has no one posted about this yet??? Worrisome trends in architecture education

vado retro

did you use your spellchecker?

A few days ago ██████ send me a PDF containing his submission to a design course at his university.

jus' sayin'

Aug 15, 13 6:11 pm  · 

Regardless, I agree entirely with the author, in the UK this type of rubbish has emanated from the Bartlett (UCL) by Bartlett tutors to other universities they move to teach in. In the US from what I can see some universities in California do similar stuff as do a lot of the posh universities. I think students quickly pick up on the idea of '**** it I can work my *** off all year and do something with real originality and innovation that is a bit different but probably fail or get a low grade as a result or I can rehash this old tripe of funky looking colours,shapes and meshes that everyone in my class regurgitates a version of year after year and get a good grade for work that takes little effort and time to churn out.'

I am left wondering why the student wants to pay thousands of pounds a year to knock out a style that is not there own, lacks individuality, is swamped with numerous other examples from other students, and lacks any notion of comprehension of what is going on. It's not their architecture, architecture is individual to each individual so why then churn out all the same stuff as everyone else. To just pass the course with ease I guess in the hope of producing their own architecture style when they qualify. Just such a shame when you see the online portfolio of these students and its the same stuff you see from student to student portfolio. No wonder why they can't get work, employers can't tell them apart, just lots of the same boring style, odd shapes like there of some old computer game from the 80s, that or boring chunky buildings that are a clumsy version of the original. 

Aug 15, 13 8:14 pm  · 

Would this really fly with that many professors? I mean, I could see a lot of people passing the student, but not with a decent grade....

Aug 15, 13 9:07 pm  · 

Honestly, i thought it was over-rated. Daniel Davis' comment pretty much killed it.

Random sample taken way too seriously, all so certain individuals can validate their lame state of being


All great things about architecture start in the academy, don't forget it.

Aug 15, 13 10:38 pm  · 

I think that it's unfair to judge all contemporary architectural education based on one particularly unsuccessful student project which, at least compared with my academic experiences, does not seem to be representative of the general quality of all student work.

Aug 16, 13 1:02 am  · 

Thanks for posting this.  Very interesting.  I agree with the gist of the blogger's assessment.  But my observation is that architecture students get inconsistent exposure to research design and computational analysis methods.  Architecture professors who do not have appropriate backgrounds are asked to teach an 'evidence-based' and 'computational' skillset, and some struggle to do this.   In addition, just because someone understands computational data representation and analysis doesn't mean (s)he understands research design, and vice versa.    

'Architectural design informed by research and quantitative analysis' is a lofty goal but often the logistics of achieving it are not realizable with available time and resources.  Of the top of my head, here are four justifications for this perspective.  First, quantitative analysis can mean (too) many things and, in the absence of validated, useful data, it is often as likely to mislead as to assist (garbage in, garbage out).  Second, academic research incorporating quantitative analysis that leads to valid, generalizable findings useful for informing design is time-consuming, resource-intensive, and requires a deep understanding of research design and methods.  Third, academic research about design processes faces similar challenges but with the added challenge that variables cannot be isolated.  Fourth, the types of research and analysis that are logistically feasible as part of a studio course or project are often exploratory and merely suggestive of possible trends and therefore they are unlikely to be reliable or valid, except perhaps as case studies. 

If the intent was to get the student to 'do research' and a design activity in the allotted time, it would have been more realistic to do a very small qualitative study, perhaps a survey, or time series study, ethnography, or interviews, and to have acknowledged that the results were only exploratory and at best suggestive of possible trends.  To cram research, analysis, representation, and design all into a single studio project or even a thesis means inherently that there is a very low probability that any of the 'results' were likely valid or validate-able, even if in theory they could be validated.

Instead of pretending that architects 'do valid quantitative research' that leads directly to (presumably more useful) design concepts, it is better to make peace with the sort of exploratory, often qualitative research that is useful and logistically feasible during design and to become really good and really fast at literature reviews across a spectrum of relevant knowledge domains. 

Aug 16, 13 1:58 am  · 
David Rutten

@vado retro. I type my blog posts in Chrome which comes with a build-in spell checker. 'Send' was a grammar error, which is why it wasn't detected. I fixed it now, thanks.

Aug 16, 13 8:06 am  · 
David Rutten


  "Honestly, i thought it was over-rated."

I wasn't aware it was rated at all.


  "Daniel Davis' comment pretty much killed it."

I think Daniel missed the point about the work serving as a proxy. 


