Architectural Education Reform

Periodical: Architectural Research Quarterly

Thesis: Throughout the years, the methodologies of architectural education have remained stagnant while society has evolved, resulting in outdated learning practices that require reform in order to advance into modern society.


The methods currently used for architectural education were developed in a society that did not have advanced technology, nor did it have a diverse cultural view. Architectural education remains frozen in that past society, continuously attempting to use outdated practices for teaching. Architectural education must undergo immense reform in order to bring education practices up to speed with current society.

One of the current problems with architectural education is integration, integration in regard to culture, technology, sustainability, and materiality. Students currently learn these subjects as separate classes and therefore are not taught the integration of these subjects.   Architectural education is set up in a format of disjointed subjects that should go together but don’t quite connect. Students learn architectural history and architectural theory, however in studio projects those subjects are not addressed in the development of a design. Instead, students end up focused on a single precedent, typically from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, to use as a base for the project concept despite the precedent being mostly unrelated to the project. Additionally, the overall education sequence is too spread out. Learning about the structure that goes into buildings should not be kept separate from the sustainability or design of the building in the early years. Though this prospect may appear overwhelming, learning to integrate many aspects into a design project early in the education sequence is the only way a student will be able to develop into a successful professional.

Another lacking aspect in the current layout of architectural education is materiality. While understanding how to build with certain types of materials is addressed, it is not addressed in the studio setting where it matters. Studio projects are always based on an abstract concept, which evolves into a building. Unfortunately this results in a lack of understanding how materials and structure would have affected the building design. Materials and structure should be taught as a method of design development, not treated as an aesthetic application at the end of the project.

Architectural education is driven heavily by design development. The development process is the most important part of the project and allows for a better understanding of the project to occur. However, the methods taught for design development are stuck in the past of orthographic plans, elevations, sections, and physical models too small to be of any use. A new approach to these development methods must be established. These methods could come from the advancement of technology in the form of modeling programs, or even just unprecedented areas of knowledge such as the experimental studios based on science fiction literature and film. The new development methods will allow students to have a broader range of inspiration and unlimited creativity but will also allow for learning new architectural advancements unrestricted by existing precedents. These experimental methods will allow architecture as a profession to move into the future better able to adapt to change and create more unique architecture.

Despite all the great opportunities for educational reform, many professionals are cautious about too much change. They are concerned that shifting priorities in architectural education will result in students who are graduating unprepared for a professional architecture career. However these concerns about change are also preventing a much needed reform in architectural education from taking place. While the development methods are very important, the need for integration between students and professionals is even higher. Professional firms act as though they exist above students; they don’t want to hire inexperienced students but then want to hire a younger employee with experience, creating a paradox; students need experience to get a job but no firm wants a student employee. Reform architectural education to better integrate the requirements for a professional career and the learning students require to achieve that career will result not only in students who can adapt architecture to any future scenario, but also students who are able advance seamlessly into a professional career without going through the troubles of lacking experience requirements.


(2012). The architecture of pedagogy. Architectural Research Quarterly, 16, pp 275-276 doi:10.1017/S1359135513000158

Baum, Howell S. “Smart Growth and School Reform: What if we Talked about Race and Took Community Seriously?” American Planning Association.Journal of the American Planning Association 70.1 (2004): 14-26. ProQuest. Web. 26 Sep. 2015.

Briggs, Dee Christy. “Reform the Design Studio.” Architecture 85.8 (1996): 75,75,77. ProQuest. Web. 3 Sep. 2015.

Fulcher, Merlin. “Alex Wright Seeks to Transform UK Architectural Education.” Architects’ journal 235.16 (2012): 9. ProQuest. Web. 3 Sep. 2015.

Fulcher, Merlin. “Profession Divided Over RIBA’s Shake-Up of Architectural Education: Architedcts Fear Reforms could Allow Graduates to Join ARB Register without Practice Experience and Undermine Value of the Title.” Architects’ journal 238.22 (2013): 9-10. ProQuest. Web. 3 Sep. 2015.

Gordon Murray (2012). Education for a smarter profession. Architectural Research Quarterly, 16, pp 281-284 doi:10.1017/S1359135513000171

Graham Farmer and Michael Stacey (2012). In the making: pedagogies from MARS. Architectural Research Quarterly, 16, pp 301-312 doi:10.1017/S1359135513000195

Igea Troiani (2012). Sci-fi Eco-Architecture: science fiction, sustainability and design studio. Architectural Research Quarterly, 16, pp 313-324 doi:10.1017/S1359135513000201

Leonard, Richard. “Spaces for Learning Australia].” Architecture Australia 96.5 (2007): 59,60,62-64,66. ProQuest. Web. 3 Sep. 2015.

Photo:, examples of student work

Project: Misha King, The Thermal Baths of Icebound London

One thought on “Architectural Education Reform”

  1. Just a few thoughts for the three writing on Architectural Education, apologies for any redundancy

    Coincidentally, the theme for newest issue of the journal Volume is “Learning.” I haven’t had a chance to check it out, but you might want to take a look at it. It’s on the current Journal display.

    Architecture School: Three Centuries of Educating Architects in North America. ed. by Joan Ockman – this is a great historical background of Architectural Education in the US

    Also, many of the books covering the profession of Architecture will also delve into education and training.

    A few titles that come to mind that would provide good basic background:
    Architecture: the Story of a Practice by Dana Cuff
    Architect?: A Candid Guide to he Profession by Roger Lewis
    Changing Architectural Education ed. by Nicol & Pitting
    Educating Architects ed. by Pearce & Toy

    ACSA Conference proceedings, Journal of Architectural Education, Crit, etc. would also be worth a look.

    A few authors that come to mind that have written on education and Professional Practice:
    Peggy Deamer
    Robert Gutman
    Joan Ockman
    Maggie Toy

    If you are in the browsing mood:
    NA1995-NA1996 the professional practice of architecture
    NA2000-NA2300 the architectural education section

    I would also suggest contacting the folks at the Education & Behavioral Sciences Library (EBSL) for more help. I would start with Ellysa Cahoy ( and Karla Schmidt ( The EBSL website has a lot of links to research guides on various education related topics.

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