In Belgium the teaching of architecture is bankrupt
«Collapse of the historical culture of students, absurd demands of their professors, humiliation of juries, blissful followership of media figures in architecture: faculties of architecture no longer fulfill their primary mission.»
This is the subtitle of the first intervention in French on this site (finally!), which is reproduced in its entirety on this page: by clicking on the boxes [EN] [FR] [IT] you can view the different translations, or the original language version (which, however, can be found HERE).
A carte blanche from Nadia Everard, president of “La Table Ronde de l’Architecture” and an architecture graduate from the Free University of Brussels (ULB).
University education in architecture is bankrupt. Between the collapse of the historical culture of the students, the absurd demands of their professors, the humiliation of the juries, the blissful following of the great media figures of architecture and an exhausting race for originality, the faculties of architecture no longer do fulfill their primary mission.
Every day, architecture students knock at the door of our association and tell us about their discomfort. The younger they are, the greater their disillusionment. Coming out of school, they expect to learn one of the noblest professions there is, architecture, which is to make the world beautiful. But from the first day they are taught that it is useless to the world because beauty is subjective and secondary. They are told that ancient history makes the archivists happy but is of no use and to the architect. They are taught that the only style that deserves their attention is the current style, modernism, that of white cubes and deconstructed shapes.

History and harmony are forgotten

Take any architecture course from the beginning of the last century and compare it with the current courses: you will see that the history courses are reduced to the bare minimum. In the past, it was not uncommon to come across architecture students, leaning against a lamppost or seated on a tripod, who laboriously studied and sketched the most beautiful buildings in their city. I challenge you to find just one today. However, history and tradition are the grammar of architecture. Architecture is a language based on principles —solid and adaptable construction, building breathability and natural ventilation, harmonious composition and proportions, projections, basement, vertical windows, pitched roof, etc. – things that are actually very simple but that current teaching totally ignores. This language allows the architect to express himself freely and to be understood by the population; without it, he is like a linguist deprived of vocabulary or a jurist ignorant of the Constitution: he is incapable of practicing correctly.

Misunderstanding of architecture students

Not only isn't the architect understood by the inhabitants, which explains the growing distrust of the population vis-à-vis with contemporary architecture, but he himself does not understand what he is doing and this incomprehension generates suffering.
In fact, a growing number of studies (1) highlight the worrying deterioration of the mental and physical health of architecture students. The latter are prey to incredible pressures, stress, lack of sleep, the taunts of their teachers, the humiliation of the juries (presentations of the work of the students in front of an audience of architects)…

This malaise comes mainly from the total incomprehension of the students in the face of the instructions of their teachers. The amount of work is undoubtedly less than that of medical students, for example, but it is reinforced by the misunderstanding of the instructions. We no longer count the testimonies recounting grotesque situations. When on a jury, a professor turns your model upside down, telling you that your project is "banal" or that you should turn it over to see if it wouldn't work better upside down, when you are constantly asked to being “daring”, “original” or “innovative” without ever defining these terms, you feel miserable and lost. Many students, in the depths of despair and not knowing how to satisfy the abstract demands of their professors, produce nonsense. Everyone can go to an architectural jury to see the extent of the imposture: disjointed sculptures, piles of waste, towers of toothpicks, cardboard boxes with holes, origami made of recycled paper... In a few words: anything but architecture.

Return to a classic pedagogy and clear instructions

Students must understand that the problem is not with them, but with the teaching, which has gone sorely astray. Faculty authorities must be reminded that the architect's mission is simple: to build buildings that are solid, useful and beautiful to look at. We must return to a classic pedagogy, clear instructions, empathy for students who should not learn under duress but out of passion for the multi-millennial legacy of architecture. Finally, they must be reminded that a failure in education is a failure for everyone: not only for the poorly trained student but also for the city and its inhabitants who suffer the consequences of inadequate projects and faulty constructions.
(1) See in particular the study by the National Union of Architecture and Landscape Students (UNEAP) launched in December 2017.
The Round Table of Architecture is a Belgian non-profit association dedicated to the defense and teaching of beautiful, human and sustainable architecture. Faced with the failure of architecture studies, she founded a summer school of architecture to train young people in the art of building outside of university circuits.
Posted: 28/02/2023 14:06 — Author(s): La Table Ronde de l'Architecture


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