  "Random sample taken way too seriously, all so certain individuals can validate their lame state of being"

As mentioned, it's not just this sample, it's the fact that this sample is quite representative in my opinion. You may disagree with that of course, your experience will differ from mine so it's definitely a personal truth at best.

I'm not sure why you think my state of being is lame (or were you not talking about me?). Is there anything more to this than an ad hominem attack? If so, please elaborate.


  "All great things about architecture start in the academy, don't forget it."

Seriously? All great things? Quite the statement...

Aug 16, 13 8:16 am  · 

The murder rate in Grand Rapids over the past 11 years has generated an intriguing geometric form that embodies the idea a (sic) notion of networking...

Was that typed with a straight face, do you suppose?

Aug 16, 13 8:53 am  · 
Of course student work is not perfect. That's why they are students. This guy is falling into the trap that all old people do-"things were better in my day"
Aug 16, 13 9:14 am  · 

David, your critique was on point, constructive, and if I was looking for a point to your blog post, my take is that the overall critique had more to do with the pedagogical impulses of the university trendsetters, their fascination with these trends, and less to do with the actual work, produced by the student.

Having said that, I would take issue - small issue mind you - with your use of statements like "██████’s presentation served merely as proxy to a lot of presentations I have seen over the past 10 years." And, "...I’m not aware of the context of this work; what the brief was, how much time was allotted, which semester it represents. In a way it doesn’t matter."  "A lot" is not only imprecise, but suggests something quite casual and lazy; was it more than 10, 20, 30? I only ask because, for me, context does matter, the brief matters, time matters, and semester matters; it matters, because if we are talking about a first year student, with three weeks to finish an assignment, and a fame-whore seeking professor, trying to make tenure, then it matters to me - and it should you - how many lives are being scuttled to satiate the aspirations of resume padding dilettantes and their ladder climbing, scorched earth mentality.

Aug 16, 13 9:29 am  · 

I'm very happy this discussion is happening.  It's about damn time.


@beta:  I think this is more "initial observation" of a larger investigation.  Of course there are a lot of assumptions we should be picking apart here - which I think the author should be welcoming,  however, I do agree that this topic deserves some very serious analysis and a more rigorous academic critique.


I think a good place to start is by going through thesis projects at a few prominent arch programs going back a few decades - I think most arch schools keep a record of these - at least they should, because it's supposedly serious "scholarship."

Aug 16, 13 9:48 am  · 

toast i agree, this is good to have. i think my real criticism, if there is any, has to do with the incessant move by the supposed elites, towards the "fashion" of architecture. although, what David doesn't do, is recognize that his same critique was used by literary and linguistic theorists about the use of deconstruction and Derrida.

Aug 16, 13 9:58 am  · 

I can't put my finger on it why but the critique, while lengthy and detailed, also feels off.

As a proxy its a pretty shitty one.  Sure its what was available, but it seems the only real point that can be generalized is that every year there is a student who doesn't seem to understand the importance of clarity, nor logic, and didn't really get the assignment and doesn't understand the tools at his or her disposal.

Students in general do much better work than this, at least at good architecture schools, and the better work is crazy amazing.  Those efforts represent something worth considering, even complaining about if it suits. Not sure where this post stands in that regard. What exactly is the point?  That standards are too low or something?

Aug 16, 13 10:44 am  · 
David Rutten

@b3tadine, you're right of course to question my fuzzy allegations. I'm afraid I can't be very specific, and whatever figures I come up with are dragged out of my memory so I cannot substantiate them. I would say that more than half of all (several hundreds, maybe even low thousands) student presentations fall into the trap of borrowing scientific or philosophical terminology without due cause. And I've never seen a presentation on Bachelor or Masters level that would pass academic muster. Not my own for sure. I've made these mistakes in abundance while at TUDelft and was rarely punished for it (2 teachers, out of ~50 spring to mind who had something useful to say about this).

It was pure Dunning-Kruger effect. I was so uninformed to not realise how uninformed I was.

There are some aspects of the specific work I critiqued that may be forgiven if we're talking about a first-year student on a tight schedule (for the record, the student has already passed through the Bachelor track and is now working on a Masters at a different uni. I found this out after writing my post), but there are plenty others that should simply never be accepted. No matter what the context.

Aug 16, 13 10:47 am  · 
David Rutten

@will galloway

  "As a proxy its a pretty shitty one."

In my experience there is nothing outrageously bottom-of-the-barrel about this work. I have seen far worse. I have attended crits where the title of the project was misspelled. Sure, I have also seen better work, but when I get my car serviced I want to hear that the brakes are about to fail and not that the windscreen is unusually clean.


