Sep '06 - Dec '09
The trip to La Prusia, Nicaragua is finally over and our team of Simon Bussiere MLA, Christine Canabou MArch, Aron Chang MArch, and moi are finally at home. Over the last two weeks and a half we have worked in the design and construction of three projects (maybe four). These projects are a continuation of our 13-person semester-long studio project and I will not describe them here as they are detailed in our blog:
With this trip, the official part of my option studios is over, although the projects from both semesters are moving forward. The La Prusia, Nicaragua project moves forward to design development and construction over the next few years. The book from the River Tajo, Spain project will be presented in a couple of weeks in the Zaragoza Water Expo. The presentation has also been traveling around Spain.
THE 'INDIVIDUAL GENIUS' MYTH
Now that options year at the GSD is over, I have been wondering what I have learned. The first thing to strike me is that the entire year has been has been marked by group projects from studio to most of my other classes. I chose my studios like this on purpose because I have often thought that design education needs a revamping. We are currently mainly taught to hone our personal and individual design skills, with the expectancy that eventually one of our great insights will change the career.
It seems that this system conflicts with the reality of the profession where collaboration and group design seem to be the norm rather than the anomaly. In many circles, and here in Archinect, people often complain that the academy is out of step with the realities of the profession and often the culture in general. I wonder if the 'individual genius' system of education, better suited to individual expression, is part of that problem.
But what how can this change? Also, is this change acceptable at every stage of education, for example at the beginning studios of a new design student?
As I began to argue in this thread, I think that the 'individual genius' is appealing as a story because it is easy to tell. It is easy to say that X architect with a personal narrative is designing these buildings and then go from there. It is hard to explain how a lowly intern may have done the design that took that architect in a new direction, or how most of his or her buildings are really designed by a committee. The personal narrative is also one that allures designers who are often struggling and underpaid and to whom having their name 'out there' may be the reward for years of work.
The key, I think, is to make the process and structure the story, while allowing individuals to keep personal authorship over at least sections of the work. I saw very strong structures in these semesters and, quite frankly, every once in a while I saw chaos. The best groups had strong leadership (at the faculty level, but also delegated to all students but at different times of the process) and a clear and transparent structure/process for working. The MIT workshop system is also interesting. There they have a long-term, well-funded project in which students can plug in for a semester give their expertise and pass on to the next class.
Either way, I think that developing systems, processes, and structures for true collaborations at the academic and professional levels will be key to stop the 'individual genius' myth, a myth that is damaging to the profession although not for a few professionals.
On to thesis...