Alumni descriptions of the architectural education experience can often range from frustration to admiration. The article Creative Education? An Analysis of Existing Architecture Education in Singapore, written by a fourth year student attending the National University of Singapore, is a collection of thoughts and observations based on this individual’s experience. The article primarily focused on particular frustrations. However, these same frustrations are comparable to those commonly voiced throughout many institutions across the United States.
The author starts by critiquing NUS’s lack of attention on the creative process and the hindering effects of tight deadlines. Comparably within the US, students are often surprised at the lack of time available for the creative design process. Often, more time is given to preparing presentations than the actual design. However, architectural education is not entirely focused on creative exploration. Different semesters often have a different focus, which typically depends on the designed plan of study and focus of the professor. Lessons learned attempt to cover the basics of effective verbal and visual communication, time-management, self-motivation, collaboration, and design.
The Singapore architecture student continued to describe the grading comparison between students resulting in competition rather than collaboration. Understand this is a biased opinion and conflicting arguments were written in the comment section below the article from other NUS students. This idea of competition is disappearing from the US architectural school systems. In recent years, a hyper focus on collaboration seems to reflect the modernization of the field. Firms using lateral power structures, rather than the traditional top-down structures, are becoming more idolized.
Collaboration fosters innovation and creativity, and it is an important skill that an architecture student must be exposed to. However, the author’s frustration with the institution’s inability to aid students in collaborating outside their area of study is a common complaint. Although schools are continually attempting to integrate mixed disciplines, collaborative intentions are strong in the beginning but motivation tends to die out as the semester goes on.
The lack of technological skills taught throughout architectural education is a major complaint of the NUS student author, as well as many students across the US. The educational system appears to have a difficult time keeping up with the rapidly evolving technologies of the field, failing to provide adequate courses, and pushing the responsibility onto the student. In-depth knowledge of popular software is necessary for students to be competitive in the job market and this is something students are often struggling with.
Lastly, the lack of ability to maintain a balance between a student’s academic and personal life seems to be an issue that is prevalent not only in Singapore and across the US, but also throughout the profession. Sacrificial tales of the dedicated architect are common, but the lack of ability to maintain a balance is often a result of poor time management or unrealistic expectations. Typically in the early years of architectural education, students struggle to maintain this balance. However, during grad school, many students have learned effective time management skills and require fewer all-nighters. On the contrary, all-nighters are not always avoidable. It is impossible to design every detail in a project within a semester and sometimes putting in extra hours is worth the effort to further enhance the design.
Whether your architectural education is in Singapore or the US, its purpose is arguably intended to teach students self-learning, time-management, and critical thinking. Similar to any program of study, it is difficult to keep up with a rapidly evolving profession and there is always room for improvement. However, as reluctant any student may be to admit, there is much to be gained from an architectural education. How much is attained is largely dependent upon the individual.