Architecture education: what is wrong?

Preface: The following write up can be rejected at the very start as a ranting of an escapist nevertheless I would enjoy my right to write. To say that nothing is wrong is negligence at its peak. There is a great hue and cry over ever expanding gap between architectural practice and architectural education, the quality of architects being produced is being questioned too. As a student of architecture here are some of my observations.

पत्थर की दीवार और लकड़ी की चौखट थी ना जाने कहाँ से तस्वीर उभर आयी
पत्थर की दीवार और लकड़ी की चौखट थी ना जाने कहाँ से तस्वीर उभर आयी

1. Can design really be taught? A rather rhetorical answer is no, but the mere existence of countless institutions stands testimony to the fact that yes it can be taught.

2. Liberty is the guiding principle of design and it must be. But do institutions imparting design education follow that principle?

3. What do I mean when I say liberty? Liberty to choose; courses, projects and if possible people. Can’t I design my own course in a standardized framework? The reason why this is important is simple, at the end it is expected, if not self-consciously that the work you do should be an expression of individuality, so why not in education?

4. Architecture and design are very dynamic in nature, how can design education be stagnant? And we have the same courses, under the same syllabus for years together.

5. Innovation is the heart of architecture, where is the innovation in education? Though I like the sound of Introduction to the architecture or theory of design or building science, but I wouldn’t mind meaningful yet crazy things such as LEGO 101 or interlocking building blocks 201 or advanced study in energy efficiency.

6. Coming back to liberty, once we get into discussing the core courses of architecture, where is the liberty to design? After crossing the threshold of functionality, design is very much subjective. Educators need to understand this in theory and practice.

7. The growing gap between education and the profession is a matter of great concern. Though many educators are professionals themselves yet the gap only widens. I interned with 4 other people from different colleges in the same offices, within weeks all 5 came to the conclusion that “college mein kuch nahi sikhaya”. This clearly indicates that this isn’t the story of just one college or one student.

8. An immediate remedy, till the time more pondering is done, is to create a course on construction practice, which is just one day of site visit each week for the entire duration of 5 years. And it is very important that this course must not be linked to other courses. Yea, a seemingly logical step would be to learn about RCC slabs in the studio and then go see it on the site. This is another traditional approach which has not yielded the results. It would be better that you go and observe things at the site and wait for the studio in which the details would be taught. The element of curiosity is very important. There is no learning without curiosity.

9. As Charles Correa says, architecture is not created in a vacuum. Buildings are made of materials, understanding of materials is important. The theoretical construction material subject isn’t helping much. Understanding of material doesn’t come from the numbers that tell the strength, elasticity and other properties, it comes from understanding the creation of the material, the designing of materials. Education needs to cater to these two aspects of understanding building materials.

It is time that we shake the foundations of architectural education and bring the innovation back to education.

PS: I have not included the already expected answers to these questions such as giving more importance to internships, organizing more guest lectures by professionals and other things. I have tried to avoid talking about the teacher as an individual here, I can go on to lengths talking about it but, it is difficult to replace teachers in the system than changing the system.

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