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a PhD in live projects and architectural education

Video: introduction to the 2012 Street Society live projects at QUB

2012 was the third year that we’ve run a vertical live project between the first and fifth year students of architecture at Queen’s University Belfast. It’s the last one I will be involved with in any capacity, and it’s really a delight to see the event growing under the careful supervision of my talented peers and faculty colleagues. PhD candidate Paul Bower replaces me as Street Society co-ordinator (and he did a cracking job).

This year, a documenting team of students made a series of amazing videos about the eleven different projects which were located throughout Northern Ireland. Posted above is Dr. Sarah Lappin’s introduction to the Street Society. Posted below are Prof. Ruth Morrow’s concluding thoughts.

A short documentary summarising all eleven projects is posted below. You can find eleven more videos, one for each project by visiting the Street Society Youtube channel or by clicking past the jump below.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Live Projects Pedagogy International Symposium 2012

This poster arrived tonight. It’s obviously great to see such a large and well organised event happening just a few months after I finish my PhD on the subject (and not just for the usual cheeky reasons of self-promotion). I’ll be there in May and presenting a paper drawing on some of my findings. If you’re interested, I hope I can encourage you to come to Oxford as well. There’s more info here.

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Published: Intercultural interaction in architectural education

It’s a pleasure to finally hold in my hands a copy of Intercultural Interactions: in Architectural Education (eds. Peter Beacock, Geoffrey Matstutis and Robert Mull) – to which Ruth Morrow and I contributed a chapter on the first Street Society live project at QUB. If you’re interested in reading it and thirteen other chapters on participatory practices in architectural education, you can buy the book now for just £10 from Amazon or from your preferred retailer (ISBN: 978-0956353214).

If you’re in London on 3 November, there’s a book launch alongside a lecture and exhibition on Capturing Urban Conflict by Wendy Pullan, author of Chapter 5 in the book. Details are on the ASD blog.

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Forthcoming: live projects as border pedagogies in architectural education

Above: an unexpected road sign, seen on Shetland earlier this month

It continues to be a busy summer, even if the weather hasn’t been particularly summer-like. In between weeks at home working on the thesis, we’ve managed to make a few escapes to (appropriately enough) the “peripheries” of Scotland, first the Outer Hebrides and subsequently the Shetland Isles. As previously mentioned, I’m working towards the delivery of a first draft of my thesis to my supervisors in late October / early November, depending on how we all cope with the forthcoming International Conference of the Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA) which we are proudly hosting at Queen’s University Belfast from 27 – 29 October. For more details, and to register, see the Peripheries 2011 website.

A handful of colleagues at QUB will be presenting papers at Peripheries, and below is an expanded abstract of the work that I am preparing to present in Belfast. Although the eventual paper will likely have evolved by the end of October, I hope that it’s a helpful preview of some of the thoughts that have been ricocheting around during this phase of writing. For more, come along to Peripheries!

Back to the edge: reconsidering live projects as border pedagogies in architectural education

 James Benedict Brown, Keith McAllister, Ruth Morrow (Queen’s University Belfast)

 According to recent definitions by Sara (2006), Watt & Cottrell (2006), and Charlesworth, Dodd & Harrison (2011), a live project in architectural education is one that engages students with people outside the academy. Through the live project, students’ produce work that is of some value to an external ‘client’ as part of their academic studies. Drawing on the radical pedagogies of Paulo Freire, Ivan Illich and others, this paper emerges from a project to re-consider live projects as examples of critical pedagogies in architectural education. Charlesworth, Dodd & Harrison explain that live projects in architectural education “tend to work in marginal communities where there is both a willingness to accept alternate modes of practice, and a need to operate outside of commercial design parameters of budget.” (ibid) Examples might include those of the American tradition of “design/build” projects[1], such as the Rural Studio of Auburn University in Alabama, through which relatively privileged university students design and build small projects that hopefully improve the conditions of the lives of some of the poorest and most impoverished people in the USA. (Dean, 2002, 2005; Real, 2009) While not all live projects serve such clearly marginalised clients, it is perhaps useful to consider them as marginal pedagogical practices, ones which suggest an excursion away from the mainstream of architectural education towards, and sometimes across, the boundaries of normative practice.