  "What exactly is the point?  That standards are too low or something?"

My point was that standard are simply missing. That there is little that would identify a lot of Architecture Faculties as proper academic institutions. 

Aug 16, 13 10:56 am  · 

Rutten: "My point was that standard are simply missing. "


Aug 16, 13 1:42 pm  · 
t a z

Welcome David!  How did you find yourself here?  Trackbacks?

If you're looking for broader discourse you're in the right spot.  

Now I shall go back to being a fly on the wall.  Carry on.

Aug 16, 13 8:08 pm  · 

You made a few rounds on social media David, initially gaining positive remarks. The problem with such criticisms is that they easily mobilize haters and dum-dum architects who seek to lambast academia at any opportunity. Even worse, are the senioritis practitioners who are unwilling to grasp all the amazing things popping out of the academy these days, just because.

My point was that standard are simply missing. That there is little that would identify a lot of Architecture Faculties as proper academic institutions.

That just sounds like a depressing generalization, I wouldn't lose sleep over it.

Aug 17, 13 3:32 am  · 

"That there is little that would identify a lot of Architecture Faculties as proper academic institutions."

must be clear on terms.  if qualifying as a 'proper academic institution' is judged to mean coverage of and active research in history and theory of design, or standard professional practice theory and methods, or art theory and representational methods, or theory and methods related to design/build and building science, or real estate development and urban planning theory and methods, then i'm confident that all established accredited programs are identifiable as proper academic institutions. 

if qualifying as a 'proper academic institution' is judged to mean coverage and active research at the graduate level in design computation theory and methods or application of qualitative and/or quantitative research design, data collection, and analysis in relation to building design and analysis, then David's point is probably valid.

Aug 17, 13 10:50 am  · 

From a university standpoint, it if very easy[and cost effective] to teach skilling and most students [as customers] are attracted to the sexy images of a few who master the skill.  

This is not what postgraduate study/research is about.  It is about formulating a personal practice, developing a critical stand on a relevant issue facing society and developing the means and techniques to utilise observable human phenomena in connection to research led knowledge to formulate and test hypothesis and arguments to researchable questions.  One may bring in specific multidisciplinary perspectives as instruments of creativity. Most students fail to come to university, particularly MArch's in the states which is often taught a an extended undergraduate degree.

If you don't have a proper research methodology or do not undertake writing as part of the regular practice in your course, this is the results.  

The question should really be 'worrisome trends in architecture' as having just traveled to NY-BOS-DC I see very little evidence of criticality - relevant questioning that is coming through via the 'top' universities to practice.

Aug 17, 13 11:14 am  · 

I think the disturbing part of this trend in architectural education is a departure from the art of Architecture (which is different from fine art in that it is an applied art) and a clumsy venture into science. This in of its self is not a problem if the work is coherent and conforms to accepted academic standards such as citing resources and offering a clear reasoning.

Judging by the type of spelling errors in the work I think this maybe a student whose first language is not English, so I can forgive some of the errors but why on earth did the faculty who supervised this work let it get to this point without proof reading.

In my education undergraduate and graduate we had a lot of foreign students who struggled with the language, fellow native English speaking students and the faculty took the extra step to help them get their point across without the jarring distractions of grammatical errors and we all were better off for it, their unique cultural perspective benefited the studio as a whole and a little effort to help deliver their message made us all wiser and better designers.  I look at this and think someone was asleep at the wheel and crashed up into the internet and this forum.

As for the shift from vocational applied arts type education in architecture to theories and research just look at what classes get the longest waiting list, structures, practice and studios that build something.

Are we abandoning the master builder for the master thinker?

I think we can have both but it takes a lot of work and some guts to say to a student sorry you failed try again.


Asking how something is built is just as valid as to the cultural significance of the structure once it is built.

Let’s keep it real

Peter N

Aug 17, 13 11:51 am  · 

Most students fail to come to university, particularly MArch's in the states which is often taught a an extended undergraduate degree.

There is some truth to this.  Seriously, what are they teaching you besides 4 more studios, of which the last is the thesis or terminal project, a professional practice course, a technology capstone of sorts, a theory capstone of sorts, and the rest electives?  For the 3+ year crowd, the first 1.5 years is to bring you up to speed with foundational courses and the last 2 are to merge you with the regular M.Arch. crowd.  For that venue, my criticism is that it comes on rather fast, and the time to find your place in the realm of design doesn't happen until about 1.5 or 2 years into the program.

