A quote by an Indian author and political activist, Arundhati Roy “Either way, the change will come. It could be bloody, or it could be beautiful. It depends on us”. As we continue to walk through these difficult times, we must act quickly and decisively in our efforts to rethink a post-pandemic world. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been dramatic and has significantly altered many aspects of one’s life. It is spurring a shift in design and education – from how we will experience our homes, offices, and cities to how schools will educate their students.
Across the world, architecture colleges and universities have shut down and are likely to remain shut until we make our educational spaces safe for everyone. It is now more important than ever for architects and institutions to rethink the architectural education model that is relevant to a post-pandemic world. The shift from physical to virtual setting has led everything from lectures, workshops, studios to juries happening online. Digital platforms like Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet have now become an indispensable part of our lives. This also means that students will have no access to the library, workshops, and computer laboratory and will be restricted to do site-visits, documentation tours, and exhibitions. While students and faculties have slowly started to adapt to this method, it is important to address its impact and come up with strategies to deal with it effectively.
The big divide between the haves and have-nots is now apparent and is a grave concern that institutions need to tackle urgently. Not every student is equipped with the luxury of high-speed internet, a dedicated workspace, or other technical devices and software. Studio-based learning has always played a pivotal role in architectural education, it acts as a democratic space for informal conversations, formal presentations, group discussions, critiques, and collaborative projects. Architecture studios have always been students’ creative abode and an important part of their design process. The sudden unavailability of this has surely proven to be disruptive and challenging for both students and faculties. The need for students to make physical models, study the materials, visit sites to understand and experience the surroundings, and produce drawings on their drafting table is vital for a holistic approach to design. While everyone is dealing with remote learning in their unique ways, it is crucial to talk about its psychological impact on students. Students are now battling with isolation and uncertainty due to reduced contact with their friends, classmates, and tutors who have always been there for support, encouragement, and feedback. Though there are submissions and deadlines to be met, there is now more flexibility in terms of one’s routine and schedule which means students have to be more driven and organized when it comes to their work.
Architecture is at a crossroads and architects are now rethinking the architectural education system to make it more relevant and responsive for a post-pandemic world. An interdisciplinary approach will be required, one where projects are not seen as just problems of concrete, steel, and glass but as social problems that need to be solved with a wider and more holistic approach. A system that fosters new, engaging, and meaningful environments while also taking care of the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of their students and faculties. With the online learning method, students have now started learning new software skills and better ways of representing their work. With the proliferation of new and advanced software and gadgets, more emphasis will likely be placed on effectively using these new digital technologies to better understand and upgrade one’s work. The world around us in a constant state of flux. Everything around us is continuously changing and the need to build spaces that are flexible and responsive is the key. Students will be encouraged to think about ways to respond to an emergency or a crisis through spatial and creative interventions.
Michael Hynes, an educator, and scholar rightly said, “Now is the time for our school leaders to generate a new compelling philosophy of education and innovative architecture for a just and humane school system”. In the process of rethinking the architectural education model, institutions and teachers will have to work closely with the students. It will help them understand the other side of the story and get invaluable feedback which can then be taken into consideration. Along with the education system, it is also important that architects and designers redesign educational spaces for a safe and inclusive learning environment. The new or updated education model will indeed determine how and what the future generation of architecture students will be taught. In our efforts to bring about a change, let us try and fight for a new and better world.