 This paper asks how architectural educators who use live projects may go about interrogating this possible intellectual position against an established pedagogical framework. It poses this question by expanding upon the struggle of architectural education to escape the influence of modernist, cognitivist epistemologies, (Till, 2005; Webster, 2008) principally David Kolb’s (1984) theory of experiential learning and Donald Schön’s (1983) notion of the reflective practitioner. This paper, instead, brings into play Henry Giroux’s concept of a Border Pedagogy as a site of resistance in education. Giroux, an American critical theorist and pedagogue introduced this pedagogical viewpoint directly to our discipline in a 1991 paper in the Journal of Architectural Education that has since been widely overlooked by our discipline. [2]

It is hoped that this paper will contribute to the issues surrounding the transformation of architectural pedagogy and practice that is ‘on the edge’ while also building a critique of pedagogical positions that are peripheral to mainstream architectural education. This epistemological shift could be illustrated by a continuum of postmodernist thought, with extreme postmodernists at one end and moderate postmodernists at the other (Best and Kellner, 1997). This is the difference between positing that there has been been a complete break between Modernist theory and Postmodernist theory, and suggesting that there has instead been a more nuanced and complex Postmodern turn. Giroux’s project of developing a hybrid pedagogy that draws on both Modernist and Postmodernist theory places his work clearly at that moderate end of the continuum of postmodernist theory. Whereas European (including predominantly French) discourses were marked by a sense of defeat following the failure of the events of May ’68 to contribute to lasting change in European thought, North American discourses appear to have been seeded in a more positive intellectual milieu. The language of Giroux and other critical pedagogues is, therefore, one of hope and possibility.

This paper also develops a position that practice, pedagogy, and research form an inter-dependent triumvirate, and seeks to speak to all three of those component parts. By practicing, teaching and researching architecture, it is argued that architectural educators (unlike many other disciplines in the university) may be in a privileged position of being able to see how these three acts can intersect. This paper proposes that in their simulation or interpretation of architectural practice – namely the provision of architectural services to a client – that live projects are extremely valuable sites in which to interrogate the role of pedagogy. If pedagogy is understood as “the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept,” [3]

 it could be argued that pedagogy is not only inter-connected and inter-dependent on its fellows in a triumvirate of practice, pedagogy and research, but that it may be considered as an intermediary between practice and research, and that it can release the potential of both. In the words of Paulo Freire, it can be argued that we are all ‘unfinished’ (Freire, 1996). If we never stop learning, therefore, it could be argued that we should regard pedagogy not as an isolated theory relevant only to formal periods of education, but an opportunity to interrogate our daily practice and research.

This paper begins by clearly articulating the realities of the relationship between the theory of education and practice of education, both within and outside our own discipline. The relocation of architectural education – Crinson and Lubbock (1994) suggest that this is part of a wider project of professionalisation for the discipline – has only been completed relatively recently. The majority of people involved in the frontline delivery of architectural education are drawn primarily from architectural practice rather than (as is the case in many other disciplines) academia. Helena Webster (2008) describes this as the way in which the spaces, tools and methods of architectural apprenticeship in practice were replicated in the educational setting of the university (p. 64). The fact that architecture is first and foremost envisaged as a professional training is reflected not only by the intent of its curricula (shaped in no small way in this country by the validation joint criteria of the RIBA and ARB) but by the overwhelming tradition for its educators to be drawn primarily from practice rather than academia. Webster (2004, p. 4) has gone so far as to suggest that approximately 60% of architectural educators are part or full time practitioners. However, this paper does not seek to criticise architectural education for being pedagogical under-developed. Interviewed in 2006, Giroux described a qualification to the poor understanding of the relevance of pedagogical theory to teachers, namely that many teachers “often find themselves in places where time is such a deprivation that it becomes [difficult] to really think about what role theory might play in their lives.” (Giroux, 2006a) While invoking a theorist who has written or co-written 47 books, 320 articles, 186 chapters and held several prominent chairs and professorships of education, it’s important to emphasise that like many pedagogues, Giroux began his theoretical project with a desire to better understand an intuitive pedagogical act. Born in 1943 in Providence, Rhode Island, Giroux started working as a high school teacher in the early sixties. He describes the friction between himself and his school principal following his decision to re-arrange “a very rigid, militaristic, utterly barren sterile” classroom into a circle (Giroux, 2006a). Demanded by his principal to explain his changes, Giroux reflected: “I didn’t have the language to justify it. I felt it was right, but I couldn’t really talk about it in a way that was convincing.” (ibid) Pedagogues will appreciate that sometimes the most important actions that educators take in the classroom, lecture hall or design studio are instinctive. They may not know immediately why they do them, or even why they’re important, but they feel right, and they can only understand them by doing them first and reflecting, theorising and critiquing them afterwards. Just as in practice, just as in research, the first moves a teacher makes are often instinctive. In order to frame, reflect upon, theorise, justify and critique those moves, designers, researchers and teachers need to discover a language, especially at a time of diminishing resources in higher education.

