Is this architecture school?

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The Dulles International Airport access road? No. Lima, Peru. (David Almeida/Flickr)

What is architecture school? Metropolis has published a fine essay asking that question, written while a student by Miguel Córdova Ramírez, a 2014 graduate of the School of Architecture and Urbanism at Ricardo Palma University in Lima, the capital of Peru. “Is Architecture What They’re Really Teaching Us?” describes a cry of dismay from the heart at how the education of architects is leading them astray. Cities in Peru, Córdova argues, are being ripped apart by the new vandals – architects from Western countries – and now young architects in Lima are learning how to destroy their own culture – and (blindly, one hopes) they appear eager to do the job.

Like many young architecture students, Córdova signed up for a design education in the hope of improving the lives of citizens in his city and country. He writes:

However, after arriving at university, I quickly realized that humanity was far from the focus of my studies. In Lima, architectural education is dominated by modernist thinking: design global, ignore the local. When I would attempt to voice my concerns to my teachers, I was met not with understanding but complete intolerance. Semester after semester, teachers would move past my questions and doubts and stick to the lesson at hand.

But Córdova was lucky. He discovered something that, so far as I know, is exceedingly rare and perhaps nonexistent at American schools of architecture:

I noticed a very select and small group of teachers who disagreed with the kind of architecture that was being taught at my university (that promotes form for form’s sake, that fails to consider human scale, perceptions or sensations) and were frequently disparaged by their colleagues.

How had these apostates managed to dodge expurgation?

The miseducation of architects fuels a new indigenous generation of the invasion and colonization of submissive cultures. This imported virus has had predictable results, and Córdova demands acknowledgement, an accounting, and a response, which should start with the cold eye of analysis directed at principles of architectural education, and their correction under the careful, watchful eye of science.

Read this young student’s entire essay. I must add my grudging but hopeful respect for the editors at Metropolis for publishing this essay, so averse to the beliefs of the bulk of its readership. But the editors have done so before, generating for Metropolis a rare independence of mind in the chilly world of architectural journalism. Kudos!

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Scene in old Lima’s cathedral plaza. (travelwhimsy.com)

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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