School’s out. Summer shows are in full swing. Which brings into sharp focus the mismatch between architectural education and the pedestrian-but-critical issues facing the profession.


Isabel Allen

While students are pondering spatio-temporal urban transformations, the Building Safety Bill has come as a sharp reminder of the importance of data management, informed specification, clear accountability and impeccable paperwork.

This is the beauty of architecture. Its ability to embrace practicalities and poetics; the esoteric and the everyday. The ideal education should be both creative and intellectual odyssey and thorough vocational training. It should. But it can’t. Frank Lloyd Wright famously observed that “ten years’ preparation for preliminaries to architectural practice is little enough for any architect who would ‘rise above the belt’ in true architectural appreciation or practice”. And he didn’t have to grapple with the challenge of averting climate catastrophe. Or master multiple CAD programs. Or navigate the complexities of an ever-changing regulatory landscape. Or digest the dizzying array of materials and components and systems and modern methods of construction. Or develop a practice policy on diversity and equality. Or implement quality assurance procedures. Or worry about the skyrocketing cost of professional indemnity insurance or who exactly holds responsibility for the “golden thread” of information relating to fire-safety compliance.

If ten years wasn’t long enough to cover the essentials back then, seven years can’t cut it now. A three year degree can give a decent introduction to the subject. But no single Part 2 course can hope to prepare students for every possible permutation of professional life.

Forward-looking providers are offering Part 2 courses with distinct specialisms. Oxford Brookes is focusing on Modern Methods of Construction. The Centre for Alternative Technology specialises in sustainable design. Perhaps the key duty of Part 1 is to help students make an informed decision about where – and what – to study next. Or whether they want to be an architect at all. Not every graduate is cut out for practice. Just as there are people with different backgrounds who absolutely are. Graduates from related disciplines. Professionals embarking on a mid-life career change; construction industry veterans; foreign nationals with qualifications not recognised in the UK. People who bring different experience, new perspectives, fresh ideas. Perhaps it’s time to dust down the idea of a one-year quick-hit conversion course. To treat Part 2 as not just a milestone on the long, hard road to practice but a crossroads. An opportunity for some to change direction, and others to join the route.

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