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a PhD in live projects and architectural education

American apparel: AIAS Forum t-shirts

Perhaps a key cultural indicator? At the AIAS Forum (described below) one afternoon, architecture students from around the country presented the t-shirts they had designed and printed to raise money for their AIAS chapters. And while there were some exceptions, I couldn’t help noticing a pattern emerging.

In their 1996 report to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Ernest Boyer and Lee Mitgang drew on an extensive survey of students, faculty and practising architects to argue that schools of architecture should be, amongst other things:

…learning communities – places where students are supported, not put on trial, where communication is clear and mutually respectful, where all groups are actively sought out, and where the community regularly celebrates itself.

I am of a generation that questions the Beaux Arts method of inculcating students with a certain patten of behaviour – a kind of academic hazing, if you will. Architecture has been a problematic discipline to open up to its true diverse and inclusive potential, especially as for so long its design studio overwhelmed curricula with its sprawling time  requirements and overwhelmed students with its competitive structures of work and judgement. But in that same report, Boyer and Mitgang noticed that despite a density of reasoned critique, many architecture students were inclined to defend such aggressive and confrontational educational rituals as the solo student presenting to a design jury of invited critics.

A number of architecture students and graduates we met agreed that architecture should be a hardening experience. As one student at a West Coast campus told us: “A value of it being so rigorous and taking so much commitment is that you leave with a commitment to the field.”

It’s hard to tell from the cross section of architecture students at the AIAS Forum, but I sensed a continued affection for the macho culture of architectural education. Perhaps it was most evident in the t-shirts on sale. Is it representative of every student and every school? I doubt it, but it was something that seemed somewhat out of step with the progressive and inclusive culture of architectural education advanced by the AIAS in its broader activities and publications.

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One Response

  1. david says:

    Where can I buy the shirt with the drafting table and the text “bed” under it? I LOVE that shirt but can’t find it ANYWHERE?

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