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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Harnessing the Architectural Curriculum: Part 2

I’ve been distracted by course lists and claims that architectural education does not need reform. I’m returning to “Core Issues: Part 1” and “Harnessing the Architectural Curriculum: Part 1” to get back on track. I don’t believe my comments represent a final solution, but hope they expose new avenues of approach to the issue. It comes down to our goal. As an example, if the goal is to build a high rise, structure and detail follow. I’ve been suggesting that our architectural goal is symbiotic shelter within sustainable geographic limits. Educational structure and detail follow, but we must build institutional, educational, business and professional models that provide a decent return on this investment in an architectural goal.

My suggestion has been to structure architectural course consideration around a three tier educational format that leads to versatile employment opportunities. The format emphasizes joint educational programs. It begins with a joint Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and architecture that leads to PE qualification. It continues with a joint Master’s degree in business and architecture that leads to management and leadership qualification. It ends with an interdisciplinary doctoral degree in arts and science that focuses on adapting our cities, buildings, and behavior to the fundamental ecological laws of survival. It also includes an internship program that begins with formal education and extends beyond, but does not withhold licensing qualification and designation as an architect after graduation. It assumes employment agreements that respect the qualifications acquired.

Architecture as I’ve known it has been a monumental challenge. I haven’t simplified things. I’ve attempted to focus the effort on a goal with clearly understood public benefit that increases demand, credibility, and the chances of human survival.

We can’t do it alone. Doctors depend on nurses. Lawyers depend on paralegals. We cannibalize our profession because architects, including graduate architects, need work. It’s a source of increasing frustration. We turn architects into draftsmen and direct them into specialties that were never an interest. We have to sort this out before education has a chance. One focus is not the answer. Too many expectations end in disappointment. This is why I suggested joint educational programs within a three tier structure, but I didn’t address technical support. This is a parallel issue that I have rarely seen discussed because manpower is so plentiful, but an office full of architects can be full of frustration. 

I still believe the goal is symbiotic shelter within sustainable geographic limits, but have become increasingly aware that it is not simply a political, planning, and scientific issue. Unfortunately, architects are not organized, mobilized or trained to address a threat that is still below the horizon of awareness for many. This means the first goal is awareness. The second is direction. The third is training, and the fourth is benefit. You could label awareness, direction and training as “education”, but benefit will require leadership.

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