There are five thematic projects in Giroux’s writing (Giroux, 2006b; Kincheloe, 2008): the sociology of education, democracy and education, cultural studies, the “war against youth”, and the politics of higher education. Although there is much of value to architectural educators across all these periods, this paper focuses on the period in which Giroux focused on cultural studies, namely around his book Border Crossings, considering architecture educators, architecture students and architects themselves as cultural workers. πThrough his notion of Border Pedagogy (Giroux, 2006b, 2005, 1992, 1991a, 1991b, 1991c) Giroux proposed that existing theories of critical pedagogy could be reinterpreted by combining the best insights of both Modernist and Postmodernist theory (rather than settling in either one theoretical camp or the other) and that Border Pedagogy would enable students “to engage knowledge as border-crossers, as persons moving in and out of borders constructed around co-ordinates of difference and power.” (1991a:72) By ‘de-centering’ education, Giroux proposed that “critical pedagogy can reconstitute itself in terms that are both transformative and emancipatory” (p.72), suggesting a reinterpretation of critical pedagogy that “equates learning with the creation of critical rather than merely good citizens.” (2006b:50). The aim of this paper is to suggest that is it through live projects that we can begin to formulate possible ‘Border Pedagogies’ in architectural education. In engaging students with communities outside the academic environment, this paper asks what is it to go away from the centre, towards the edge, or towards the periphery of architectural education practices? How can live projects allow us to both test the possibilities of architectural education, and simultaneously prepare our students to engage with knowledge and practice as confident yet sensitive crossers of the borders that they will encounter in their own future practice?

Notes

[1] As opposed to the British procurement method.

[2] A reverse citation search for the paper on Google Scholar lists only eleven references to the paper in more than twenty years.

[3] Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford University Press. http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/pedagogy (accessed June 19, 2011).

References

All references may be found in the Bibliography.

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Initiating Architecture: call for participation

A call for participation came in tonight from my good friend and colleague Anna Holder at the University of Sheffield. For her ongoing doctoral research she’s “exploring architectural projects with ‘social’ or ‘public interest’ motivations: projects in which the designer aims to influence or serve a wider community and through the development on an architectural project, critically engages with agendas of socio-economic change.” Anna writes:

I’m currently compiling a long-list of case study projects for my doctoral research project ‘Initiating Architecture’, and I would love to hear any ideas you might have for UK projects that might be interesting for me to look at, or people you think I should try to talk to.

Initiating Architecture’ is a three year research project carried out at the University of Sheffield and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, investigating the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of transforming the built environment to address everyone’s needs and rights. The main aim of the research is to better understand the processes, actions and knowledge involved in making social or public interest architecture, through exploring in detail how such projects are initiated. 

The focus of the research is the ‘initiating’ process – how a project moves from collection of needs, an idea, or a funding initiative through to a brief and the development of strategy to build. It considers the values and motivations behind transformative projects, and how power and knowledge is used in the early stages of creating buildings or spatial projects, exploring the power and agency of architectural practitioners, clients, building contractors, local authorities and building users to affect change in the built environment.

If you’d like to take part in the research, or if you would like to suggest a possible project or participant to be included in the study, you can contact Anna via her website: initiatingarchitecture.wordpress.com

 

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Tough Times

RIBA Library, Portland Place, London. Photo: Nick Garrod

Tomorrow afternoon, the Education team of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) will be contacting thirty students of architecture who have been selected to attend the following event:

Tough Times RIBA Student Forum
Tuesday 21 June: 18.00-21.00 at RIBA, London

Establishing a shared understanding of how the architectural community can best support architecture students in tough times. 

This unique forum is open to students from UK schools of architecture. It will be chaired by Niall McLaughlin and give you the chance to share your thoughts with RIBA staff, practitioners and students from other schools. 

You will hear about some of RIBA’s recent initiatives and have the opportunity to:

• Help consider future policies to improve pay and conditions in practice
• Debate employment options and alternative career paths for graduates
• Discuss how to survive architectural education in a new era of university financing 

The forum is open to thirty students, ideally representing a range of architecture schools and students at different stages of study. As capacity is limited, at this stage we cannot promise a place to every applicant. If you secure a place we will reimburse UK travel expenses (second class, advance booking on set tickets). 

The forum was promoted on RIBA Education’s Facebook stream earlier this month and was covered briefly in Friday’s Building Design. The subsequent “conversation” amongst online readers of the article (of varying shades of anonymity) reveals some of the usual perspectives on the relationship between the RIBA and architectural education today.

“Why should firms contribute to UK architectural education if it is no use to practices?”

“The future of a the profession and of the lives of all of its members requires a sense of SHARED responsibility. These young architects are the FUTURE of our profession – something that all of us surely want to INVEST in.”

“It appears to me (a 26 year old currently studying for part 3) that the current process of obtaining an architectural education is woefully removed from the wants and needs of modern architectural practice.”

