Feel it, be it, don’t teach it!

Architecture students at Univesity of Arizona. (tucsoncitizen.com)

Architecture students at Univesity of Arizona. (tucsoncitizen.com)

According to a report in ArchDaily.com, the Royal Institute of British Architects has released a survey that supports the contention that students graduating from architecture school do not know how to practice architecture. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has walked down most streets lately, in Britain or America. That architects don’t know architecture is rapidly becoming a tautology.

Students of architecture study theory in school. They are generally discouraged from studying the techniques required to sustain a practice, whether that be getting clients, arranging to get and carry out commissions, or even to integrate the types of knowledge required to design a building or to translate a design into an actual building.

An architect used to be someone you hired to design a building and then superintend its construction. Today, an architect is someone you hire to trot out before the local press to impress the public that your institution is thinking outside the box.

Students are further discouraged from studying the history of architecture. They are encouraged to follow the design inspiration of their teachers, who have often “graduated” to teaching even before completing a career in architecture.

It is a wonder that most buildings get built at all. As it is, they get built only by stretching the definition of that word, and hiring a lawyer.

So it is also no surprise that the American Institute of Architects recently surveyed its members to find a better word than intern for student working for free or next to it at the lowest level of an architectural office. Intern is, it seems, a dissatisfying name for young people trying to enter the business. Well, at least they are thinking about important things.

(Only 1.8 percent thought they should be called apprentices instead. Chew on that!)

I keep hearing that graduates of architecture school emerge with such recondite abilities that they end up designing crappy traditional houses since they cannot find work designing the really idiotic buildings they pretended to learn to design in school.

This would all be very funny if it were not so tragic.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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