The problems today are the problems that have always been there.  First, the ultra-committed students are often better at design than some of the profs whose design skills have waned because of being in academia and not having a foot in "real" practice.  Second, there is a behind the scenes political machine to which the faculty needs to pander to in order to get tenure and/or keep their jobs.  Then, if there is a cultural shift brought on by a new dean or director, there is usually a morale problem on the faculty.  Third, uniformity in what is taught is lacking, and this is my soapbox.  One can look back, put curricula side by side, and wonder how NAAB gives the seal of approval to 4 year degrees that will feed 2 year programs, or to M.Arch. 1s, that vary  so greatly, both in slant and even credit hours.  The point is to create well-rounded graduates who can take on the breadth of a very broad line of work.  If the artsy-fartsy students don't like building technology and structures, then tough shit.  But they find a way around it.  They find the more theoretical schools.  The idea is that you should be taught a sampling of everything and then choose who and what you want to be.  Fourth, there is very little that is scholarly and research oriented in architectural curricula.  Again, this would involve training in statistics, designing research plans and employing the right methodology, and carrying out the time consuming tasks.  There realistically isn't time for this in school and students attracted to architecture aren't interested in scholarly research.  Possibly, a course or an elective could tell students how and where to look things up, either for a thesis/final project or for future practice.  The stuff published by architecture faculty members is weak.   It pales compared to a 6 page paper put out by psychology faculties, where statistics are employed.  Also, some theses are an absolute joke where feasibility and constructability are shelved.  My "favorite" was one from a U of Houston B.Arch. grad, who is a likable person, but designed an underwater living compound in the Gulf, off of Houston, as an alternative to living in this big metro area.  I had to keep a straight face when he described it to me.  (Then, you had to know this person's ambivalence toward architecture to begin with).

Architecture schools are fiefdoms where the sacred cow is what's currently cool and being on an A-list circuit of name droppers, especially at the slick ones.  One shouldn't expect that to change.  Simply get in, get a comprehensive education, and leave to be the architect, or other type of professional, you intend to be.  You're responsible for your own education and you're responsible for defining yourself.

Aug 17, 13 11:55 am  · 

damn, observant. as I finished reading your post I could almost hear you say, I'm out!" I then envisioned you dropping the mic and strutting off stage. nice post!

Aug 17, 13 3:52 pm  · 


I just sit there and play armchair psychologist.  We can all do it if we want to.  It's just calling out the sitcom type foibles and the notion that "the more things change, the more they stay the same."  It's more amusing and sometimes aggravating - never a dull moment.

Aug 17, 13 5:33 pm  · 

@ David,

With all apologies to the student work that started all this, that there are worse projects than this one does not mean it is particularly good. Nor that it is representative.

If it passed at all it would be a D or a C (if the prof were drunk) at the schools I have taught at or attended.  It should not have been presented in this state, if there was any supervision from profs. It looks to me like the student did not make use of any thing like that.

While I appreciate the sentiment you want to express, that a less than stellar student is in architecture school is to me best seen as evidence of the bell curve more than as proof of lack of standards or of a bad education system.  Unless you are saying this project got an A?

When it comes to education today in general for me the real concern is that most jobs are not tenured and often filled by adjuncts instead, who are notoriously underpaid and overworked.  It is hard to take an underpaid job seriously and it is really hard for a professor to make real headway with a research program when the job has no future.  That circumstance may be what allows students to muddle through as in the example you have posted here. The problem is perhaps not one of standards but of a general issue with the education system that is far more troubling.


When it come to standards... I think you are taking a pretty big leap.

Accreditation ensures that some standards are maintained from outside at the very least.   From the inside it's less certain, but its not a free for all either.  Better schools seem to enforce higher standards through their culture and I would say standards for hiring are getting higher as time moves on and competition for teaching positions goes up (this is a global thing).

I've mentioned before that at my current school (yes in japan, but still...) the minimum requirement is a PhD and a license (it is not allowed to teach graduate students without a PhD), and in general all the professors have an archtiectural practice. Being multilingual is not uncommon (bilingual is more or less mandatory), and professors MUST publish.  In fact they must publish a lot (which is NOTHING like what observant thinks, with all respect). The folks who don't fit that mold are there because they are special in other ways that makes the phd and so on unimportant.

After all that I can't honestly say the students do any better work than when I was a student back in Canada and professors were usually "just" people who had a passion for teaching. Our students have opportunities I never imagined, no doubt.  Whether that is enough is an open question. In which case perhaps the standards that are problematic are for which students to allow into a school to begin with? 