“Let’s hope that the selection considers students from at least ALL the UK schools of architecture and not just the usual ones.”

For my part, I’ve emailed the RIBA with an expression of interest, and I fully expect not to be invited. I may be (as far as I know) the only person in the UK writing a PhD on architectural education at the moment, but I expect the RIBA to prioritise the very limited number of just thirty places to just students on taught courses. The attitude of the RIBA towards students of architecture – both through the validation procedures that accredit UK schools of architecture every four years, and events such as these – is that traditional architectural practice in a commercial environment is the principle aspiration for everyone. And yet anecdotal evidence and fag packet calculations of recent RIBA statistics would suggest that as many as two thirds of all students who commence RIBA Part I (undergraduate) studies in architecture never complete Part III (professional examination that follows the postgraduate degree or diploma and a minimum period post practice-based experience).

While it is a recurring feature of architectural education to call for its reinvention, the difference between previous upheavals and those of today is that they’re now out of the control of the profession or academe.

Architecture has always been expensive to study. Now, however, the stable little ecosystem of five years in university and two years in practice has been received a blinding broadside by the sudden reality of £9,000 p.a. tuition fees. While the interface between academe and profession adapted begrudgingly when the Labour government first introduced tuition fees, the disrespect between the two has suddenly been brought into sharp relief.

Whereas foundation level doctors in the UK (who will by the end of their education have spent the same amount of time at university as architects) earn a starting salary of between £22,000 and almost £28,000, a Part I graduate (after three years of study) is lucky to earn £20,000 (graduating in 2004, I started on £10,000 pre-tax). After Part III, an architect can expect £30,000 – £34,000, whereas a newly qualified GP can start on a salary of well over £50,000. If a medical student chooses to train as a consultant, they can expect to earn in excess of £70,000. (Sources: RIBA and NHS)

While few architects save lives in their day to day line of business, because of the RIBA Validation criteria and the established system of architectural education in this country, both they and doctors have to spend lengthy periods at university. And now that a three year degree at pretty much every self respecting university costs £27,000 before living and ancillary costs, the maths doesn’t add up for architecture.

As those selected comments on the BD article above show, students are reluctant to spend such a huge sum of money without better employment prospects or remuneration, and employers are reluctant to pay their graduates more without education becoming demonstrably more vocational. A stubborn rump of practicing architects expect graduates to be ready for professional practice, even though as little as one third of graduates ever take up a career in the profession.

Neither the RIBA, nor the schools of architecture, nor the profession itself, can do anything to reverse the Conservative-led government’s decision to charge (and the Liberal Democrat’s failure to obstruct) university tuition fees of £9,000 per annum. It is, therefore, up to practitioners, educators and the RIBA to negotiate a future for architectural education and practice.

The RIBA are to be congratulated for the apparently genuine intent to see a diversity of students represented at the forthcoming Tough Times forum. Reimbursing travel costs is also to be commended, especially for those students selected to represent schools far from London. However, given the RIBA’s diversity of spacious venues, it’s regrettable that only a small number of students can attend. While I appreciate the venues are commercially available to others and are likely booked up, it’s a shame that the strategic decision wasn’t taken to open the event to a wider number of delegates. If RIBA funds are too tight to reimburse all attendees, then some students, like myself or those studying in London, could have attended without necessarily claiming travel costs. Thirty travel bursaries could then have been provided for those in genuine financial need.

I hope to see you at Tough Times. But then I doubt I’ll be invited.

Postscript, 24 hours later: I’ve been invited to attend. Egg, face, etc.

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Engaged and Enraged: in the absence of more coherent notes…

On Friday 1 April (well into the evening, so no foolin’ involved) a lively audience of about forty to fifty architects, academics, students and interested others convened in the office of Public Works in Hackney, East London, to listen to eight trigger papers and to discuss the state of architectural education in this country today. This was Friday Session No. 45: Engaged and Enraged.

The event was convened by Public Works and (full disclosure: my supervisor) Prof. Ruth Morrow of QUB as an opportunity to talk openly and frankly in a non-academic and non-institutional environment about architectural education. Speaking were Helena Webster, Bethany Wells, Alex Warnock-Smith & Elena Pascolo, Colin Priest, Trenton Oldfield, Ro Spankie, Ruth Morrow and Torange Khonsari.

Feeling an opportunity to be all cutting-edge-and-the-like, I experimented with some live social meeja, and attempted to summarise and live stream the event via Twitter. As a result, I wasn’t able to keep detailed notes of what caught my attention, just little snapshots from throughout the evening. It was something of an education to try and surmise the opinions and positions of so many speakers, and it was nigh-on impossible to keep up with the open debate from the floor.

