21st Century Architecture Schools Must Teach 21st Century Skills

Judging by the results of the AJ student survey, it is high time to overhaul the teaching of architecture. However, I’m not convinced that simply returning to a studio culture of sleepless nights, excessive workloads, and sometimes downright Sisyphean tasks is the way to go.

When I think back to the culture of the studio, I remember some positives, like not feeling alone in a new city, sharing lunch together, and making lifelong friends in the process. Yet I also remember the relentless workload and reluctance of some teachers to listen to students questioning the status quo.

The pandemic has simultaneously shown how fast and slow architects are in adapting to challenges. When the lockdown pushed for digital change with a sense of lightning speed and urgency, many architectural firms made the leap. We are so well placed in our creativity and our ability to think outside the box that we should be able to reinvent both our work and our educational journey into an experience that will serve us well in the 21st.st century.

In this light, it is extremely frustrating that after more than a year of the pandemic, some teachers still seem reluctant to adapt digital methods. For example, a student complained that “it is really difficult to get sketchy comments on your work from tutors. Everything is suddenly very wordy.

While anyone who has ever tried freehand drawing with a computer mouse can attest that it is akin to hitting a screw with a hammer, electronic drawing blocks have become widely available and can be used quickly with a short curve. learning. Of course, during my pre-pandemic undergraduate degree, the only professor who drew live for us on the projector screen using a tablet and electronic pen was an engineer. I can only imagine that the company and the teaching unit he runs took the sudden changes in their wake.

Another student reports that “there has been no consideration or reduction in the level of work or specifically in the fabrication of physical materials such as models”. Considering that the world of work is rapidly evolving towards 3D software and BIM, and many practices using video flyovers (see below) to engage their clients in the project, one would have thought it was the perfect time to focus on new methods and push architectural education into the 21st century.

Learn more about Adaye Associates’ unveiling of their plans for the Africa Institute in Sharjah, here.

Challenging traditional methods and gaining in efficiency is not the opposite of creativity. In fact, it frees up time for us to focus on developing our ideas. The school of architecture should not only teach software, but also examples of effective analog and digital workflows, allowing students to think about time versus results and understand which actions are most likely to lead to successful design.

Many of the architectural school’s “rites of passage” that end in sleepless nights should be up for debate. And, let’s be frank and open in this discussion: many freshmen who are asked to handwrite on paper end up using CAD and then copy the printout by hand, making the exercise futile. I don’t miss those hours spent in an awkward position, staring into a blinding light box late at night, for no reason other than tradition.

Likewise, I realized that being able to show my work as a presentation on a high resolution screen every week is a much better use of my time than queuing on campus for an expensive large format plot, which reduces stress. delays. Ironically, it freed me up time for freehand drawing when it is actually beneficial for my project.

Without thinking about what we do, how we do it and why, architects and students at best stand still, or at worst, panic and spend their energy on things that don’t matter, to the detriment of their lives. things that do. Blind faith in getting back to where it is now reminds me of Henry Ford, who replied that if he had stuck with what people thought they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses. I’m all for studio culture – but please, not quite like I was.

Sarah Maafi is a postgraduate student at TU Munich



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