Reforming Formal Architectural Education
Periodical: Arch Daily or Design Intelligence
There currently exists a disconnect between the design driven aspect of school and the true workings of an architectural office. This is corrected by incorporating internships and office experiences into formal architecture education. In addition, we should consider the way schools are reviewed and accredited to be changed or overhauled. By changing the formal education that architecture students currently receive, students will have a better understanding of the professional worlds and be better prepared to intelligently solve design problems.
The current formal model of architecture education works to “expose students to various situations and train them to cultivate and appreciate values” (Chakraborty). The current education given in the studio environment does this well. But when you stop and focus on other areas of study such as construction, one can see that these books and writings haven’t been updated recently (Chakraborty). In addition, studio has become rigid and product oriented, rather than focusing on a student development. This skill of developing a project more completely would allow students to adapt to the ever-changing design world that we are now involved in (“The Future of Architectural Education”). This would allow students to work as true design thinkers and problem solvers enabling students to work towards solving local, community, and world problems.
From speaking to several students about their experiences, the formal education that they have received thus far has effectively taught them how to be an efficient designer and to think creatively. For students that had an internship this summer, students learned many things that they had never heard of in school. Learnings rangers from the ever-changing state and national codes that define how we design, building spaces, and the buildings themselves including their systems and build ups. The education changes that are proposed and based on these experiences “shouldn’t merely be just like being in practice; it should offer the opportunity to experiment, to push and test ideas” as a problem solver would in the design world (Hunter).
One program that could be used as a precedent is the architecture program at Drexel University. At Drexel they have the option to do a 2+4 program. This program starts out the first two years with a formal education of the design process and other fundamentals. The other four years are spent taking night classes and working full-time as an intern at local firm in Philadelphia (Drexel University). This type of education allows students to receive a meaningful formal education as well as gain real world experience over four years. In addition to the experience, this model allows students to start working or potentially completing their IDP hours so that upon graduation they are eligible for completion of their ARE exams.
A second program that is a great example is that of the Master of Architecture at University of Cincinnati. Designed for students without an undergraduate degree in architecture, this program is unique in that it has a co-operative education program as well as research concentrations. The co-operative education program offers a connection between the academic and commercial worlds (Cincinnati), allowing students to gain irreplaceable knowledge in the field, as well as continuing their formal education. The research concentration option provides mentorship with a faculty member and potentially an architect in the community for student-led research (Cincinnati).
These schools both serve as excellent examples of internship experience in a firm and how it can be integrated into formal architecture education. It is important to remember that students learn a great amount during our education. The studio culture that we thrive in is very important to the way students learn and practice once they graduate. The interactions that occur in studio are often similar to those that one would experience in the field when speaking to a client. When reforming formal architecture education by adding the previously listed items, reformers must remember that studio culture is an integral part of education. These mentioned reforms do not eliminate studio culture, but rather help to make it more healthy and beneficial to students.
In addition to implementing internships and outside learning experiences, the accreditation requirements for our programs should be changed. The process required to complete an accredited degree is an extremely daunting challenge: 150 credits in college (five years or more), internships (usually five years), and a seven part registration exam (two to four years). According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), this takes an aspiring architect on average 14.5 years after the completion of high school (Mruk). When compared to other professions such as law who attend three years of graduate school, most students are able to sit for their bar exams within three months (Mruk). Considering that both of these are professional degrees, shouldn’t the time to pass architecture education be shortened to match other degrees similar to it? One solution to this problem is to allow specialization and a tiered education system. This would allow students to have different requirements based on what they plan on doing with their degrees. This is not to say that education the way it is now would cease to exist. The ‘generalist’ education we receive now is not to be completely discredited, but should be split to allow for other skills.
Reforming architectural education as a whole is another solution that bridges the gap between school and the professional environment. Accreditation is a tricky process and streamlines architecture education across the country. By changing the accreditation values, education could be a forced reform for all schools, and not optional for those that can fit internships into their programs. Schools are able to define their curriculum but NAAB has the power to define what is required of faculty and information that must be provided to students.
There are all of these ideas on how to change the education students are currently receiving, but how should one go about implementing all of these changes? As mentioned in an article by Robert Ivy for the AIA NAAB accrediting team, we are asking for new design intelligence and real world business practice at the same time. While asking for all of these changes, school budgets are being pulled in all directions, a factor that is often forgotten. Many in the industry believe that universities, students, and professionals want to better the education that architecture students receive, but working together is required in order to implement solutions that are worth while and make a difference.
Some professional say that the current education system is okay how it is and that an overhaul in the education system would be more disruptive than beneficial. There are no longer many that oppose the change in education. Faculty and practicing architects are now looking for creative minds to solve new design problems as well as graduates that are face-paced with technology and able to work across several disciplines (Ivy). Many folks in the industry are promoting and asking for a change in our formal education so that graduates are ready for the work force and can bring the skills needed to solve our worlds ever changing problems.
By changing educational values as a whole, we would be able to bridge the gap between formal architectural education and the professional work field. The main strategy suggested that would help to bridge this gap is to incorporate internships and firm experience info the formal education students currently receive. Programs such as Drexel and Cincinnati are great examples of ways to incorporate this learning into the education we already receive. Another way to incorporate firm experience into education would be similar to study abroad, but instead a study away where a student would move to a city and have an internship for a semester that would quantify for some credits as well. In order to implement this, students must take control of their education and call upon NAAB and NCARB to make an official change to the education requirements. NCARB has the ability to change the requirements for IDP and ARE exams that would pressure NAAB to change education requirements. NAAB has the most power in this situation by being able to change what is required for students learn and in part how they gain the information and experience. Changing formal architecture education is no small task and will not be a short process, but this should not deter anyone from causing change for the better.
-Chakraborty, Manjari. “Designing Better Architecture Education: Global Realities and Local Reform” Copal Publishing Group. Copyright 2015. Print. Pages 120-200.
-Cramer, James P. “A Proposal to Improve Architectural Education” Design Intelligence. November 1, 2012. <http://www.di.net/articles/a-proposal-to-improve-architectural-education/>
-Drexel University. Architecture home page. Copyright 2015. <http://drexel.edu/westphal/undergraduate/ARCH/>
-Hunter, Will. “Alternative Routes for Architecture” The Architectural Review. September 28, 2012. <http://www.architectural-review.com/education/alternative-routes-for-architecture/8636207.article>
-Ivy, Robert. “Practicing Architecture: Take Five: Should Architecture Education Change?” AIA. September 14, 2012. <http://www.aia.org/practicing/AIAB095950>
-Mruk, Frank J. “Architect Licensing Needs a Gut Rehab” The Wall Street Journal. September 29, 2015. <http://www.wsj.com/articles/architect-licensing-needs-a-gut-rehab-1443569103>
-University of Cincinnati. Masters of Architecture home page. Copyright 2015. <http://daap.uc.edu/academics/said/m_arch.html>
-No Author. “The Future of Architectural Education” Designing Buildings. July 21, 2014. <http://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/The_future_of_architectural_education>
Featured Image: Photo and Work By- Kai Hian Ong. Diploma 13. “Geometric Plate VI-X Chaos vs Order”