So while this is by no means a complete or adequate recording of the evening’s event, I did at least want to collate in chronological (as opposed to Twitter’s usual anti-chronological) order my tweets from the evening. With a few redactions (namely my repeated disclaimer that I was responsible for interpreting, transcribing and condensing what was being spoken), here’s the evening in no more than 140 characters at a time, parsed from my Twitter stream.

  • Depending how much beer I consume I will attempt to tweet some of the proceedings from Public Works’ Friday Session http://bit.ly/gU5y1Z
  • #PublicWorks #FridaySession ‘Engaged and Enraged’ getting under way now. Latecomers welcome, 1-5 Vyner Street, London E2
  • http://twitpic.com/4frjhu #PublicWorks #FridaySession
  • Good news, there’s soup. Bubbling away as we begin …
  • Speaking: Helena Webster, Bethany Wells, Alex Warnock-Smith & Elena Pascolo, Colin Priest, Trenton Oldfield…
  • … Ro Spankie, Ruth Morrow, Torange Khonsari. Andreas Lang introducing the concept and history of Friday Sessions.
  • Lang: Everyone speaking tonight involved in and somehow frustrated by teaching.
  • Lang: Tonight an opportunity for an informal discussion about architectural education, initiated by Ruth Morrow.
  • http://twitpic.com/4frmzp http://twitpic.com/4frnh2
  • Warnock-Smith: teaching architecture is doing architecture.
  • Warnock-Smith: at worst, architectural education the deliverance of finite and calculable skills.
  • Warnock-Smith: trying to reduce the chance of “inevitability” in teaching architecture. Not knowing what you’ll get out of a project.
  • Webster: “I have all the symbolic capital that makes me a pillar of the establishment. However…”
  • Webster drawing parallels with the training of soldiers (marching, singing, casting off old self) with architectural education.
  • Webster: formal education can escape being a tool of those in power.
  • Webster: all education a form of symbolic violence. Creating architects outside the system could subvert this act of violence.
  • I’m tweeting from #PublicWorks#FridaySession on architectural education. Nine speakers speaking for 5 minutes each. Next up Colin Priest
  • Priest: four years of live project experience started with an intervention for Hungerford Bridge that was vetoed by South Bank authorities.
  • Priest: live projects take students out of the chain of authority. Students take control. Status quo inst’l authority is removed.
  • From the floor: the universities, not the architectural profession (RIBA/ARB) should be determining how we teach and research architecture.
  • From the floor (cont): RIBA/ARB should get out of architectural education.
  • Next up: Ruth Morrow, QUB
  • Morrow: Once asked “how did you get to be a professor of architecture?” Morrow: “Wrong place, wrong time.”
  • Morrow: Practising architecture in Belfast makes you really question what we [ architects ] are here to do.
  • Morrow: all the interesting people I studied with dropped out by the end of architectural education.
  • Morrow: 72% of all people who start architectural education do not complete RIBA Part III.
  • Morrow: Things about architecture I don’t accept: its traditions; its trad’l forms of practice; its seriousness; …
  • … its inability to explain its value; its refusal to relate to money; ARB/RIBA ringfencing themselves to be stronger; …
  • … notion of “retreat” to the studio; the refusal to accept responsibility for fabrication.
  • Morrow: accept and want permeability of arch’l practice; places to debate; an idea of how to manage critique.
  • Next up: Torange Khonsari. “T-Orange” for those writing notes.
  • Torange Khonsari http://twitpic.com/4fs59s
  • Khonsari: model of Taliesin much more interesting than the work produced
  • Khonsari: Sense of collectivity at Taliesin School expressed through growing of vegetables, eating together, building stuff.
  • Khonsari: live projects are not about the master architect teaching the intern, but about the collective.

  • Khonsari: Second example the Really Free School. “Education can be re-imagined… knowledge a currency everyone can afford to trade.”
  • Khonsari: referencing http://reallyfreeschool.org/
  • Khonsari: can postgraduate architecture become a non-institutional platform where different practices come together to teach?
  • Khonsari: arch’l edu. does not need to be bound to a place. It can be nomatic and the students travel to different projects to learn.
  • Khonsari: conceiving architecture students as [sic] journeymen.
  • Khonsari: can there be a hybrid model between residencies and apprenticeship?
  • Khonsari: in Iran students are called those who seek knowledge, not those who are given knowledge. Study is about the seeking of knowledge.
  • Khonsari: how do we certify this? Perhaps the UN universities scheme.
  • Khonsari: the space where collective discussions happen can replace the crit space. Skype? Internet? Community centres?
  • Brief break in the tweets while I make a point to the floor…
  • I’m tweeting from #PublicWorks#FridaySession on architectural education. Nine speakers speaking for 5 minutes each.http://bit.ly/emf9Zp
  • Morrow: referencing Leslie Kanes Weisman’s Women’s School of Planning and Architecture (1974-1981) http://bit.ly/dG4h10
  • Student, speaking from the floor: learnt more about self and direction from a one week live project than in rest of course.
  • Same student: “studying outside the school is a lot better.”
  • From the floor: beautiful drawings are so time consuming we struggle to escape the school of architecture.
  • Lang: I am struggling with the use of the word “we” tonight [ that one is partially directed at my earlier point... noted ]
  • Priest: Careful of sweeping statements. It is possible to have an establishment that allows us to engage more.
  • I’m tweeting from #PublicWorks#FridaySession on architectural education. Next up: Bethany Wells, architecture student at RCA.

