On February 19th, 2014, Odile Decq, the world-renowned French architect, announced the launch of a new private university - the Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture – to be built in Lyon this year. Decq has promised that the school will break from France’s “strict institutional system of education ill-adapted to change” and thus offer an architecture education fit for the 21st century.
In France, however, public opinion on the new school has been far from unanimous. The Union of Architecture (Le Syndicat de l’Architecture) even went so far as to respond with an open letter to the Minister of Culture and Communication, expressing concern over the project’s “openly mercantile and elitist purpose.”
France possesses a free and public educational model that sets it apart from the rest of the world. Out of twenty-two schools of architecture, only one is private: l’Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris (where Decq was once Director). And, while certainly not perfect, the quality of architecture education is, across the board, of a particularly high standard — the Agency of the Evaluation of Research & Higher Education (AERES) has given a rating of ‘A’ to twenty of the schools and ‘B’ to the other two. This means that regardless of a student’s economic background, he or she has the opportunity to receive an excellent architectural education.
So, no matter how radical or forward-thinking Confluence may be, is it really a good idea for France to start emulating the model of expensive, private architecture schools we see across the rest of the world?
Odile Decq has announced that she is launching a new kind of architecture school based upon the idea of “Confluence,” an educational framework that “erases the predefined limits of the traditional academic structures for the benefit of the collaboration of talents, thoughts and disciplines.”
The Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture, which will be located in in Lyon, France, will bring together “Architects, critics, artists, thinkers, philosophers, film-makers, scientists, engineers and manufacturers” in order to develop an architecture that develops ideas unconstrained by “stylistic prejudice or ideology.” More on this new initiative, after the break.
The United States has an architecture school in almost every major university in each of its 50 states. And while it’s true that the choices seem endless, it is also true that there are certain values and approaches that dominate. Ecological architecture, for example, is often not passive, but is technology-laden, which means a large production footprint for materials like PV panels, special types of glass, or other cladding solutions. This is just one example of how industry and pedagogy shape one another and in turn influence the perception of “legitimate” architecture. Teaching architectural history offers another example in which what comprises “relevant” history is all-too-often limited to Euro-American examples. Everything in Asia beyond twenty years ago, whether it is Southeast, South, or East, is usually ignored because – although the names of historical architects may well be known in their own countries, they are not easily translatable for the average English-language author of architecture survey books.
The truth is that even in architecture schools in European nations, approaches and emphases on pedagogical content and styles vary widely. For example, schools in northern Europe have very different views on what is important and how to teach it than schools in western Europe. One school with a very defined point of view is the Brussels Faculty of Engineering, or Bruface, created by Vrije Universiteit Brussel in cooperation with the Universite Libre de Bruxelles. There, students can receive a Master of Science in Architectural Engineering; they are trained not just in design, but in engineering, emphasizing a more structural, practical approach.
Picking a university to study at can be an incredible challenge, especially with architecture courses which can last up to 7 years at some institutions – and knowing what to expect can take hours of research. That’s why the Italian magazine Domus has helpfully made its 2014 supplement of Europe’s top 50 schools in both architecture and design available for free online. It’s sure to be an invaluable resource for anyone considering their options for architecture or design courses in Europe.
Read on for more about the resource
“Architectural education is very abstract.” Virginia Tech professors and Rural Studio alumni Keith and Marie Zawistowski sat down to talk about the importance of a hands-on experience, suggesting a fundamental restructuring of curriculums. With projects such as the Masonic Ampitheater, they — together with their students — set out to prove that somethings are simply solved by building. Read the full article here, “What Architecture Schools Get Wrong”.
With the news earlier this year that The Cooper Union in New York will, for the first time in 155 years, begin charging tuition fees to students in 2014, the existing students at its Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture are taking steps to ensure that it stays true to the meritocratic principles on which it was founded. To achieve this, they have launched the One Year Fund, an attempt to crowdsource $600,000 in order to cover the tuition fees of the incoming students in 2014.
Read more about the One Year Fund, and how it fits into the students’ larger aims, after the break.
In Design Intelligence‘s annual rankings of US Architecture Schools, released earlier this month, there is certainly a lot to talk about. Of course, plenty will be said about what is shown immediately by the statistics, and rightly so – but just as interesting is what is revealed between the lines of this report, about the schools themselves and the culture they exist within. By taking the opinions of professional architects, teachers and students, the Design Intelligence report exposes a complex network which, when examined closely enough, reveals what some might see as a worrying trend within architectural education.
Each year when Design Intelligence publishes “America’s Best Architecture & Design Schools,” we try to look beyond the rankings. At the end of the day, the report is a snapshot of the state of architecture today and, as such, is a minefield of useful information, particularly for current (or soon-to-be) architecture students. Check out the short infographic after the break to see how the profession’s outlook has grown far more optimistic for architecture grads; what firms look for in recent grads (it may surprise you); and the unequal relationship of high-ranking sustainability programs vs. the prevalence of LEED certification.
