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.
The first year includes coursework in Civil and Geotechnical engineering, as well as surface water hydrology and prestressed concrete, in addition to design courses in concrete and steel structures. The project or studio course is under the rubric of civil engineering, not architecture. The history class is also different from what one might see elsewhere: Post-war History of Construction and Architecture.
The second year consists of required courses in one of three broad fields: Structural Analysis, Construction and Geomaterials, or Water Resources, including Low Energy Design and Daylighting, two very specific, practical courses that together combine for 7 credits at 180 hours. Electives are also split into the three aforementioned broad fields, as well as in two others: Building Physics and Architecture and Management, Economics, and Law. The electives range from Soil Mechanics and Steel Bridge Construction to Urban Sociology and Industrial Techniques for Water Management. Students will acquire a wealth of practical skills that will combine with more design-oriented courses such as Design of Engineering Constructions and Design and Management of Transportation Infrastructures. Students will learn not only how to design, but will also receive a more thorough understanding of the construction and engineering principles that underlie buildings. Finally, they also receive lessons in business management, a skill that is invaluable to any architecture professional.
Applying to Bruface Architectural Engineering program requires the standard materials including proof of both secondary education as well as a Bachelor’s degree, transcripts, Letters of Recommendation, a Personal Statement, and proof of English proficiency. For non-EEA applicants, one must also provide proof of a means of financial support, in addition to a medical certificate of one’s health. Applicants from China must receive additional dispensation from the Academic Evaluation Center from the German Embassy in Beijing, which is necessary before acquiring a student visa. The application period is ongoing and ends on the 21st of June, 2014.
Te Architectural Engineering program is cheaper than what non-resident students (both those who are out of state as well as foreign nationals) might find in the US or other EU countries such as the UK. For two years, the tuition for 60 credits per year is €2,500.00 or $3390.50 for non-EEA countries (non-European Economic Area). For students from the EEA, tuition is €837 for 60 credits. In fact, the main financial outlay comes from monthly expenses, which the school estimates is €900/month or $1220.58/month. Clearly, that is the main expense, however that is still much cheaper than anything comparable in the US. There is some financial aid available; however, most of it is for EEA residents. And if you’re wondering what it would be like to live in Brussels, there is a portal with several links to help you figure out things like where to eat on campus to housing to cultural events.
Sherin Wing, author of ArchDaily's School Guide, also writes for Metropolis and The Architect’s Newspaper. She has also contributed to Archinect and Architect Magazine. She co-authoredThe Real Architect’s Handbook: Things I Didn’t Learn in Architecture School and is currently writing a book for Routledge on contemporary architects who design sacred spaces. She received her PhD in the Humanities from UCLA. Follow Sherin on Twitter @SherinWing.