Nasrine Seraji-Bozorgzad - Pedagogies of Architecture Beyond the Beaux-Arts: Theories, Methods,

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Nasrine Seraji-Bozorgzad

Nasrine Seraji studied and taught at the AA. Currently Chair of the Department of Architecture at Cornell University, she also runs a practice in Paris. For her, teaching is part of her work as an architect –she says with a certain pride that she was first given the title of professor in Vienna for her built work. This reciprocity in ideas of how to teach, how to design and how to build was the theme of her talk, which was underpinned by the belief that architecture is a complex respondent to many disciplines and fields of knowledge and practice.

After tracing the tradition of building back to the masons in Mesopotamia, Nasrine discussed architecture as a practice related to apprenticeship, giving a picture of the professional formation of the architect and the different meanings of the word 'architect 'in different languages. She described the first attempts to establish architecture as an autonomous discipline, beginning in 1671 with the Royal Academy of Architecture in France. The Director of the academy, François Blondel, set out the first principles of academic training. The groundwork for western architectural education as we know it today was then laid in the early nineteenth century by the architecture programme of the Ô°cole des Beaux-Arts (counterpart to the newly formed Ô°cole Polytechnique, which taught architecture to engineers) and, later on, by the Bauhaus, with its insistence on coordination and collaboration.

Moving between architectural training and design method, the project itself then emerges both as a generating force and testing ground for judgment. It follows from this that method should be less a pretext for formal manipulations and more a mediating agent between 'representational capacities 'and issues of fabrication. The two references suggested here were Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Cache –Cache, in particular, by working with the challenges of the digital condition, states anew the question of geometry.

A series of questions followed. What is a good building? The answer–perhaps one that tests a novel idea. What is architecture? A method of practice –perhaps reconstructed so as to change conventions. How is architecture to rethink its ambitions and its goals in the twenty-first century? Perhaps by opening up two related questions, the question of history and the question of 'space ', the latter in terms of expanding and/or re-orienting the modern concept of space. A call for greater integration between practitioners, researchers and teachers reverberated throughout the talk. For Nasrine, practice is directly associated with research in the atelier: both are part of the same process. Reflecting n the condition of the architectural profession and the present status of the architect, she suggested using history and theory as a building material with which to construct a politically involved practice. No matter how much his/her role has changed, the architect still has a social duty.

If knowledge is the child of practice and theory, what does it mean to educate architects? In what terms can one define architecture 's pedagogy? Is not the project of pedagogy an exemplification of the ethos of a school –of how we think and how we engage with the world? This question led to a further reflection/suggestion. The AA should operate as an interface by means of which links can be established and sustained. It should recover a sense of the alternative, and address issues that are at stake both in the architectural world and in the world in general. She described in similar terms her involvement in the school at Cornell, the 'pact 'she made with herself to recover the sense of vitality that the school enjoyed in the 1970s,to bring in 'some destabilising factors ', to reintroduce 'intellectual conflict '(as, according to her, architectural education is about discussion and debate).

Lastly, on the question as to whether the form of an architecture school has an impact on the structuring of its pedagogy, she pointed out that the unique condition of the AA was its incorporation of both a domestic scale and an institutional scale. In this light, the 'project 'already exists; it just needs to be dissected (using what she called an 'inverse analysis '), so that the School 's strategic role as an interface with multiple points of activation can be systematically established.

Marina Lathouri
Apr 18, 05 8:14 pm

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