Thursday, 27 November 2014

Our futures are still in the making

Last night, I was fortunate enough to be able to get a last minute invite from my friend to an Architecture Foundation event which consisted of a discussion surrounding the future of Architectural Education, in conjunction with it's current Futures in the Making Exhibition. Having just started my first graduate job and currently being in a debate with myself about whether to study the part 2 or not, I was very excited to hear about how the profession will soon be changing for the good. Hosted at Feilden Clegg Bradley's lovely studios in Goodge Street, the night featured a lively talk with panelists Peter Clegg (Senior Partner at FCBS & Professor of Architecture the University of Bath), Gemma Barton (editor of the Edge Condition & Interior Architecture lecturer at Brighton) and Neil Spiller (Dean of Architecture at the University of Greenwich), all chaired by Professor Robert Mull (Director of Architecture at The Cass).

Sat down with our complementary glasses of wine, my friends and I (also recent architecture graduates) found ourselves nodding in agreement to Robert Mull's engaging introduction. With a note to the long awaited reforms of education, he was spot on with all the concerns that us students are constantly battling with and habits that are so hard for such a well-established profession to drop. The debate between the necessity of both ARB and RIBA, the length of the courses, which 'hold us hostage for so long', the 24 hour studio culture which leads to the institutional exploitation of graduates in practice, the competitive environment which bring forth a lack of collectiveness in the job, which then leads itself to low starting salaries and etc... All of which are vital questions that need to be solved before the current educational system can be readjusted. Though, as Mull was about to finish his speech, he hastily mentioned that during the discussion the panelists should not mention the dreaded words of Part 1 and Part 2 and any of the above... to which my friends and I looked to each other with slightly concerned expressions on our faces.

The rest of the evening was divided into a speech by the panelists followed by further questions from Robert Mull. Despite the fact that the speakers did not actually contribute any valid answers or solutions to the pressing concerns that we are facing, the discussions were relatively interesting and dwelled into the unique perceptions of each speaker. Peter Clegg spoke of bringing the freedom of architecture school into the professional world, calling for more disciplined research to be part of practice. Clegg reflected on how architecture these days has a wider philosophical approach than when he was at school, stating that in the present moment we have a lot more to offer the world and a stronger chance to make a political statement using our work, with architects able to be a catalyst for social change.
Gemma Barton questioned the point of architectural education and commented that these days students are refreshingly not conditioned to a certain way of thinking, as otherwise they would turn into miniature versions of ourselves. This seemed like a fair point, yet I have been lead to believe that certain architecture schools with strong social or political agendas do instill a certain way of thinking about the world upon their students; its how we are able to say in a colloquial way , 'oh that's such a Bartlett drawing' or 'that's such a Sheffield concept' etc. However, Barton rounded off with a very valid point that 'before we attempt to reroute education, we need to decide where we are going'. As we a profession we need to figure out what we actually to achieve before we start making any changes, and called for students to join up in a super symposium to be part of the decision process.
Neil Spiller, last of the panelists discussed the positives of what architectural education does do and mentioned the 'great tsunami of technology' and something about how universities are agile...? I think at this point I started feeling a bit sleepy from the wine I had drunk, my concentration started dwindling and I was confused as to why the discussion was going so off topic.

All in all, the debate were engaging and thoughtful, there was a lot of talk about 'radicalism' (definitely the word of the evening), Can you teach radicalism? How are architecture schools radical? With the panelists stumbling for cohesive answers on such a pensive question, I was reminded by all those 90s TV shows I watched as a kid where they would all say, 'that's so radical, dude', to each other.
Nevertheless, another event down, another discussion later, we are still no closer to solving the most important questions of why is our education so long? Do we really need to have all of Parts 1, 2 &3? How do we change the obsessive late night culture of the profession and how do we value ourselves more in the real world in order to raise our starting (and continuing) salaries? Our futures are definitely still uncertain and definitely still in the making.

(found on tumblr)

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