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Archive for February, 2011

The architecture profession is constantly changing and firms are realizing the need to frequently reevaluate strategy and positioning to stay relevant. Firms innovate and work with other professions in a collaborative effort to design great buildings and cities. So why aren’t architecture schools in Canada doing the same? This is not an argument for a more experimental architectural design education as many schools such as my own (The University of Calgary, Faculty of Environmental Design) has incorporated fields of parametric and digital responsive architecture well.

I believe that many architecture schools fail to provide a solid education or incentives for collaborative design between not only architecture students, but different professions. Further, these schools provide much smaller rewards to students to think less about their GPA and more about the betterment of the school and profession. It seems that many schools reward the individual with good grades and scholarships when they successfully attain good marks in studio, however what about all the other soft skills needed to prepare for a interdisciplinary collaborative environment that architecture has become. An example of a collaborative interdisciplinary education could comprise of studio teams of students from different degree programs working together. Or architecture faculties could strive to bring in teaching assistants and professors that are from other professions to work in a dynamic environment. It is common at my school to have a day where a mechanical engineer or sustainability expert joins us – is this enough? I have to commend one professor in my faculty who has hired a teaching assistant in mechatronics to come in for weekly studio meetings which I believe provides this dynamic collaborative feedback. This teaching assistant is not just a reviewer, he helps build the systems needed to develop responsive architecture. This is one of the best examples I have seen of a collaborative interdisciplinary education that best resembles the profession.

It is critically important for the profession that students graduate from school with the shared values of the profession and soft skills needed to succeed.  Many schools are creating Interns that care about individual gain and what their salary could be then the future of the profession. We cannot continue to have an incentive bias for individual efforts through scholarships and grades, we need to provide incentives to students who go above and beyond there academic education. I believe a product of this “me first” mentality has led many to forgo registration which is an important part of our profession. Why get registered when you have the potential to make the same income and achieve the same or close to position of power. Not enough is done to ingrain the shared values that make strong leaders in our profession.

I am little biased as I am habitual volunteer and always place my school and peers before myself. I am willing to think about the betterment of the profession before my academic success and last year as president of the faculty student association, we worked to provide networking events and skill based tutorials. I received little to no recognition for my efforts and this is likely what draws me to the topic. Currently I am working on my thesis regarding success and innovation in the profession and the literature on leadership points to the need for strong shared values and leaders. There are few people in the architecture profession that succeed through their individual talents, normally it is an interdisciplinary team that designs great architecture. In my opinion, there is just too little incentive for students to work toward a collaborative interdisciplinary effort, developing the soft skills and values they will need in the changing profession.

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