Jeff Kipnis - My Thoughts on Architectural Education

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Jeff Kipnis

Jeff Kipnis' talk began with the question of reputation, as had been raised the evening before in Paul Finch 's lecture. The AA may be known to some as the best architecture school, but what is its status based on? Reputation is ephemeral and fragile. It is a myth. Most architecture schools claim that they are the best.

In order to explain architectural education, Kipnis investigated pedagogies in other disciplines, such as music, mathematics and science, as well as the practice of method acting. He raised the following questions: How can one teach people to speculate creatively, in a conjectural way? How should architecture be taught, to make it meaningful? How to decide what should be taught and what could be taught?

There are two types of schools. At the simplest level, there are schools whose purpose is to train people in a service profession. But it is important to step out of this mindset. The most challenging schools are those that teach architecture as a cultural discourse. Kipnis provided a brief history of some of the most renowned schools of architecture and the differences in their approach. He categorised them according to their direction: canonic approach, early adapters and centres of conjecture. ETH, for example, was known to be expert in delivering and teaching a time-tested canon. Early adapters, on the other hand, step away from the canon. At the moment it is Harvard and Yale who are reconfiguring their programmes. Early adapter schools select external elements that they believe will work –such as computer techniques, material practices or social issues –and apply them to their programmes. As evidence of how changes occur in the direction and reputation of a school over a period of 10 to 15 years, he reminded us that Harvard used to fall clearly within the 'canonic 'category.

The third category, centres of conjecture, pursue basic research and examine the viability of the time-tested canon. They are experimental and accept failure as part of the research process. In the 1970s the four great centres of conjecture were Cooper Union, Sci-Arc, the AA and Cranbrook. Cooper Union was focused on phenomenological issues and formalism; Sci-Arc pursued individual expression; and for a period of time the AA 's discourse was political, as driven by Cedric Price. Today the AA still maintains its position as a centre of conjecture, although conjectural research is generally at a low point. Kipnis stressed the importance of raising the level of discussion on the AA 's future in all three categories: conjectural research, early adapter and even canonic studies.

The apprentice stage exists in all disciplines. In a music school, for example, it occurs when an individual is placed in a small group in order to focus and develop a specific skill. Coaching is the next stage. Coaching is about developing a community which one can rely on, which shares the same convictions. It includes sharing the moment of demystification. In research it is also about working through a problem and discussing it with one 's peers. Kipnis concluded that the AA is part of a networked confederacy of schools that are still undertaking basic research. In his view the AA 's unit system does not succeed in the first phase of architectural education: it fails to deliver basic skills to a large group of students. It is more successful at the second stage, the apprentice phase. But its greatest strength lies in the coaching phase, due to its location and its community.

Frances Mikurya
Apr 18, 05 8:04 pm

interesting topic --- so it's more architecture school that train to a serivice profession vs. the one who don't, what do the one who don't do?

Mar 30, 07 11:05 am
not without

god, he's still pushing the same shit he's been talking about for years...

Mar 30, 07 11:17 am
Mark Anthony

Architecture is so broad and each school is so different. I think it's hard to choose a "best" school becasue each program is so vastly different. Of course you have more prestigious schools that attract more renowned names which leads to a different style of education. What makes a good school are the professors. You get a different experience with each professor you have, and in this way architects are sort of like apprentices. They learn and evolve from ideas of their educators. Here at Philadelphia University you can almost define who had which professors.

Mar 30, 07 11:24 am

at least he's not talking about eisenman or the fold anymore...

can 'service oriented' schools (aka the state U) provide a launching point for a career in conjecture? or are they doomed to fall in the shadows of the cannonical?

Frances- many thanks for putting getting this all down!

Mar 30, 07 11:24 am

Bill Massie taught at Montana State University before his position at Cranbrook.

Mar 30, 07 11:31 am
not without

not talking about eisenman anymore? you wish...

Mar 30, 07 3:36 pm

University of Cincinnati!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mar 30, 07 3:43 pm

was the lecture in stereo???

Mar 30, 07 3:43 pm

hey meta - with all that fancy ga/ca/multi-optimal crap you cant figure a way how to add the 's' to whoses' cultures? shame on you!

Mar 30, 07 5:32 pm

Great advise, metamechanic.

1. the formation or expression of an opinion or theory without sufficient evidence for proof.
2. an opinion or theory so formed or expressed; guess; speculation.

1.Inference or judgment based on inconclusive or incomplete evidence; guesswork.
2. A statement, opinion, or conclusion based on guesswork

1. a hypothesis that has been formed by speculating or conjecturing (usually with little hard evidence); "speculations about the outcome of the election"; "he dismissed it as mere conjecture" [syn: speculation]
2. a message expressing an opinion based on incomplete evidence [syn: guess]
3. reasoning that involves the formation of conclusions from incomplete evidence

"accept failure as part of the research process" indeed!

Mar 30, 07 8:14 pm

to ASSUME (make an ASS out of U and ME)


to brag about failure.

Mar 30, 07 11:02 pm

btw, he lost some weight. last time i saw him was ten years ago at the bookstore on madison with philip johnson.

Mar 30, 07 11:03 pm

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