leadership based on intelligence. There will always be a tremendous urge to rush to schematic design, but this is like storming the beach without a plan. I’ll paraphrase a famous Eisenhower quote: You can’t attack without a plan, but it changes as soon as you hit the beach. This is because the plan is a prototype, just like architecture; and is why addenda and change orders are inevitable on the road to success. This is a reality we must defend with explanation. It is only an embarrassment when it becomes excessive.

“…Good schematic design relies on a wealth of pre-design knowledge…”

This is the heart of the issue. What do we need to know to be relevant and credible to both client and community? I would not overemphasize schematic design, however. This demeans the entire effort, which is intended to produce a contract for construction. Schematic design is a leadership tool, but it will fail without a sound management strategy.

“…the better coordinated the CD's are; the more cost effective it is to build, the higher the architect's compensation and public trust in the profession.”

I believe higher compensation and public trust will be a function of the public benefit perceived and acknowledged. Contract documents are taken for granted. Cost containment is difficult to prove. “On time and on budget” is a claim made by all competitors. I don’t believe they have been, nor will be, successful arguments for higher fees. There is just too little ability to distinguish quality and too much competition. Higher fees will be justified when there is better organization and greater recognition of the public benefit received from private effort. This is one reason why I have emphasized the link between architecture and city design based on a goal and advanced education. In the meantime we must eat. This is why there is a distinction between practice and research in all professions that serve the public.

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