Visiting Critic

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    The InSB

    By jpastva
    Mar 26, '13 3:39 PM EST

    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
    efficient project.
    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
    built work.
    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:

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About this Blog

Visiting Critic is a continuing series of thought provoking observations from architectural insider Jeffrey Pastva - Editor in Chief at YAF Connection, Communications Director for the AIA National Young Architects Forum and a Project Architect at JDavis in Philadelphia. 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.

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