  • Wells: so much of secondary and tertiary education focused on the neoliberal structure of output, output, output.
  • Wells: proposing interested architecture students pool fees into learning cooperative. Tuition fees go directly to funding engagement.
  • Wells: we [students] should walk with our feet and talk with our money.
  • From the floor: RIBA/ARB criteria don’t make any mention of talking to people. So I re-wrote them for my thesis project.
  • Morrow: ARB/RIBA criteria are put out to consultation every few years. Just not to anyone outside the architectural profession.
  • From the floor: open school model in Denmark that allows students to seek own courses. Took c. decade to be accepted for university entry.
  • From the floor: there is a lack of choice in education. How good your education is depends on luck.
  • Lang: I miscounted. Only 8 speakers, not 9. Proposing we have the remaining 2, then soup. Whoop.
  • Next up: Ro Spankie. All speaker profiles linked here: http://bit.ly/emf9Zp
  • Spankie: architects always rattle the cage, but never let anyone in.
  • Spankie: student decides future education c. age 18 using A-level grades. Not based on experience of subject.
  • Spankie: lots of non-architects create good architecture. Why are we so obsessed on how we train architects?
  • Julia Dwyer is co-speaking with Jo Spankie. Why are parallel disciplines that make space considered peripheral to architecture & architects?

  • Dwyer: if some is to be an architect, what is it that they should study.
  • Next up: Trenton Oldfield. All speaker profiles linked here:http://bit.ly/emf9Zp
  • Oldfield: referencing project / book: http://www.criticalcities.net/
  • Oldfield: seeking to create environment to live in continuous critical condition. Approached the brief this way.
  • Oldfield: the urgency and gender mix of this session is really unusual for a discussion about architectural education.
  • Oldfield: reminded of regeneration conference when he tweeted “I’m at the death of a profession.” Architectural education is collapsing.
  • Lang: I find that quite comforting.
  • Oldfield: who are we? what are we meant to be doing? Reminds me of the deep irrelevance of the Royal Family. Trying to be useful, important.
  • Oldfield: both architects / architecture and Royal Family are completely irrelevant.
  • Morrow: but architecture is what architects make it.
  • Trenton Oldfield speaking: http://twitpic.com/4fsndm
  • Oldfield: a parallel between architectural education and Libya. Is this system change or regime change? There is nothing deeply radical here
  • Oldfield: it is fair and legitimate to want change in architectural education. But it’s not going to revive a dying system.
  • Oldfield: a Royal Wedding can’t revitalize the monarchy.
  • Oldfield: so who is going to resign? Who is prepared to work for free? Who went on strike? Who marched? Who educates their kids privately?
  • Oldfield: The future of architecture education has already been discussed. It’ll be discussed again and again. So much work that needs doing
  • Oldfield: it’s very easy for well educated, well connect people to do very good work. Doesn’t address the real issues.
  • Oldfield: everyone in this room can do something to resolve the unbelievably bad conditions in which people live.
  • Oldfield: now come at me with your critique.
  • Priest: need to open up debate about how institutions can change, we can never get rid of them. Could they be different, with new relations?
  • From the floor: we live in a fantasy world of ‘architectural education’. This is a world we created. We work hard, but no-one’s interested.
  • From floor (same speaker): we are too inward looking, inward speaking.
  • From the floor: release the pressure. I am more optimistic. Don’t try and die for the cause. Discussion must be more positive.
  • From the floor: “It’s too easy to sit down in the corner and cry.”

