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a PhD in live projects and architectural education

New: the Live Projects Network

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Announced last year, and now live with a growing number of projects in its database is the Live Projects Network. Managed by Jane Anderson & Colin Priest at Oxford Brookes University, host of last year’s Architecture Live Projects International Symposium, the website seeks build and strengthen relationships between institutions running live projects. Most compellingly, it allows users to filter live projects from the database according to a range of factors, such as client type, group size, funding model etc.

Importantly, given the various definitions of the live project I encountered during my research, the Live Projects Network puts forward its own clear definition:

“A live project comprises the negotiation of a brief, timescale, budget and product between a client and an educational institution.”

If you have run a live project or are looking to run one, you can find the website at http://liveprojectsnetwork.org

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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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Call for participation: 2012 Street Society live project

The School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering (SPACE) at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) will be running its third annual Street Society live project for one week in March. We’re now actively looking for potential clients and projects located throughout Northern Ireland, ideally in rural locations. If you’re interested, or know someone or a group who might be, please ask them to contact my colleague Paul Bower (details below) by next Tuesday.

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 Queens University Belfast, to work on a range of projects for clients.

It will run between Monday 12th  Friday 16th March 2012.

The Street Society is now looking for potential clients – external organizations, architects, built environment professionals, community organizations, 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. 

This year the emphasis is shifting from the urban to the rural, and we are looking in particular for clients and projects that are in someway set, related to, respond to, or operate in the countryside of Northern Ireland.

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 pbower02 <–AT–> qub <-DOT-> ac <-DOT-> uk no later than 12.00 midday, Tuesday 21st February 2012.

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Call for participation: Common Grounds 2012 – On Site

Last year, with Anna Holder of the University of Sheffield, I helped to organise and curate a colloquium for postgraduate researchers entitled Common Grounds. This year, Common Grounds returns for a second event, to be hosted by the Sheffield Graduate Architectural Society and is being organised by Carolyn Butterworth and Adam Park. The call for participation went out this morning; you can find more information on the website.

Common Grounds: On Site

An open call for active participation in a postgraduate research colloquium.

20th – 21st April 2012, University of Sheffield School of Architecture

Common Grounds is an opportunity to collaborate with postgraduate students and other early-career researchers in exploring what it means to engage in situated/active spatial research, and what might be gained through a propositional or praxis-led research agenda. Researchers that actively engage on and with site, people and place are encouraged to apply from any ‘spatial’ discipline (including activists, architects, artists, geographers, performers, planners, sociologists, and others).

Please find further details and the full call at the colloquium website: http://exploringcommongrounds.wordpress.com/

Please forward to anyone else who may be interested in submitting!

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The road less taken

(Post updated to include a PDF of the AIARG programme)

Happy new year to all who kindly follow this blog. After a brief excursion to celebrate my fiancé’s thirtieth birthday somewhere warmer than the northern half of the UK (re: the photo, we did not turn right), I’m now back at my desk and knuckling down (minor administrative duties permitting) to the final three months of my PhD. I am extremely excited (if not a little bit nervous) to have received a tentatively positive response from a highly regarded academic who may be able to be external examiner. The intention is to submit my thesis for examination at the end of March, with a viva to follow sometime in the spring.

In the meantime, I’ll be presenting a paper tentatively entitled Negotiating pedagogies: developing a grounded theory of architectural education at the inaugural conference of the All Ireland Architectural Research Group (AIARG) at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 January. The conference costs just €50 for two days and more than thirty-five papers, plus a keynote from Adrian Forty. You can download the finalised programme from here. For more info, contact Brian Ward at DIT by email on: brian <–DOT–> ward <–AT–> dit <–DOT–> ie

Other activities will be posted here in due course. But for now… onwards with 2012.

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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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CFP: Live Projects Pedagogy International Symposium 2012

I got an email from Oxford Brookes University this week announcing the imminent launch of this call for participation. Following from our own very productive Live Projects 2011 colloquium at Queen’s University Belfast, it’s good to see more interest in the field and more events such as this to bring live project students and teachers together to talk pedagogy.

For more information, including a schedule and details about registration, see the website.

