learning architecture


a PhD in live projects and architectural education

Touring Britain’s schools of architecture in 1961


Although I don’t want to step on the toes of Steve Parnell and his Back Issues column in the Architects Journal, it’s difficult not to share some pages from these 1961 issues of Architect and Building News, in which correspondent John Smith made monthly contributions examining the state of affairs in eleven of Britain’s schools of architecture. I came to the article on Birmingham School of Architecture following a specific reference about the ‘conglomerates’ and live projects that were established there in the nineteen-forties. However, the rest of the series has been a revealing insight into the state of British architectural education in the early sixties. As Steve himself wrote in one of his columns. (AJ 17.7.2008) ‘it’s as easy to complain about the state of architectural education today as it is difficult to comprehend quite how awful it was 50 years ago.’


Despite Birmingham’s progressive approach the architectural education (students designed and supervised, if not actually built, various small projects from village halls to rows of terraced houses), Smith can’t help noting that ‘although the school’s museum and lavatories possess a certain romantic charm, the studios and offices [pictured above] by comparison seem dreary places in which to work, with ancient benches and plan chests and high chin-resting window cills.’


Then again, Canterbury (above) didn’t seem to be too well endowed with buildings either.


And evidently dissatisfied with their city, these tutors and students (above) were eagerly planning a complete razing and reconstruction of Cardiff…


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