  • Morrow: a saying in my house – “if you’re in the shit, learn to love shit”
  • Morrow: that’s my tactic. It as brave a tactic as walking way or resigning.
  • From the floor: we are really really bad as a profession at explaining what we do, how we do it and why.
  • From the floor: we need to be better, clearer, at explaining what it is we do. Other professions are better than us at doing this.
  • Khonsari: I don’t understand why we as a profession still protect the term ‘architect’
  • From the floor: that protection is to protect the consumer, not the architect.
  • I’m tweeting from #PublicWorks#FridaySession on architectural education. Eight speakers on architectural educationhttp://bit.ly/emf9Zp
  • Lang: education should be a political issue about how we empower ourselves. I left behind the middle class hobby of architecture.
  • OK, that’s a wrap. I can’t keep up with the developing discussion now that the floor has opened up.

More photos in my Flickr photoset from the evening.

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Live Projects 2011: a colloquium

On 25 March we had the pleasure of welcoming some twenty-five delegates from thirteen schools of architecture across Britain and Ireland to Live Projects 2011, a colloquium at Queen’s University Belfast. With the  support and guidance of our steering committee partners (Anne Markey of London Metropolitan University and Rosie Parnell of the University of Sheffield) Ruth Morrow and I had received significant financial support from the Centre for Education in the Built Environment (CEBE) in the form of an Innovative Projects in Learning and Teaching grant to make the event possible.

The intent of the colloquium was to build upon research into live projects in architectural education currently being undertaken at QUB, inviting participation from live project practitioners and academics from across Britain and Ireland through the presentation and discussion of live project practice and research. On the morning of the one day event we were delighted to host seven excellent presentations.

Martin Andrews and Francis Graves of Portsmouth School of Architecture spoke first, co-presenting Live Projects at the Portsmouth School of Architecture: A Critical Review, which provided an excellent insight into the work of the students and project office at that school. It also asked with some aspiration what role project offices might have at a city-wide level. Sandra Denicke-Polcher of London Metropolitan University had been due to present a review (co-written with Torange Khonsari) of the live projects programme at that school, but was delayed en route to the airport and missed her flight. With some last minute jimmying we were able to improvise a Skype connection and Sandra presented remotely, discussing a live project programme that explicitly seeks to contradict and interrogate some of the very assessment criteria that the ARB and RIBA apply to schools of architecture. Sandra spoke with some insight about how live projects could be used to extend the traditional role of the architect towards a more positive contribution to society.

Speaking with the background of another school that now has more than decade’s worth of experience in live projects, Carolyn Butterworth presented Liveness: building on 13 years of Live Projects at the University of Sheffield. Carolyn placed participation at the heart of live project teaching and learning, and therefore used it as the key to developing a theory and critical framework for live projects. Carolyn went on to explore the work of Philip Auslander’s theories of performance to suggest that live or real projects offer a place for criticality not located in the real world. Live art was also suggested as a framing device in which we can experiment with alternative practices.

After a brief pause for refreshments, Prof. Murray Fraser introduced Yara Sharif, both from the University of Westminster, to describe the ‘Palestine Regeneration Team’ (PART), a co-operation with RIWAQ. This area is the focus of Yara’s doctoral research, and presented a series of live interventions in a highly charged political landscape.

Jane Anderson of Oxford Brookes University presented a paper entitled OB1 LIVE: an Agent for Architectural Education and Practice (co-written with Oxford Brookes colleague Colin Priest) that described live project activities in first year of architecture and interior architecture at their school. Anderson and Priest proposed John Hejduk’s nine-square problem as a means of introducing architectural practice to early students, one that could “teach students to imagine and act simultaneously.”

Rachel Sara, of the University of the West of England, presented Learning from Life – exploring the potential of live projects in higher education, locating live projects between the either/or binaries of education, such as theory/practice, designing/making, and student/professional. It also challenged the preconception of study as an isolated singular activity as opposed to work as being a collective and social activity. Finally of the morning papers, Alan Chandler of the University of East London spoke about risk in architectural education and practice, notably how RIBA Part III qualification measures success based on the avoidance of risk. Alan suggested that the risk assessment could become a creative tool.

The morning concluded with an open discussion between the speakers and the delegates of the floor.

After lunch I had the (nervous) pleasure of presenting some of my own research to the delegates, before Rosie Parnell took the helm and we divided into focused groups for a workshop session to develop the themes of the morning. These centered on the largest or most contentious branches of a mindmap that was drawn live on screen (click on the image for larger image).

These workshop groups developed themes that, along with some of the papers presented in the morning, will be discussed at greater length in a forthcoming special themed issue of the Journal of Education in the Built Environment (JEBE) which will disseminate the proceedings of Live Projects 2011.

The day closed with presentation from invited keynote speaker Professor Ashraf Salama of Qatar University. Prior to his appointment at Qatar, Ashraf was briefly my second supervisor, and we were delighted to welcome him back to Belfast to present them possible avenues for the theorising of live projects. Professor Salama is an acknowledged and widely published expert on the field of architectural education, and he was able to conclude the day with some very helpful directions to existing theoretical frameworks that might inform those educators who currently or aspire to use live projects in architectural education.