On that end at my uni we have exams that are insanely hard to pass.  As a result all the students are amazingly well prepared for math and history and science.  In my school it is also preferred that the students have a slightly quirky bent.  I can't work out how they measure that trait, but it sure does work out.  The students heavily lean towards entrepreneurial and off-kilter thinking.  Other schools look for different things, but standards sure do seem to be in place. Its the same everywhere.  Schools ask for portfolios and grades and all the rest as a way to set standards.  In which case I can only assume the unfortunate student went to a shitty school...?

Aug 17, 13 9:45 pm  · 

How does a student get into a masters program with such poor skills? Is their undergrad degree not in architecture? This work is lacking on so many levels, I have to remind myself that it's not pre-studio level work. Like many have already noted, at the MArch level, you want to have the scholarship in place, be able to ask the "big question", have credible skills to execute and deliver. This, nada. I will say though, this effort gives me hope; perhaps not all is lost, and maybe i should apply to grad school. 

"I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like dumb... I'm smart and I want respect!"

Aug 17, 13 11:50 pm  · 

@b3tadine: is that Fredo?

Aug 18, 13 12:28 am  · 

@b3tadine - Unis are businesses and big ones at that.  The boundaries of who they let in particularly for non-professional programmes or post-professional programmes are vast.  

I have to say went to the GSD last week and saw the end of year exhibit.  Not impressed in the least with the work as shown.  In looking at the structure of the programme, with the 3 1/2 year model of 4 studios then thesis the work itself doesn't demonstrate what the students are really about and since many students enter with some other degree, its understandable. I know however, all students walk away a new persons and able to dig deeper into issues and in new ways then when they entered.  

When one finishes Uni, it is only at the beginning of their practice and doing a course should ground individuals with means to challenge and redefine the world in a way against the normative and pragmatic understanding others have laid down their path.

Aug 18, 13 1:39 pm  · 

To anyone who wants to answer:

What constitutes a "shitty school" or an "incapable student?"  I don't think there are shitty schools, maybe ones which are not competitive.  There are schools whose approach and program I don't agree with.  Instead, if you were looking at M.Arch. programs in the U.S., there is the first 10 or 15 that can rigorously filter their incoming pool, the next 10 or 15 that are reasonably accessible though still challenging, and then all the other schools, for which the threshold is low.  You can have a student who is fascinating to a Harvard because they are scholars, they have the implicit courtesy extended of having gone to another Ivy League, they play the cello or can do something exotic, they put together an avant garde portfolio in another medium or mode of expression, and then their designs of buildings are not that impressive.  The post immediately above reflects that.  If you look at a school's website, only the best work is displayed, meaning there is work that is vapid.  Also, somebody can have talent, and their geographic restrictions, budget, and unremarkable undergraduate school limit the grad school they will consider, and that will consider them.  They, on the other hand, can turn out good work.  Both situations play themselves out over and over.

Aug 18, 13 2:20 pm  · 

Interesting discussion on pedagogy in Log's current issue: Stocktaking 

Aug 18, 13 5:28 pm  · 

@TED - I'll have to take a look at that article (probably next week sometime) - I will have to say that what bugs me is that whenever Banham is brought up everyone seems to ignore the fact that his later work ended up shifting away from what he wrote in "Theory and Design in the First Machine Age." I'm not certain that this is what this issue is really about... but I am also a little wary with this particular cast of characters.

Aug 19, 13 5:13 pm  · 

@toasterover - they use Banham as a sounding board but it is much more about scenario[s] today -

"What is the state of architecture today? This was the question posed in 1960 by the critic Reyner Banham in a series of articles he published in the Architectural Review under the heading of “Stocktaking,” which examined what he perceived as a growing schism between  tradition and technology in architecture. Just over 50 years later, Log 28: Stocktaking reprises Banham’s inquiries in a similarly divided moment. Guest edited by architect Peter Eisenman and historian Anthony Vidler, the magazine features interviews conducted by the editors to assess the current conditions of architectural practice, pedagogy, theory, and criticism. In this issue: Elizabeth Diller on architecture’s technological quality; Bernard Tschumi on the proliferation of icons; Lydia Kallipoliti on the cloud; Preston Scott Cohen on the significance of the interior; Felicity D. Scott on productive historical scholarship; Pier Vittorio Aureli on the possibility for an intellectual project today; and Patrik Schumacher on parametric free-market urbanism.

Plus: Jeffrey Kipnis ruminates on interarchitecturality; Sarah Whiting promotes engaged autonomy; Alejandro Zaera-Polo recounts an evolution of computation; and Greg Lynn rolls his building over."

Aug 19, 13 6:29 pm  · 

Glad to see so many responses!


