Architect Peter Zellner of ZELLNERandCompany (formerly known as Zellner Naecker Architects) is launching a new, tuition-free post-graduate school of architecture dubbed, appropriately, the Free School of Architecture (FSA). Slated to launch in 2017, the FSA hopes to become a laboratory for new thinking about architecture and how it's taught.
While a major part of the motivation for starting the school is to explore where “architecture education might go” without massive financial burdens for students and academic pressures for professors, the FSA also aims to “absolve both students and teachers of conforming to established models of thinking,” Zellner tells Archinect.
“One might think of FSA as providing an extracurricular or alternative education, less a traditional education,” Zellner states. “The end goal is to promote new ways of thinking architecture, not to rubber-stamp more academic and/or professional worker bees.”
The FSA is not yet accredited — Zellner expresses wariness about the accreditation process in general — and will likely be a nomadic, post-studio school without a campus. “I'm looking for some ‘non-denominational’ host spaces right now but basically the school will consist of about 15 chairs, a projector, maybe a chalkboard and some refreshments,” says Zellner. “It may never need much more than that.” The school will seek 501c3 status and a fiscal sponsor before classes start next yet.
In total, the first class will comprise 12 post-graduate students and 10 professors. By 2019, FSA is hoping to accept up to 36 students and cap out at 48 students by 2020. Interested students will be asked to write an 800 word personal essay that will be reviewed by a committee composed mainly of members of the FSA Board of Advisors, which is still in formation. Students will not be graded nor produce designs or written work.
The curriculum will be divided into five course bundles: architectural history and theory; design and aesthetic theory; practical and vocational topics; philosophy; and general studies. Zellner hopes that, while these groupings may seem “fairly traditional or generic”, the professors will expand these topics to encompass broader concerns, such as the socio-economics of education, diversity, and political outreach.
“My hope is that students and teachers alike will be curious, critical, ambitious and open to debate and intensive inquiry,” says Zellner. “Given the absence of fees or salaries I also hope the first FSA class and faculty will be [able to] create [a] diverse community. It goes without saying that architecture and architectural education are still dominated by the same old patriarchal monocultures.”
His experiment in pedagogy draws on precedents like Alvin Boyarsky’s leadership of the AA, Ray Kappe at SCI-Arc, and Peter Eisenman at the IAUS. “Sometimes you need to go backwards to go forwards if the present moment seems pretty much stuck in neutral,” Zellner explicates.
More information on the school and the professors will be released this winter with the call for applicants.