Interview: Brian MacKay-Lyons on the State of Architectural Education and the Architect’s Role

Ghost 7 / MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects. Image © James Steeves

is the founding partner of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, a professor at Dalhousie University and the founder of Ghost Lab - the now legendary 2-week summer design/build program that took place on his family farm in Nova Scotia from 1994 to 2011. While relentlessly local, Brian’s work has been recognized internationally with more than 100 awards, 300 publications and 100 exhibitions. In 2012, the American Institute of Architects recognized the collective work and influence of Ghost with an Institute Honor Award for Architecture.

On August 22nd, 2014 Brian hopped off his tractor and wiped the diesel fuel off his hands to discuss architectural education with Keith and Marie Zawistowski, co-founders of the design/buildLAB at Virginia Tech and partners of OnSite Architecture. Here is an excerpt from their conversation, which was originally published on Inform:

: Your contributions to the discipline of architecture have been both in practice and in education. In 1994, you founded Ghost, an international laboratory that influenced all generations of architects with its simplicity and this affirmation of timeless architectural values of place and craft. It was a pretty bold move and it seems for us like it was a direct reaction to your discontentment with academia and the way architects were being educated. Do you still feel that strongly about the state of architecture education and the profession?

Interactive Infographic: How Much do Architecture Graduates Earn?

The median total lifetime earnings of architecture graduates (highlighted red) compared to all other majors (excluding with graduate degrees). Image Courtesy of the Hamilton Project at The Brookings Institution

Using information collected from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the Hamilton Project at The Brookings Institution has created a set of interactive infographics comparing the lifetime earning potential of graduates of 80 majors. With so much debate over the earning potential of architects, the tool provides us with an invaluable insight into the long-range outlook for members of our profession, charting the both the total lifetime earnings of architects and their average earnings per year over a 42-year career.

Read on after the break for analysis of what the  tell us

AD Interviews: Peter Cook / CRAB Studio

Having taught architecture for almost fifty years, Sir Peter Cook has seen generations of architects go from student to high-profile practitioner. In almost half a century, though, architecture education has not particularly moved on: “I don’t see the general situation as being any more progressive than it was when I was a student,” he says.

Cook tells ArchDaily that instead of focusing on curriculum, structure and countless other preoccupations of many schools, “my experience is that doesn’t matter, it depends who’s teaching and how enthusiastic they are and whether they understand people,” adding that “a really good architecture school is like a village,” with tutors who simply don’t go home because they are enjoying it so much (or perhaps for other, less innocent reasons).

In addition, Cook also explains that there is potential for a radical shift in the understanding of , so that we think of it not only as a route into an architectural career, but rather as a route into a whole host of other jobs. ”I know people who have science degrees but they actually organize railways,” he says. “There’s a role for a wing of architectural education at a certain point to take off and say, ‘that person is never going to design buildings, but a certain form of architectural education can enable them to look at the world in more depth.’”

AA Athens Visiting School 2014: Students Challenge the Static Built Environment with “Kinetic Haze”

Overview of the Interactive/Kinetic Archetype. Image © Alice Mangoyan

The Architectural Association Visiting School in , as part of the AI research agenda, has continued its investigations to challenge the static built environment with its 2014 installation entitled Kinetic Haze. The project investigates the possibilities of architectural modeling via scripting, digital fabrication, and large scale installations.

This year’s investigation follows the theme of the previous year’s work entitled Cipher City: Recharged, in which the creation of complex form-making systems resulted in the discovery of interactive design patterns. Following their discoveries in 2013, students in this year’s program further investigated kinetic and interactive architecture in their new study entitled Revolutions. After a series of design ideas were developed by smaller groups of students, the teams collaborated to create the final prototype Kinetic Haze in less than five days. Read on after the break to learn more about the project.

Four Ways to Learn About Architecture for Free

Project example from OpenCourseWare’s Geometric Disciplines and Architecture Skills: Reciprocal Methodologies by Isabel Collado and Ignacio Peydro. Image Courtesy of Luisel Zayas-San-Miguel

Learning doesn’t necessarily need to be formal – or expensive for that matter. Thanks to the Internet and some generous benefactors, you can further your education for free from the comfort of your own home. Top schools such as MIT and Harvard University are affiliated with free online learning resources, allowing people from all over the globe to connect and audit courses at their own pace. In some cases, these services even provide self-educators with proof for having completed courses. Keep reading after the break to check out our round-up of four free online learning resources.