I think the Akzeptanzsucht phenomenon (as David calls it) is a real and extremely troubling trend that is popping up more and more, not only in academic institutions but in practices as well. I have first hand experience of a very well established program within a top architecture school being pressured by the leaders of the school to produce sexier images. Similarly, I have experienced second-hand the head of prominent independent architecture schools pressuring the building science professors to teach the students how to create good looking analysis graphics instead of teaching them the principles of daylight or thermal transfer. In both instances the illusion of science based design was desired but the actual scientific basis was discouraged in favor of sexy images. 

The academy is certainly the place for experimentation and design research,but not at the cost of learning basic skills one needs in order to achieve anything in the world (not just in architecture): How to write a sentence. What is a thesis statement. How to make an argument. How to properly cite a reference or source etc. There are plenty of students who do know how to do this, and there have always been students that do not know how to do this, but my experience is that (and I believe this is similar to what David was trying to express) over recent years, the number of students who do not have this basic skill set when entering University or Graduate school is actually increasing and more and more professors (for a variety of reasons) are not holding the students responsible. 

In the academy for sure, a certain amount of these types of errors and a somewhat unbelievable/fantastical design brief can be overlooked, as long as the student is also learning the fundamental of architecture: How to formulate a design brief and show how the design achieves it, Programming, Structures, how to actually build a building. Of course a lot of these skills are probably about 90% developed in practice, but their importance to the development of a design cannot be totally ignored in a student project. I have seen a fair share of student presentations at both the undergraduate and graduate levels where the project either did not relate at all to the rather in-depth and thoughtful analysis/design vision, or there was no real design vision and the student was just experimenting with computation software to generate form. In either circumstance when asked why they did something or how a certain feature relates to what they said they were trying to achieve, they had no response.

The point: Computational tools, simulation software etc are all extremely useful if you have an intended purpose and a somewhat rigorous system for assessing whether the results are actually achieving what you set out to do. An example: A graduate student was designing a "sustainable high rise" in Hong Kong and had developed an algorithm that created larger openings in the facade where there was more sun in order to maximize solar gain. OK. except for the fact that Hong Kong generally has a hot/humid climate and one would want to minimize direct solar gain for most of the year. He got to the second to final presentation in the term before anyone pointed that simple fact out.

Aug 20, 13 8:36 pm  · 
boy in a well

I always assumed that it was this kind of shit that made Mr. Rutten bury his face in his hands :)

having an interest in efficiency, I'll just post a link to this old favorite - seems like an appropriate place for it to raise its barnacled gnarly old head out of the brackish waters and maybe makes the same points more quickly.

remember Jencks' soliton waves? (hated that shit.)

This conversation isn't easy because you have to enumerate the stupidities of architectural education as a prerequisite to getting to the positives. who's got the time? who persists in architecture because they think its stupid?

somewhere there's a line - not from Rowe, but maybe from Seligman or Hoesli -

probably from some Texas to Cornell transplant -

where they basically throw their hands in the air and acknowledge that
what they're trying to do is too sophisticated for their introductory studios - something about this strikes me the same. and one's degree is sorta meaningless in terms of one's design intelligence and growth.

I know, that doesn't account for spelling errors, but c'mon - you're not a journal - you're a dude with a blog. even if you're the grasshopper dude.

ps thanks for that. totes awesome.

pps. play both vids simultanes. kickin audio.

Aug 22, 13 4:34 am  · 

Nice post, Amy.

This argument makes me want to teach design studio again next year and be a TOTAL hardass about having coherent arguments for decisions, complete understanding of material usage, and not a single spelling error. Strange to think hewing to those requirements could somehow be radical.

Aug 22, 13 9:03 am  · 
chatter of clouds

the 'criticism' was quite superficial in that no substantial analysis was put forward; also the entry was quite indignified if you ask me: would have sufficed to simply point out that the thesis suffered from a proliferation of spelling and grammatical errors instead of capitalizing on hunting down each of these in front of us like - sort of like making people take off their underwear in public and checking their undies for 'skid marks'.

sorry, i don't see a trend. there were always bad student projects (and i'm sure i supplied more than my allowed share) in any epoch of architectural education. there is no spotting a trend here; this is what you undignifying (i can explain why) americans call dumpster diving albeit for self righteous purposes.

Aug 22, 13 9:13 am  · 



That Hong Kong highrise story reminds me of Koolhaas's complaints about arch education in his contribution to Mostafavi's "Ecological Urbanism."