We are especially grateful to Qatar University for enabling Prof. Salama to attend Live Projects 2011. Sincere thanks are due to all our delegates for coming to Belfast and participating with such interest and engagement, especially those who presented such concise and well developed papers. We look forward to continuing our relationship with them as we work towards the themed issue of JEBE.

A longer and more detailed report of the colloquium will be submitted in due course to CEBE, and will be available for download.

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Street Society 2011: call for proposals

In addition to the forthcoming Live Projects 2011 colloquium (of which you’re probably bored of reading by now), Belfast readers from within and outwith the architectural community may be interested to hear about the ongoing call for participation in the 2011 Street Society 2011 (pdf, text below). This will be the second year we’ve run this one week vertical live project between our first and fifth year students of architecture. We’re on the lookout for potential clients (community groups, organisations, charities etc) who would be interested in working with our students for one week in March.

CALL FOR PROPOSALS:
the Street Society is a one- week design research office.

It brings together first year students from both the undergraduate BSc Architecture and the Masters in Architecture course in the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering at QUB, to work on a range of projects for clients.

It will run between Monday 7th and Friday 11th March 2011.

The Street Society is now looking for potential clients – external organisations, architects, built environment professionals, community organizations, charitable bodies etc. Potential clients will have a question that architectural students can help to answer; a design problem; a site to evaluate; a building, material, or construction process to investigate, document, or better understand.

Possible projects might include:

  • design proposals
  • consultations
  • exhibitions
  • installations
  • historical / theoretical research
  • research piloting
  • temporary constructions
  • material exploration
  • curated spatial events
  • post-occupancy evaluations

The Street society will be made up of 10-12 groups with a mix of undergraduate and postgraduate students in each. The postgraduate students will act as project managers and as contacts for each client.
If you are interested in submitting a project proposal for one of the offices of The Street Society please forward a 300 word description to:

…no later than 12.00 midday, Wednesday 2 February 2011.

Project submissions will be reviewed and accepted on the basis of an overall coherence within the Street Society programme / aims and in terms of achievability of outcome within the five day time frame.

Applicants will be notified of their inclusion no later than Friday 11 February, and should be available to attend preparatory meetings and consultations on Friday 4 March.

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Common Grounds 2011: four days to go

I’m very excited to that Common Grounds: exploring methodologies for research within or research about architecture and the built environment is very nearly upon us.

Last year Anna Holder and I caught up at symposium in Manchester and bemoaned the trials and tribulations of all matters methodological in our PhD studies. So we decided to do something about it that would be proactive and fun. The result is this, a two day winter colloquium for post-graduate students and early career researchers on methodologies for researching architecture and the built environment. It’ll be happeningin the Anwyl Room at St. Deiniolʼs Library, Clwyd on Friday 14 & Saturday 15 January 2011. Common Grounds proposes a weekend away from the university to present, discuss and constructively critique research-in-progress.

The intent of Common Grounds is to nurture an informal student-led research colloquium dedicated to that most tricky aspect of research: method. It’s been our experience of architectural education that too many students of architecture avoid or consciously postpone any engagement of technical, structural or detailed design in their studio projects. It’s a fear of the unknown, the hard-to-grasp unknown skills that are best learnt through real experience. In our PhDs, we’ve had precious little structured introduction or discussion of actual research method and methodology.

The deadline for abstracts is long gone, but perhaps if you missed it or haven’t found out about the event until now, there might be a chance we can squeeze you in. Head to the Common Grounds webpage and drop us an email. Accommodation at the library is now limited, but we hope we can see you there.

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About the project

learning architecture is an academic blog of James Benedict Brown, previously a doctoral candidate in architectural pedagogy at the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering at Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland. James passed his viva in September 2012 and graduated the following December.


About the author

James Benedict Brown has worked and studied in England, Northern Ireland, France and Canada. Following the completion of his PhD at QUB, he was appointed Lecturer in Architecture at Norwich University of the Arts. A short bio is here.


About the supervisors

The project is supervised by Prof. Ruth Morrow and Keith McAllister. Prior to his appointment at Qatar University in 2009, Prof. Ashraf Salama also supervised the project.


Bibliography

Click here for the bibliography to date.


Words

Click here for a selection of peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed writing.


Glossary

Click here for a glossary-in-progress of key terms used in the project.


Conference diary

Conferences and seminars of interest to the project.


Note

All images are used for illustrative purposes only, and the copyright remains with the artist and/or creator. Please contact me if I have misappropriated an image or incorrectly credited it.


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