7 Ways to Transform Studio Culture & Bring It into the 21st Century

Courtesy of University of Washington Department of Architecture website, http://arch.be.washington.edu/

In a posthumous 1990 essay “A Black Box: The Secret Profession of Architecture”, Reyner Banham warned of architecture’s corrosive trend toward insulating itself from discussions outside of the discipline. Decades later, architecture finds itself in an even more dire state of affairs. Despite a transformed global context, the same paternalistic model of culture that has existed since the Beaux Arts remains in place. “ culture”, as currently practiced, promotes an outdated and parochial understanding of how design knowledge is produced, valuing expertise over synthesis and image over process and practice.

It also affects the health and wellness of students. Over ten years ago, the AIAS (American Institute of Architecture Students) and NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board) created a new requirement for accreditation, requiring all schools to address these precise concerns through a written policy on studio and learning culture. However, many schools of architecture across the country still do not educate students about this policy nor seem to follow it.

While there are certainly creative strengths and a generalized camaraderie fostered by traditional studio models, they do not adequately prepare students for navigating the global present. We believe there is an urgent need to reconfigure the institution of studio in order to address the pressing academic and professional issues of our time. We are putting forth what we feel are the guiding principles which must inform a progressive studio culture: agency, balance, flexibility, diversity, interactivity, interdisciplinarity, and sustainability. It is our hope these principles spur debate and much needed action for fundamentally transforming studio culture.

Architecture in the USA Today – In Infographics

Schools and students of architecture are overwhelmingly focused in the North East. At the other end of the scale are the states of the Gulf Coast. Image Courtesy of ACSA

As part of their ongoing ACSA Atlas Project, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) has just released a new set of , showcasing a range of statistics relevant to both architecture students and professionals alike. The 10 images cover a range of issues, including: demographic concerns such as race and gender, economic concerns such as salaries and employment futures, and the number of architects and students in each state. Read on after the break for the full set.

Material Studies: When Architecture Meets Fashion

YouTube Preview Image

A few months ago, fourteen 5th-year architecture students at the University of Southern California (USC) were given an unusual challenge: select two , and two only, to design and construct… a Mao jacket. 

The results, exhibited at the university on March 7th, were fourteen fascinating experimentations with unusual materials – including everything from rubber erasers to acrylic paint to 5,500 metal Mao pins (shipped direct from China). 

As Lee Olvera, the studio lead, told USC News, “It’s an exploration of program and function. In architecture, we’re called upon to design the skins of buildings all the time. This project infuses our intuitive skills of artistry and aesthetics with the rigor of analytical and performance-based material experimentation to create innovative working solutions.”

Check out more images from this unusual studio project, after the break.

Why ‘Confluence’ Isn’t The Way Forward for Architecture Education in France

Courtesy of Studio architectes urbanistes

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 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 to Launch A New Kind of Architecture Institute: ‘Confluence’

Courtesy of Odile DECQ architectes urbanistes

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.

AD Architecture School Guide: Brussels Faculty of Engineering [Bruface]

ULB Solbosch Campus – Building R42. Image © gm2011.ulb.ac.be, via Bruface Facebook Page

The 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 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.

Europe’s Top 100 Schools of Architecture and Design

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 ’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

We Need More ‘Building’ in Architecture School

Courtesy of Flickr user mr kris

“Architectural education is very abstract.” Virginia Tech professors and Rural Studio alumni Keith and 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”.

AD Architecture School Guide: The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia

MATAERIAL (shown in the video above) is “the result of the collaborative research between Petr Novikov, Saša Jokić from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of (IAAC) and Joris Laarman . IAAC tutors representing the Open Thesis Fabrication Program provided their advice and professional expertise.” 

Most architecture programs focus on traditional degrees, ranging from practice-based Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees to the more theoretical Doctorate. But, until recently, there has been a void in postgraduate training that actually teaches fresh graduates and experienced professionals new technological skills. The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (or IAAC) has taken an important step towards filling this gap with two programs: the Open Thesis Fabrication (OTF) program and the Fab Academy.

Cooper Union Students Campaign to Keep Architecture Education Free

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.

AD Architecture School Guide: Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts

Courtesy of http://www.dkds.dk/

Most architecture schools around the world offer their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in separate tracks. That means that if students want to attain a Master’s degree, they first need to acquire a B.A. or B.S.,which usually takes five years. Altogether, this can be an expensive, eight-year endeavor that can subject students to crippling debt. One US report found that both undergraduate and graduate students can easily accumulate $100,000 in student loan debt, and another finds that “undergraduate students majoring in theology, architecture and history are much more likely to graduate with excessive debt,” compared to those pursuing math and the sciences.

Given these harsh realities, a school that combines both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in a single, five-year program is a welcome option. Enter the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts‘ School of Architecture.

Are Ivy League Schools Really Offering the Best Architectural Education?

Harvard University’s Gund Hall. Image Courtesy of Harvard University

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 .

INFOGRAPHIC: Architecture Education Today

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 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.