As seen in YAF Connection (p.29)
Architectural education has recently become a hotly contested
topic. A bevy of contrarian hypotheses have hit the streets;
from an article by Aaron Betsky, who stumps for the idea that
professional degrees should only be reserved for Master’s study,
to the University of Minnesota’s degree-to-licensure program that
will only take 7-years, and, finally, the elimination of a number of
B.Arch programs from around the nation (and all of Canada).
It’s an intriguing dilemma and each stakeholder has its own reasons
or vested interest. Even the accreditation committees that oversee
the process are in constant flux as they tweak what they think will
be the best way to get pupils from academia to practice. But with
so many differing opinions on what best prepares a student to start
stamping blueprints, it’s very unclear which has actually been the
most effective. However, one point is clear. There is a significant
gap (and frankly a stark contrast) between what is taught in school
and what is expected of interns when they graduate.
In the midst of this rigorous debate, I caught up with a motivated
individual and industry outsider, who has a unique approach to
preparing young architects for success in the real world. Her
name is Tabitha Ponte and she is set to launch a movement
called the Integrated School of Building that will “foster the next
(best) AEC+ generation”. Aside from that, she has a wealth of
experience across the AEC universe (including intern architect
and project manager, construction manager, and owner’s rep) and
brings perspective from almost every angle.
During our discussion, we both agreed that many programs have
the unintended consequence of creating mini “Starchitects,”
as evidenced by students often preferring solo studio projects,
assuming an unlimited budget, and designing major institutional
undertakings that a miniscule percentage of practicing architects
will ever see in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, this leads to fighting every design battle, creating
unnecessary correspondence and potentially missing deadlines
because of unresolved issues. Hour by non-billable hour, these
roadblocks create waste in the process and as any design
professional can probably testify, the more time spent in CA,
the more money that is lost. The remedy, she says, is to create
efficiency in the process and to encourage collaboration, not
conflict, between the building trades.
The Integrated School of Building, or InSB for short, is designed
to desegregate the various disciplines of building when creating
the next generation of designers. The value of integration,
argues Tabitha, is that it “forces individual students to realize that
collaboration and a team attitude is required to succeed in the built
environment”. Tabitha positions her approach to be more practical
and collaborative, as all parties involved in the process must respect
each other’s trade.
For example, it seems to be a common stereotype that architects
know how to design, but they may not know how to build. Contractors
on the other hand, are often suspected of prioritizing profit at the
expense of design. Tabitha imagines a world where builders value
design and architects understand the need to adapt as budgets are
slashed. The hope is that a shared vision will lead to less conflict,
less finger pointing and result in improved quality where everyone
“will have a larger piece of the pie because [the process] will be more
If harmony is the final goal there are a couple of ways that Tabitha
thinks the InSB can accomplish that. First is her target audience.
Even though she envisions the school being open to anyone out of
high school, the ideal inaugural class will enter with some experience
in the field. The field, in this case, applies broadly to anyone who
designs or builds. A mix of trades is important since architects must
learn to manage engineers, builders need to understand design
process, and everyone needs to work together to make the most
In addition to exposing all parties to each other, Tabitha’s strategy
is to introduce skills that are typically reserved for business majors.
Even if accounting and entrepreneurship aren’t a designer’s strong
suit, they become essential skills for those who eventually want to
start their own firm. Her other weapon is to introduce “Lean Process”
principles into the curricula. In short, this is a set of ideals about
tirelessly working to eliminate waste from a process. Once the
students have an understanding of these principles, they move on
to project-based work. Through partnerships with local architectural
firms, every graduating class will be required to get their hands dirty
on an actual project. This project will require students to address
budget concerns, design on the fly, and ultimately help deliver quality
To date, the school has been the labor of an indefatigable bunch
working at their own expense since September 2011. Eventually
InSB will become a full non-profit, but until they can work up a
backlog of investible items, these pioneers are going to have to
take it course by course. But things are now in motion and by the
time this article is published, InSB will have opened its doors in a
downtown Chicago location. Though the school is just beginning its
journey to full potential, I urge you to check out the steps InSB has
taken to disrupt the institution that is architectural, or rather “building”
See more about The InSB HERE: http://insb.us/
Reported on by Flying Kite Media and Technically Philly On Saturday, January 12th from 10am-2pm the YAF Philly partnered with local architecture firm Haley Donovan and business Benjamin's Desk to host a design charrette. But this wasn't your typical pie in the sky design competition...
Jeffrey Pastva, AIA LEED AP Pastva is an Assistant Editor for the YAF Connection, serves as Chair of the Young Architects Forum of Philadelphia, founder of The Designated Sketcher website and a Project Architect at Haley Donovan in Haddonfield, NJ. Constructive criticism is valuable...
As originally seen on The Designated Sketcher, published in Construction Today and YAF Connection. As Chairs of YAF Philadelphia, we are charged with staying up to date with the current issues and challenges facing the emerging professionals under our umbrella. We are particularly...
Elevator Pitch Recap Video
Original post as seen on The Designated Sketcher. On November 10th, Designated Sketcher founder Jeffrey Pastva was invited to participate in a workshop at Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. It was offered school-wide and drew interest from a...
As originally seen on The Designated Sketcher I recently came across a viral article, written by Linda Bennett of Archi-Ninja.com, and it inspired me to follow up with my own piece about all those pesky things that they don’t teach you in architecture school. Her voice and audience appears...
As originally seen on The Designated Sketcher This past weekend, I traveled to the ENYA Future Now Summit to gather with fellow architecture professionals and hopefuls. The goal of the event focused on the future of the profession and how emerging professionals in the field can shape upcoming...
Visiting Critic is a continuing series of thought provoking observations from architectural insider Jeffrey Pastva - Founder of The Designated Sketcher, Architect at Haley Donovan & Chair of The AIA Philadelphia Young Architects Forum. His critical eye will cover everything from the state of architectural education to the future fate of the profession. Expect ideas in your inbox bi-weekly.