Graduating architecture students are welcomed to the professional world with few job opportunities, lots of competition, and, for many, shockingly high student debt. Barring winning the lottery, there’s nothing for it but to work the decades it takes to pay them off. But what if there was another way? Shervan Sebastian, of AIArchitect, explores a new possibility for student debt relief designed specifically for architects in “Proposal Combines Student Debt Relief with Community Design Support,” reprinted here. Read on to see how you could one day pay off your student debt and help your community at the same time.
Public service loan assistance programs have for decades been a driving force in attracting talent to some of America’s neediest and underserved regions and sectors of the economy. Programs as varied as AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps as well as the medical, legal, and dental professions have all employed these incentives to provide communities with talented, civically engaged professionals, while offering one of the most coveted forms of support for financially burdened graduates: student loan assistance.
What might a national design service corps look like for the architecture profession? The AIA is proposing legislation that offers architecture school graduates loan re-payment assistance opportunities similar to those offered to graduates of other professions who contribute their services to their communities. The National Design Services Act (NDSA) provides student loan assistance for architects who work at community design centers by securing grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reduce loan balances of participating students.
With its current total population over 1.2 billion people, India is the second most populous nation in the world. What’s more, current demographics show that, rather than being concentrated, India’s population is spread throughout its states. In demographic and statistical terms, then, India is ideally situated to provide architecture students with new insights into Ekistics, or the science of human settlements.
Founded in 2001 in response to the ongoing shifts in the urban landscape, the Faculty of Architecture and Ekistics at Jamia Millia Islamia, a Central University, grounds students in the ways that nature interacts with human needs/ethics in order to produce professionals instrumental in advancing a better built environment.
In the 1970s roughly 20 percent of all US college courses were taught by adjuncts. In recent years, especially since the global financial meltdown, the number of adjunct professors has exploded to the point where they might be considered a floating population of migrant laborers. According to a report from the National Education Association (NEA), currently more than half of all US college courses are taught by adjuncts, or what Sarah Kendzior calls “Academia’s Indentured Servants.”
The 2013 American Association of University Professors annual report paints an even bleaker picture, finding that 76 percent of the academic workforce is made up of adjunct, part-time faculty, teaching graduate students, and non-tenure track, full-time professors.
We have entered an era in higher education where many alarming forces are converging.
AD Architecture School Guide: Institute on Aging and Environment, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning
According to the UN, the elderly population not only exceeds the population of children in developed nations, but will increase more rapidly than any other demographic over the next 50 years — in fact, it could even triple.
Although most countries deal with the elderly population through institutionalized care, whether public, as in Canada or in Great Britain, or private, as in the U.S., the quality of care is widely divergent. It’s therefore fitting – and necessary – that the physical environment’s effect on elderly care is becoming a more prominent issue for research.
One institute that is leading the way in this research is the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning’s Institute on Aging and Environment.
The move is part of a new EU directive, due to be ratified next month, which seeks to establish more uniformity across Europe by aligning the time it takes to qualify and by making mutual recognition of title easier between countries – a move which would make architects more free to move between countries.
Read more about the aims of the RIBA and Arb after the break…
Architecture’s Vicious Equation: High-Cost Education and Low-Paying Jobs. Could PAVE Offer Another Way?
Every year thousands of young hopefuls attend architecture school, entering with the expectation that, after their years of struggle and long hours in studio, they’ll come out the other end as legitimate architects doing legitimate architecture.
How quickly they must abandon that unreasonable idea.
From CAD monkeys to baristas, most architecture grads are not doing what they thought they would when they submitted their first tuition checks. And, to add insult to injury, those tuition checks only multiplied, leaving our grads in thousands of dollars of debt.
Surely there must be another way. PAVE, a kind of Kickstarter that connects individuals to investors, offers—if not a solution—then a very intriguing alternative.
The Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design opened its doors three years ago. 110 students, 30 teachers and over 200 international experts took part in developing a radically new intellectual and physical space in Moscow. This collective effort resulted in a unique research, educational and public center, looking at the complex problems of a Russian city. Strelka Institute studied urban environment and the nature of its transformation, as well as changed the world around us.
Within three years of its existence, Strelka’s educational programme developed several broad themes. In their projects students researched “Public Space”, “Design”, “Preservation”, “Thinning”, “Urban Culture”, “Hinterland”, “Megacity”, “Information”, “Education”. Student projects and research, while remaining inherently student work, made a significant impact on the evolution of public discussion in Moscow, helped introduce the notion of public space into the Russian context and focus public attention on the theme of urban development.
In 2013-14 Strelka will select the theme of its research & design studios differently. We are radically shifting perspective and in the framework of intensive three month research studios are focusing on very concrete, real and seemingly familiar matters.
Applications for this program are open until July 26th. Read more about the program: