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The Problems of Architecture School

HMAA

Hi All,

I wish to pose a simple question for those especially who have graduated and are working (maybe pursuing licensing) and are deep enough in practice but not too far removed in time from their collegiate years. I would love nothing more than your brutal honesty and your individual insights: What is wrong with architecture schools today (particularly studio)?

I do not wish for the commentary to be on the state of universities and such but rather in terms of curriculum, thought, relationship with the true profession and etc. Did you feel prepared to go into the profession post graduation? Did you feel your studio courses prioritized the right things? Where do you think architectural education failed you? I look forward to substantive responses.

 
Apr 5, 20 1:30 am

Hey HMAA,

I think if you reposted this and briefly shared some of your own thoughts around these questions you'll get more responses. Right now, your post requires too much thinking to respond to and it's not clear what you're really looking for feedback on or why you want answers to these questions. Thanks for posting!

Apr 10, 20 4:10 pm  · 
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square.

or, is the profession doing enough to live up to the education?

Apr 10, 20 4:14 pm  · 
1  · 
thisisnotmyname

What is wrong?  The short answer for me is the prevailing wisdom that it is ok for USA architecture schools to offload pretty much all training related to working drawings, specifications, building codes, and project management onto the people who hire graduates for entry level jobs.

Apr 10, 20 4:21 pm  · 
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square.

it's called job training. teaching project management in school is laughable. plenty of other professions have systems in place to train people how to manage on the job. unfortunately most firms believe in a trial by fire method.

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thisisnotmyname

Why can't some basic knowledge of project management be taught in school?

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square.

it’s like teaching a mechanic without a car in front of them. it’s a thing you need to learn in context. i understand teaching a few more production based skills, but a) school is not the environment to teach pm skills in (there’s nothing tangible to respond to) and b) not everyone needs to learn pm skills because not everyone will be one. to me we’re letting firms off the hook by blaming schools for
not teaching certain professional skills

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PandasAreSexy

Couldn't they have a car in front of them as you say?

A day or two a week working with habitat for humanity or being laborers with local construction companies?

 · 
square.

ok, but now we’re talking about understanding the construction process better.. there’s only so much content you can cram into a 4-5 year degree. it’s already an incredibly broad and nuanced education. my point is it’s very difficult to teach building codes when you might not be in the state you’ll eventually be practicing in, and project management skills when there’s no project (staff, consultants etc) to manage. if offices aren’t satisfied with their employees professional skills, then maybe they can train them better. again- happens all the time in other professions. instead we sit down recent graduates and say ok get started with rarely any type job orientation, yet the overwhelming tendency is the blame th
e education.

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PandasAreSexy

Shouldn't "working drawings, specifications, building codes, and project management" be the the focus or a good portion of that content though?

Entry level people are not likely to be designing anyways if I am not mistaken. And as far as I can tell almost all the theory taught is just gibberish anyways. 

Shouldn't there be a good balance of practical knowledge and theory and hands on experience?

 · 
square.

you’re just asking questions without an explanation. most programs are fairly balanced, asking students to understand, yes, theory and history (it is school after all), as well as drawing skills, structural calculations, building assemblies, and portions of professional practice. you have yet to address my broader point that practice should also have a “good balance” of both asking their new employees to be skilled and training them in certain skills that are better taught in a professional setting. in fact, many schools have done a lot to be nimble, adapting to new technologies, standards and approaches (a good thing for schools to be doing, pushing the discipline forward..) whereas other than picking up some ne
w software most offices are stuck in the 80s.

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PandasAreSexy

Not sure

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midlander

i think the biggest issue with most architecture schools in the US is there is no effort to distinguish between the different specializations architects take on in practice and prepare students accordingly. everyone gets put on the same track of 'master-architect' who designs everything themselves, from concept to details, and is evaluated on the artistic merit of the concept as demonstrated in the final presentation. that's not how things work in most offices.

many students who might make excellent technical architects or managers get marginalized because design isn't their thing and they struggle in studio. but not all architects can or should be good designers - they just need an understanding of the process so they can do their role.

instead, the result is a pool of graduates who are all filtered according to their skills in design studios, which makes it hard for firms to figure out what other skills new grads might have to offer - and makes it hard for students to develop other important and relevant skills.

Apr 10, 20 11:09 pm  · 
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square.

i think this is more interesting than panda’s dystopian production-line-based educational suggestions... perhaps there could be different “tracks;” just as everyone won’t be a designer, everyone won’t be a project manager or technical staff, but if there was an option to focus on one or the other and not impose either on everyone, it would be more beneficial to the discipline as a whole.

Apr 11, 20 1:36 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

Panda's pov is correct. Designers are a dime a dozen. That's the easy part of school. So maybe have a 2y college level diploma in that and live with a very low career ceiling. I'm good with that. I don't have time for fresh grads who don't know shit about technical or project management. Seek a refund from your fancy designer school if you think that's not fair.

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square.

considering it’s a point of view it’s not correct; it’s a perspective. my bigger point here is everyone blames the education (where of course there is some fault), but not the offices for providing the apprenticeship new grads deserve. there are certain things, like project management, that are much easier taught in a professional setting. if anything, the current recession that is once again killing the profession isn’t architecture schools fault.. this profession has some glaring problems that go far beyond being taught too much design in school. it’s easy to point the finger, but at some point you have to move on from blaming 21 year olds coming out of school, and instead look at what offices can do better. the problem is bottom lines are so tight that there’s no time to try to address broader systemic problems in practice. so, blame school.

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Non Sequitur

so, in that case when the real education is expected by private business, the blame still falls on academia for pumping out delusional kids who think their 6-figure "education" makes them rockstars. The profession is not dying in the way you explain it. It's academia's fault for glorifying architects.

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square.

well I agree that the main criminal thing schools are doing is overcharging students for a degree that isn’t worth as much as “private business” will compensate them (though this is hardly unique to architecture). but why can’t businesses compensate individuals for a profession that does require a fair bit of training, regardless of what you think it’s merits are? at what point will it even be worth it to pursue a career in architecture as salaries keep falling (relative to inflation of course)? again, these issues seems a little more complex than the problem you’re describing, which I’m not arguing isn’t there. i just think it’s silly for PMs and principals in the profession to keep blaming the kids... at some point these “leaders” need to take responsibility and quit blaming their problems on a relatively small fraction of the career of an architect. 

Apr 11, 20 3:55 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

Because since that training is not provided in academia... why would a client pay for the insanely overpriced degree of the lowest tier employees? Salaries come from fees clients. Fees are competitive. Clients don't have unlimited cash and projects are finite. You can't blame the market for not living up to the ridiculous standard schools paint for their students.

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square.

sure. the market. and at some point prospective student will stop pretending to be rock stars and start deciding that the long hours, drudgery, and low pay aren’t worth it. i have plenty of friends, in policy, health care, govt etc, that aren’t licensed (i am), make more than me, have better hours, and don’t get lectures from elders about how their education is the source of all their problems. in fact, they are greeted with career situations in which they are paid to learn the data and management software they need to know, for example. what a strange world architecture is. 

Apr 11, 20 4:52 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

fun story you have but my experience is different than that. Probably because no one here is taking out a mortgage to pay for a thin design degree.

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