Monthly Archives: July 2012

Education and Practice

A complaint about schools of architecture crops up on the regular basis: the schools aren’t preparing graduates for the profession. I have long maintained that this is not the goal of education, though contemporary conventional economic theory would argue vociferously with me about that. To the professionals I like to point out that the Intern Development Program (with its minimum of three years of experience required post-graduation) was created to complete the work of educating an architect, and preparing her/him for the rigors of professional practice.

That all said, when I look at the practice today, especially in regard to green building, the level of numeracy and precision required is at odds with much of the focus of the education. This is painstaking and exacting and at times mind-numbing work, but it needs to be done. This kind of work seems to be very much at odds with the manner in which we educate students. I fully believe in a creative life, and that all people have a potential for self-actualization (well, most – there are some politicians, however…). But what if creativity is different for different people? The word “create” comes from Latin, and means simply to “make.” The idea of creativity has come to mean imaginative, inventive. Can we look at this desire to make in different ways? Can this not play out in normative ways, as well as the “inventive?” There are different types of students, and they develop into different types of practitioners. Some students need little direction. They are like asteroids hurtling through space with terrific momentum, and only need nudging to keep them from bumping into things. Others are excellent students, but require more direction and input. They may be less creative, but they are diligent. Our contemporary schools typically have one education path for the architect. This is especially the case with the undergraduate programs. Grad schools, on the other hand, are much better about greater program diversity giving more options for different personalities. However, many of these programs do not necessarily offer a career path to being an architect. Harvard has eight different courses of study for its master of design studies, but only one course of study for it’s master of architecture program – it’s path to licensure.

Large architecture firms typically have at least three different divisions: design, management, and technology. It would be worth our while to examine this condition, and begin to adapt our degree programs to acknowledge these different ways that individuals think and practice, without necessarily compromising our goals of higher order thinking.

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