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maybe we really are like the lawyers....

Nov 20 '11 13 Last Comment
Gregory WalkerGregory Walker
Nov 20, 11 2:30 pm

there's a really interesting story in the nytimes today about what law schools are (or are not) teaching law students. the article -"What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering" is by David Segal. a link to it is here.

 

knowing that we've beaten the subject of academia and the levels of professional training they should be teaching vs. 'on the job' training, i'd encourage actually reading it - it's part self loathing, but part recognition that (gasp!) the professional schools are facing an ever widening gap between what the demands of academia are (publish, publish, publish) vs. what the demands of the profession are. most of all, it's an acknowledgement that there's not going to be an easy fix...  

 

just for fun, i took the (nearly) first paragraph and literally substituted the word/subject 'architecture' everywhere the word 'law' appeared. with all apologies to mr. segal, here it is:

 

“But the three people taking notes are not students. They are associates at an architecture firm called Drinker Biddle & Reath, hired to handle corporate transactions. And they have each spent three years and as much as $150,000 for an architecture degree.
What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training. Architecture schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of architecture in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like architecture review articles with titles like “A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Architecture Theory.”
So, for decades, clients have essentially underwritten the training of new architects, paying as much as $300 an hour for the time of associates learning on the job. But the downturn in the economy, and long-running efforts to rethink legal fees, have prompted more and more of those clients to send a simple message to architecture firms: Teach new hires on your own dime.”

 

 

ppss
Nov 20, 11 2:59 pm

i was about to post this article here, and do exactly what you did with the first paragraphs!

Also made me wonder about the status of architecture, and how much it is valued by society that its highly unlike that such an article would even be written about architecture. The last article I recall reading in the nytimes about the present state of employment in architecture was this, in the "home and garden" section!

On instinct, i think there must be fewer architects than lawyers graduation from school every year in the US, but this would be worth comparing to see if its only a status issue, or is it that architects and the AIA just don't speak up. 

LayingOutTheDots*
Nov 20, 11 4:41 pm

I like the lines “What they taught us at this law firm is how to be a lawyer,” and “What they taught us at law school is how to graduate from law school.”

That is very much true for architecture too.

There is such a huge distinction between what is being taught and what is reality that transferring between the two is very difficult.

I remember a second year tutor getting very irritated by a student who was asking him how to detail insulation between basement level and ground floor. Sure it is not the most exciting architectural problem, but still something which is quite important for everyday practice.

Not sure what the solution is though really. Too much idealism and you are unemployable, too much emphasis on 'the real world' leads to no creativity and we may as well be corporate robots.

LayingOutTheDots*
Nov 20, 11 4:41 pm

I like the lines “What they taught us at this law firm is how to be a lawyer,” and “What they taught us at law school is how to graduate from law school.”

That is very much true for architecture too.

There is such a huge distinction between what is being taught and what is reality that transferring between the two is very difficult.

I remember a second year tutor getting very irritated by a student who was asking him how to detail insulation between basement level and ground floor. Sure it is not the most exciting architectural problem, but still something which is quite important for everyday practice.

Not sure what the solution is though really. Too much idealism and you are unemployable, too much emphasis on 'the real world' leads to no creativity and we may as well be corporate robots.

snook_dude
Nov 20, 11 4:42 pm

Just look in the yellow pages....and see who takes out the bigger adds~ it is a no brainer!

The only thing I don't agree with is the Billing rate of $300.00 an hour for those in the process of becoming and architect. 

It was not long ago I sat in a meeting with a Lawyer who does land planning and he billing rate at a discount is  $800.00 an hour, and he always has staff back up which is billed at a different rate and yes it is in quarter hour hits.

jmanganelli
Nov 20, 11 5:46 pm

thanks for posting this

i think the gap is very real and very serious, but can be rectified. 

my impression is that much of the issue stems from architecture's genealogy.  its art/humanities lineage  is typically remembered, taught, and celebrated above its engineering lineage, and because its derivation from the humanities ties it more closely to contemporary humanities practices in history, theory, and criticism, it both benefits and suffers from the specifics and quirks of contemporary history, theory, and criticism.  my impression of history, theory, and criticism as practiced today,  is that it is important to say something interesting and new, and necessarily valid, (that is, the argument has truth potential), but that striving for an argument or the framing of an issue to be truly valid is considered naive because we now consider 'validity' to always be subjective.  this tendency, combined with the contemporary framing of the act of generating knowledge having been removed from the enlightenment pedestal of the uncovering of universal truths for the benefit of humanity, and instead now treating the generation of knowledge as the production of just so many commodities with which academic scholars barter for their livelihoods, means that 'knowledge' has a commercial value based upon market trends (and pressures) independent of its truth component, and those who produce such knowledge are beholden to the trends in order to secure their place in the system, and not to the actual real-world value of such knowledge.  

in order to explain how this situation relates to the disconnect between current architectural education and practice, I'll reference two concepts I learned in my intro to philosophy class:  necessarily valid versus indeed valid.  The difference is that something that is necessarily valid may be logically consistent (internally or externally) or basis on sound constructs, and so it is potentially true, depending upon how the details work out when examined more closely.  Necessarily valid arguments, strategies, or technologies are necessary first steps in developing legitimate, useful ideas and tools, but in and of themselves are insufficient because they are not provable or demonstratable and may have gaps, inconsistencies, flaws, or not relate well to actual, real-world observations.  Conversely, something that is indeed valid is both based on sound constructs and demonstrates both internal and external logical validity, including finding evidence in the real world to support the claims, which requires resolving details, teasing out the full model (not just the portion that works), and finding real examples or mathematical proofs. 

