Carleton University, Ottawa (Jenna)



Sep '08 - Apr '09

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    By jmaw
    Oct 4, '08 5:42 PM EST

    How is it possible that architecture students no longer have opinions?

    Is it because they don’t have an opinion or is it because they have an opinion but are too afraid or too lazy to express their opinion?

    I am sitting in class surrounded by intelligent people who, except for a small minority, do not say anything ! ! ! Is it because they didn’t make the time to read the “required readings” and therefore feel as if they could not possibly add anything to the conversation?

    How is it possible to be “in” architecture “in” a conversation about architecture and not react or have an opinion about something that is being discussed in your presence? Even if you did not read the “readings” we are talking about architecture and you - sitting at the table - are also in architecture?

    I am noticing lately that it is not only in this particular class but it seems to be a trend effecting the whole school. People have become comfortable. People don’t fight for what they believe in anymore! Do people believe in anything anymore? As a global culture I feel as if we have become “too comfortable” and as a result now lack conviction, position, and presence. People have become passive and unconscious in their approach to life.

    ‘Architects create the worlds of tomorrow.’ And if we don’t have opinions, thoughts, visions, criticisms, reactions to what is going on in the world - we are in deep shit!

    Discussion is part of your education. And your participation, our interaction, is important to me, because it is part of my education.

    Opinions anyone?

    Endnotes: class discussions, everyday debates, and bus rides


    • laksmy

      It may be a worldly disease... you should see the students in my college. They're asleep most of the time.

      Oct 4, 08 6:08 pm  · 
      Ryan Joseph Simons

      Unfortunately, my rather large studio group (24 in all) suffers from the same thing. There are 4 of us who are constantly answering questions & trying to engage our peers in some sort of discussion. The simplest question is met with blank stares & disinterest during our M/W class. It helps weed out potential competition as we matriculate-- I currently attend a 2-year school with an Architecture Pre-Major- and has caused a myriad of discussion about the lack of discussion. Even in small groups, I plead with them, "Please. Say something. Anything. Tell me it's terrible & I should quit, ANYTHING." I share in your frustration.

      Oct 4, 08 6:58 pm  · 

      I share you frustration, and at times get caught up in the comfort of sitting on the sidelines. I think that it's a greater issue than just Architecture students not speaking. No one in our generation is speaking about anything.
      Fortunately for me, my studio of 14 is a little more open with their opinions about the state of the world, but when it comes to designs, it's positive responses for fear of hurt another's feelings.

      I agree with you, if we aren't in discussion how can we learn from another person?

      I think the only way to fix this situation is to ask questions straight on and forcefully open the waves of discussion and hope for the best. Good luck.

      Oct 9, 08 2:20 am  · 

      It's the fluoride in the water supply turning everyone into zombies!

      Seriously though, I couldn't agree more - I was complaining about this the other day... I had this idealized vision of what a grad seminar should be, but that has yet to come to fruition at this (your) school. But what grad seminars actually turn out to be is something much less than engaging discussion amongst students... it ends up being a very small version of a lecture class, with the odd comment here or there. There's no engaging discussion, no learning by relation (only learning by listening), it's pretty strange.

      I think part of it comes down to the culture of studio and crits - that the group generally sits back and listens to the prof/TA spew their rhetoric, and the students are strictly observers. What if crits/pinups were group efforts, where anyone can say anything? Would that help anything - or would it hinder the education process to have first years commenting on first year work - my gut tells me that a prof or TA will have a lot more insight... but then again, that can't always be the case (considering some of the profs I've had - sometimes my classmates lead me towards revelation when the prof has led me into a wall).

      But, in my own experience speaking with students, sometimes it's the informal, *very* small groups (3-4 people) which actually yield the most interest - it's small enough that no one can get away with being quiet and non-responsive, because there's social pressure from one's peers to offer input - that's not the case when it's 15 people around the table... some students will gain solidarity by maintaining silence and letting the egg-heads duke it out. Then they can comment amongst their social group about how obnoxious the discussion was, which is safe because they stayed out of it. Others will just fly under the radar - I'm in one seminar where one girl has said literally nothing all term, because people don't really notice she's there. Would that be the case if it was a group of 3?

      So, I'm inclined to think that group size plays a large role in the phenomenon of silence amongst intelligent people. But maybe I'm giving people too much credit, and they really aren't doing their readings and thus have nothing to contribute. BUT, maybe they would if the group was small enough, and there was social pressure to pull their weight in class! :)

      Oct 17, 08 5:36 pm  · 

      The people who don't say shit all term, and specifically in theory seminars, are the ones who will cadmonkey their way to being project managers, or the higher power of choice willing wiggle their way to design things for developers. I can't imagine anyone with the capacity to comprehend architectural theory doing either of those for any other reason than paying back loans... or being an extreme masochist (though the latter is easily satisfied by dealing with bylaws and municipal bureaucracies, from what I hear)
      and yes, out of 15 or so people in my theory class, only 5 of us contribute to the discussion with some regularity, and even then sometimes it takes me saying something to launch a discussion in the first place
      (Robert Somol is a smart guy, but he really tends to stick to regurgitating the readings back to the class, as well as making the connections between the readings... managed to get the discussion to spin off and stand in its own right twice so far... 4 weeks left, and half the class hasn't earned Bob's effort in attempting to evaluate their class participation grade)

      Nov 12, 08 3:29 am  · 

      Hello Everyone,

      I do not know why people are so afraid to state their opinions. Design has always been subjective and is usually just a matter of personal taste. I try to keep this thought in the back of my mind so I am not afraid to express my ideas in the presence of others. When I was applying to architecture I incorporated many of my revolutionary designs into my portfolio. What did you guys do for your portfolio? Feel free to contact me at

      Jan 13, 09 10:31 pm  · 
      Mark L

      Hi Jenna
      I've got students wanting to apply to carleton and baffled by the physical portfolio requirements. Any quick notes of advice for preparing an effective Carleton portfolio?
      Thanks if you get the chance!

      Feb 6, 09 12:21 pm  · 

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