You point out that David's argument is mostly conjecture and academically lazy (which has been already been covered by several people), but then your rebuttal is also conjecture.  Have you gone through decades-worth of thesis projects and noticed that they generally all have the same level of academic rigor?


This is far more disturbing to me - the attitude of "look - everything's fine, we don't need to look at this more closely."  I (and many others) really want to know if the level of academic/scientific rigor in arch education has diminished or increased over the past few decades.  We can all argue ad nauseum about this, but without in-depth analysis and data to back it up, we're all guilty of the sort of laziness that is at the heart of this criticism.

Aug 22, 13 10:28 am  · 
chatter of clouds

toasteroven: "@tammuz:


You point out that David's argument is mostly conjecture and academically lazy"

That is incorrect. Thats not what I said. There is no mention or suggestion of either conjecture or laziness in my post. I did say 'superficial' but that is not a consequence of laziness. Nor did I say that it was a conjecture on his part (which in itself would not have been a criticism anyway - there are good conjectures and bad conjectures). You obviously don't care to read exactly what is written (or indeed what is between the lines).

Aug 22, 13 10:49 am  · 

Numbers don't lie.

If there is no quantification of how much substantiated research students do, how much footnoting and citing is done for a thesis or research paper to accompany a terminal project, and how much is in the curriculum in terms of research and programming classes, then it is conjecture.  Only when someone applies numbers to this observation does it pick up any validity.

In the meantime, we will still have theses like that of my U of Houston B.Arch. friend with the living compound under water in the Gulf of Mexico, off Houston.  Wouldn't it be cool to get up in your pajamas, wipe the sleep out of your eyes, and see various species of sharks swimming outside your floor to ceiling glass windows as you make yourself a cup of coffee or tea?  I'll bet he didn't even research the surcharge of so much water on the structure, the quantitative properties of the glass, and the type of sealing and anchoring of the glass that would be needed.  In learning about concrete, we learned what a cubic measure of concrete weighed and, alongside that, we learned that the same cubic measure of water weighs a lot.  That's why ponding on roofs is scary shit.

Aug 22, 13 10:59 am  · 

Short of such a rigorous analysis, the best we have is an exploratory, qualitative analysis and perhaps some mixed methods.  In this case, the thread can be analyzed for content, frequency of words used, and using various qualitative coding schemes.  A quick, unofficial count shows 20 participants on this thread so far....not a bad start! maybe we can get a few more?  maybe we can each refine a clear, succinct position?  maybe we need a structured or semi-structured interview instrument?  maybe archinect can become a vehicle for addressing this one issue in a more rigorous way.

Any one qualitative method is likely to be wrong.  But using many qualitative analysis methods and looking for the overlap will likely start to hone in on some truths.  Then testable hypotheses can be generated and then focused quantitative studies done.

A quick frequency analysis of all of the words in this thread does not yield strong patterns.  (It is almost as if we are all speaking about different things.)  So maybe the survey instrument should start by asking us to define terms.

We could each answer, 1) What is research?  2) What is architectural practice?  3) How does research relate to architectural practice?  4) What is architectural research?

(maybe you can come up with better questions to define our terms)

ahhhhhhh....ha! perhaps we can do this on architect and use it as a basis for a formal statement about what research in architectural practice and education is likely to be (or should be or could be).  That is, we can take a grounded theory approach to defining the parameters of what research in architectural practice and scholarship is now, can be, and should be.  That would be a contribution.  it could be a community effort.  That would be awesome!

Aug 22, 13 4:04 pm  · 



the 'criticism' was quite superficial in that no substantial analysis was put forward






I also read "between the lines" that you were implying laziness - which I think might have been unintentional.


also - you didn't answer my question:


Have you gone through decades-worth of thesis projects and noticed that they generally all have the same level of academic rigor?


look - do you really want to have a silly debate over word specificity or do you want to have an actual discussion about architecture education?

Aug 22, 13 5:13 pm  · 

@ Donna:

"This argument makes me want to teach design studio again next year and be a TOTAL hardass about having coherent arguments for decisions, complete understanding of material usage, and not a single spelling error. Strange to think hewing to those requirements could somehow be radical."

That sure would be radical... I certainly agree that students should have a coherent argument for decisions but want to clarify I am not suggesting they need to have a complete understanding of material systems or building science (I doubt anyone can argue they have a complete understanding of these things)  but rather that if students (or professionals for that matter) are claiming to base their design on science, they should understand the fundamentals of what they are basing their design on.