As some humanities-focused critical theory colleagues of mine noted recently, for scholarly work in history, theory, and criticism to be 'a contribution' in today's academia means that it says something interesting and novel and potentially true and valuable (that is, it 'furthers the discourse' (but perhaps nothing more)), even if it based upon misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or mischaracterization.  this meets the definition and requirements of necessarily valid and meets the requirements as set forth by the history, theory, and criticism market for such knowledge today.  This is fine for humanities-based academia, but businesses (and buildings) cannot sustain on ideas, processes, or technologies that could potentially be useful but cannot actually be demonstrated to be so.  Businesses and buildings need mostly ideas and tools which are indeed valid.  Interestingly, the forgotten lineage of architecture, that derived from the sciences and engineering, has a better working model with respect to how to have continuity between research and practice.  In fact, people who study in the sciences and engineering at the PhD level are able to (and often do) circulate between academia and business throughout the courses of their careers.  This is made possible in part because they are always (and primarily) concerned with what is indeed valid.  I think if architecture's academic research model followed more closely to that of the sciences and engineering, it would change the perspective that most architectural educators bring from research to teaching; that is, they would be concerned with what is indeed valid and not just what is necessarily valid; they would be concerned with what they can demonstrate and not just novel things they can pose as possibilities, and that change in perspective would permeate their views on teaching and shift the educational model more toward what is indeed valid, even if it is forward-looking (as all research is, even research done in the sciences and engineering).  I do not think that this would stifle creativity, as most engineers and scientists you will meet at the PhD level, as are industry leaders in practice, are incredibly insightful and creative people.  For me, this suggests that architects should also be able to develop practices thoroughly grounded in what is indeed valid and yet open to creative exploration and novel solutions.  But for schools to foster this, I think they have to hire educators more concerned with what is indeed valid.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Nov 20, 11 6:30 pm

Excuse me for stating the obvious, but architecture schools do not architecting.

 

Keith CarlsonKeith Carlson
Nov 20, 11 7:24 pm

Greg, that is really funny you posted this article by David Segal.  We have e-mailed back and forth recently, I was suggesting that he write an article on the Architecture field.   Last I heard (2 months ago) he's considering it.

Gregory WalkerGregory Walker
Nov 20, 11 8:49 pm

keith - this certainly could have been written about architecture, but honestly, i think it has more resonance as is. law is more pervasive and seen as much more of an 'elite' career, that the disconnect hits more directly than it would focusing on little old us...

will gallowaywill galloway
Nov 20, 11 10:29 pm

we often use all that useless "design and theory bullshit" in my daily practice, and would find a technical oriented education to be a horror both as an employer and as an architect. 

seriously we have a lot of technically proficient/design mute people sending us portfolios every week and i frankly can't think how to use them.  theory is welcome and encouraged.and necessary.  hell some of our clients recently told us they rang us up because we have a stance on our work that is beyond technical ability.  they can get technical competence anywhere (including from us), but a unique design requires more.

given the choice i think i would prefer a young architect with brilliant ideas and no technical skills to someone who can build anything but has no idea why or what to build.  seems like the technocratic approach leads to the latter more often than not, no?  sure does here in japan (where architecture school is not required to get a license).

does it work that way in law school too?  does the theory lead to creative lawyer-ing or does it just get in the way?

Keith CarlsonKeith Carlson
Nov 20, 11 11:01 pm

Greg, darn, and I thought I was getting into an "elite" profession...the brochures @ Pratt were misleading.

Thanks for the insights Will.  I for one would like to hear how practice is different over there, perhaps another thread.

jmanganelli
Nov 20, 11 11:45 pm

i don't think that anyone said that theory is useless.  but i did say that a significant part of architecture's lineage (the engineering part) is underrepresented when teaching students about the profession and it is this part that we forget about that has educational models which seem to have addressed the problem raised by the article referenced in this thread.  engineers' and scientists' educational models are set up so that their education, practice, and research trajectories allow for easier transitions between the realms.  further, there are plenty of creative engineers and scientists, so it is suspect to say that a technical background precludes or stifles creativity. 

In fact, the foundation of technical research design is theory and creativity because if the big ideas or logic or constructs behind any technical research project are suspect or of questionable significance, then no amount statistical sophistry or tight framing of the data collected can make up for the poor conceptual design.  So all important technical work requires sound theory, logic, constructs, and plenty of creativity otherwise it will not work and cannot be significant. 

in summary, a distinction suggesting that technical education = uncreative thought and arch theory education = creativity and insight is suspect

citizen
Nov 21, 11 1:34 am

You know what Shakespeare said to do with the lawyers....

will gallowaywill galloway
Nov 21, 11 7:05 am

eat their entrails?

 

you're right jmangelli. although there is definitely some truth in the stereotype.  for every steve jobs there are 10000's of bill gates'.

in japan the schools are all engineering based (there are no architects really, only various grades of engineers) and theory is not so  important.  there are also a great many architects who don't go to school at all and just learn on the job.  i do think it affects the quality of the architecture in a real and visceral way.  technically fantastic buildings with no merit are such a common occurence.  i suppose in north america the same stuff gets built though, so maybe it is better to just stop teaching architecture altogether,  that way the architects at least won't need to feel guilty...;-)

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