 

Symposium: Live Projects Pedagogy International Symposium 2012

Critical reflections on Live Projects with a view to co-creating a pedagogic best practice framework

Thursday 24th – Saturday 26th May 2012
Oxford Brookes University, Headington Hill Campus.

A three-day international symposium by and for live project educators, live-project community participants, live project students, practice architects involved in community co-design, University management involved in community partnership projects, and live project practitioners and participants from associated fields and disciplines.

Themes include:

Problem-based learning, community-engaged scholarship, co-design, peer-based learning, tacit knowledge, threshold concepts, practice-ready skills, professionalism and ethics, diversity, critical citizenship, education futures, deep and surface learning, live project methodologies and paradigms, architecture curriculum, assessment and validation.

Overview: Why do we need critical live architecture project pedagogy?

Benefits to clients

The recent economic downturn and ongoing restructuring of both the professional training and design practice management, signifies a tipping point in the way we currently teach and practice architecture. As a profession, architects are by definition tasked with serving the interests of the public. Yet many architects would argue that delivering upon this requirement is not without difficulty given the constraints of a sector focused triptych that prioritises time, quality and cost over human factors.

Benefits to the profession

Architecture practices have often voiced concerns that schools of architecture do not provide students with the right set of skills needed in practice. Schools often defend their teaching by emphasising the role of Universities in developing creative and aesthetic capabilities that will produce good designers and ultimately good buildings and spaces. This kind of teaching is usually delivered within a studio environment that presents students with fictional rather than ‘real time’ challenges considered to be more likely to produce visionary and creative design output.

Benefits to students

The majority of UK architecture students have no contact with clients or with the consultation process until after they graduate. ‘Live studio’ projects not only address this but they also enable students to gain practice-ready professional experience such as job running, as well as develop a sense of civic social engagement and gain an education that is aimed at nurturing tomorrow’s citizens for lives of consequence.

Benefits to Universities

As well as Universities, public sector organisations and charities are facing financial pressure upon their ability to deliver to their clients effectively. Although this presents huge challenges in terms of resources, this is also an opportunity to establish partnerships that provide enduring benefits by mobilising students, faculty, and neighbourhood organizations to work together to solve urban problems that revitalize the economy, generate jobs, and rebuild communities. In the USA, these partnerships are far more prevalent than in the UK. Known as Community University Partnerships, these ‘resource units’ that are often located on and off campus, provide effective, community-engaged scholarship for students from a range of disciplines. Based upon the success rate of these kinds of learning environments, UK Universities clearly have some catching up to do.

The knowledge gap

The principle aim of this symposium is to critically examine the learning value of live projects to students of architecture and to consider how they are attained and what their value is, particularly in terms of the students professional development and to the shaping of the profession as a whole.

During the symposium, live project ‘best practice’ will be critically defined in the interests of educators, students and schools alike. Subsequently, delegates will co-author a Live Project Pedagogy Charter, aimed at enabling Live Projects to be validated, academically accredited and formally integrated into mainstream architecture curriculum.

Format of Presentations

Paper sessions will consist of four presenters within each 90-minute session. Each session will be chaired. The session time will be divided equally between the presenters. Workshop presentations will be given a full 90-minute session. Panel sessions will provide an opportunity for three or more presenters to speak in a more open and conversational setting with conference attendees.

Conference highlights:

Two-Week International Live Project Summer School 2012: Montana State University & Oxford Brookes

The symposium will include visits to and presentations by community and student participants to an Oxford-based Live Project Summer School – partnered with Oxford City Council – and involving students from graduate architecture programs at Montana State University & Oxford Brookes University.

Architecture tours of ‘secret’ Oxford

Social activities for visiting delegates include organised tours of historic Oxford, including visiting some of the key architectural gems and hidden delights.

Symposium Outputs

  • Generation of Live Project Pedagogy Charter
  • Double-blind, peer-reviewed Symposium specific Journal

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Academic opportunities in architecture at QUB

We have four openings in the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering which you may be interested in. Click on the links for more information. Applications close on 7 October.

Lecturer in Architecture Design

Lecturer in Architectural Technology or Construction Management

Senior Teaching Fellow in Construction Management

Senior Teaching Fellow (0.5FTE) in Professional Studies

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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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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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