As for spelling.. we all make mistakes, but my concern about the shear volume of typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in the work highlighted on the blog post (and in many student papers I have read over the years) - is that it is shows a lack of care/ attention to detail and would not be tolerated in the work force. Obviously design skills and technique are the point of design studios in school, but if we do not also hold the students accountable for the overall quality of their output, then we are doing them a dis-service by not preparing them for life outside the academic design studio.

Aug 22, 13 5:35 pm  · 
chatter of clouds

toasteroven: You point out that David's argument is mostly conjecture

Definition of CONJECTURE (Merriam Webster)

1. obsolete

a : interpretation of omens

b : supposition


a : inference from defective or presumptive evidence

b : a conclusion deduced by surmise or guesswork

c : a proposition (as in mathematics) before it has been proved or disproved

toasteroven: @Tammuz: the 'criticism' was quite superficial in that no substantial analysis was put forward= conjecture.

I don't see where i say that it is a conjecture (and therefore has to be proven). in the first place, had you read more accurately you would have deduced from my statement of opinion (about being superficial) that the criticism is glib and does not ask rather more fundamental questions. In my opinion , this could well be because the author is complicit in the same culture that espouses such a counter-intuitive approach to architectural analysis and conception and his criticism remains on the surface, a criticism of hows and not whys. why does the author not criticize the lack of site analysis? climate analysis? predictive architectural typology analysis? as such, the difference between the author and the student is not really fundamental; the author of the blog entry is not criticizing the architecturally agnostic mind of the student perhaps because the author is not so much concerened with architecture either.

secondly, the disconnect between the brief study and the project is not a novel "trend". bad student projects have always suffered from exactly that - a disconnect between analyses and project, either a bad choice of data analyses  or an inability to derive decisions from the data analyses. in our day, this was largely a disconnect between site analysis (remember those squiggly wind arrows?) and the design - but now since the site is of nearly no consequence...etc.

the spelling hunt was simply distateful.

Aug 22, 13 6:40 pm  · 
chatter of clouds

Amy Leedham: "but my concern about the shear volume of typos"

not to be an asshole, but isn't it sheer? and can we stop nagging about some student who might well turn out to suffer from dyslexia maybe? are you all really that self righteous?

Aug 22, 13 6:43 pm  · 

i think she's subtlety proving the inadequacies of our current education system?

Aug 22, 13 6:57 pm  · 


Maybe she did hair in a past life, and hair cutting places tend to have names like "Shear Perfection," "Shear Pleasure," "Shear Clips," and the like.  I think I've even seen coupons to such places.  tammuz, I'm wondering what you think of using coupons for haircuts, and whether that qualifies as being red neck.

Aug 22, 13 6:57 pm  · 

Tammuz.. fair enough... as I said.. we all make mistakes.. 

I am not nagging on one student and that is clearly not the point of David's blog post either. It was one example of what people who are involved in academia are seeing more and more frequently. And I will say it again, no one is saying that there has never been any bad student work in the past nor that all students are terrible. Obviously there has always been bad student work, and for that matter there has always been bad professional work.  But the current state/standards of architectural education is very worth discussing given that architecture majors have the highest unemployment rates, large amounts of student loans, and are usually still several years away from being a professional - at least in the US. Furthermore, clients are less and less willing to pay architectural fees and the value of the architect is being lost (again at least in the US). So if students, who are the next generation of architects, can not learn how to come up with a meaningful design or are unable to clearly illustrate the design intent and implementation, then architecture will continue to struggle as a profession.

Aug 22, 13 7:05 pm  · 
This is all shooting the shit not actual academic analysis. Nothing wrong with that.

I still think the bell curve explains most of the complaints above. Better schools have higher lows but there is still variation in quality.

Higher standards would not be a bad thing if it were sensible. We're looking at creativity and talking about enforcing the easy stuff which is cool and all but doesn't really mean all that much. It's pretty narrow criteria and doesn't get to real challenges.

A crap designer who can spell is not necessarily better than the shitty designer who on top of that forgot to auto-correct his/her texts. Would be more impressed if we asked students to be better at critical thinking. Dangerous requirement in such pablum times.

I've only been teaching for a few years. Seen good and bad work out there. Dont think our standards are dropping. More worried that education is not trusted in USA than with the spelling ability if the creative class.

Anyway The best student work comes from the professors who are dedicated to education as profession. Schools have a hard time recognizing and rewarding those people. Unfortunately in many cases it is just those awesome folk who can move on to better pay and opportunity so the students lose out. Schools without vision and resources then get stuck with the best they can afford. It seems the problem is less about students and low academic standards and more about the society we are in just now.
Aug 22, 13 7:12 pm  · 

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