learning architecture

Icon

a PhD in live projects and architectural education

Gaunt and opinionated

There’s a little something (subscription req’d)  from me in today’s Building Design on the question of whether architecture should be taught in secondary schools. This follows the appointment of Classic FM’s M.D. by the coalition government to lead a review of cultural education in secondary education. I tried to trace where the proposal for teaching architecture in schools actually came from, because neither Ed Vaizey nor Michael Gove appear to have explicitly floated the idea in launching a review into cultural education in secondary schools, but it was an interesting opportunity to revisit the idea.

On a complete tangent, this is actually my first contribution to the opinion pages of BD, so I my words now necessitate a headshot. Ever the dutiful son, I emailed the link to my family, but since they’re not subscribers the only response of note that came back was that I’m looking a bit gaunt.

Will remember to submit under pseudo-anonymity in future…

Advertisements

Filed under: blog, , , , , , , ,

Video: Ken Robinson – Changing Educational Paradigms

By now you will, of course, have seen one of Ken Robinson’s TED talks on education and creativity. You might not, however, have seen this one, delivered to the RSA last year, and beautifully animated by Cognitive Media.

It’s good to have people like Ken Robinson out there talking about the things he talks about. I never thought I would become interested in education, but I am. It’s too important and fascinating for me not to be.

Filed under: blog, , , , , ,

I also write about buildings

Having gone to some length to persuade the editors of a certain architecture periodical that (as a Glasgow/Belfast based correspondent) I’m ideally placed to write on new buildings in Scotland and Northern Ireland, it turned out that my trip to the Isle of Skye began in London. After an excellent evening in the company of Public Works and others for Engaged and Enraged, it was time to head north.

Really north.

Four hundred miles by train, then another two hundred or so by car and ferry, on assignment to report on some fascinating new houses on the Isle of Skye by Dualchas. More on that in your favourite architectural weekly in the next couple of months.

Filed under: blog, , , , , ,

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.

Filed under: blog, , , , , , , , ,

The Belfast Lyric Theatre

We’re less than a month away from the long awaited re-opening of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. Last Thursday afternoon I had a quick peak at the new complex, designed by O’Donnell and Tuomey. It wasn’t possible to go far into the new building, what with it still being a building site in some places and rehearsals apparently being in progress in the foyer for the re-opening celebrations.

Although I’m guarding some reservations about the quality of the brickwork on some parts of the façade, it is a fantastically sophisticated form – O’Donnell and Tuomey have, as one colleague put it to me, really nailed the problem of negotiating such a large set of volumes into what is basically a residential neighbourhood of small terraced houses. I’m excited for not only the opening of this fantastic new building, but also the exciting programme of shows and events that’s been lined up.

You can see some more photographs from my afternoon look-see over on Flickr.

Filed under: blog, , , ,

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.

Filed under: blog, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.


Visitors

  • 84,844 hits