This quote by Winston Churchill, though applicable to all built forms, stands exceptionally true for schools of architecture. In the 4-5 years of architectural school, students form relationships not just with the people around them, but also with the buildings themselves. Schools or architecture are essentially open textbooks – a constant source of inspiration for their students.
“We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.”
Ask any architect what the favorite years of their life were – chances are they’ll confirm that they were their years of architectural school. The (relative) lack of responsibility matched with the most conducive atmosphere for interpersonal relationships makes these sites not just places of study, but of growth and development. Moreover, these schools are crucibles for new age pedagogy. They are places for experimentation of new technologies of teaching and learning. Students and teachers, often from different parts of the world or country come together to these melting pots and forge the lives of hundreds and thousands of professionals, every day.
Like every other discipline, architecture education exhibits a number of dichotomies – between the new and the old, between art and engineering. There is a significant, salt of the earth section of architectural academia that still believes in the traditionalist approach to teaching, vis-à-vis others who are consistently pushing the envelope with their innovation. But the real beauty of the education lies in student liberty – the freedom to choose a method that resonates with them, that is their niche.
As architects progress in their professional lives, their opinions on architecture seem to change. This too works both ways. Some students develop a deeper appreciation for the field, whereas others, oft too late realize that this is not the field for them. Thankfully, to the latter’s relief, architecture is one of the most interdisciplinary and collaborative mediums of study. It lies in the fine line between design-driven and technical courses. Architecture schooling, when done right, teaches its students that they are free to explore many specializations through the course of their study (or sometimes after); Conservation, Landscape Design, Planning, Structural Engineering or Project Management, to name a few.
Architecture schools encapsulate the transformative journeys of hundreds and thousands of students, every year. These transitions can be as simple as going from hand drafting to CAD and Photoshop, or sometimes more profound things – like discovering the role young architects have to play in the future, and how to rise to the occasion.
On a lighter note, through the course of the five years prescribed to students of architecture, there are some experiences that are cherished universally. Discovering the magic of a light trace at the eleventh hour, the mass bunks coordinated a day before the jury no one was prepared for, begrudgingly accepting a senior’s call for help with their model, only to realize that it was a unique opportunity to learn. Not to mention, the euphoria of getting the last copy of Form, Space and Order from the library just in time for a submission.
Another thing that schools of architecture teach us in today’s day and age, with the proliferation of the Coronavirus pandemic, is adaptability. The global health crisis truly put the existing systems to the test. Architecture schools, with their fair share of obstacles, have finally managed to transition to the online medium. The logistics of these setups vary from college to college, but the novelty of them is shared across the board.
The most important thing a student learns in architecture college is: to fail. With the notoriety the course has for the number of redoes a student receives, it is fair to say that schools of architecture train you well to fail. Most architects, by the time they graduate, have ingrained this habit of iterative learning. A humble realization of the fact that no matter what it is – you are not going to get it right the first time.
Graduating from architectural college and moving to the workforce is a paradigm shift. While the wounds of leaving your home for five years are still fresh, new graduates are thrown into environments completely foreign to them. The most ironic exhibition of the disparity that exists between the level of teaching in our schools and our field comes from the mouths of new interns. The first thing the nascent professionals say is that they are much too qualified to simply be drafting plans of WCs. Having spent the last four years honing their skills in design and composition, along with skilfully developing a deft hand at numerous architectural software, the simple tasks that they are endowed with come as a shock, to say the least. It is at times like these that new graduate’s reminiscence the most, and long for the times that were.
Architectural education is not just a handful of significant days – it is a lifestyle, spread across five (or sometimes more, depending on whether a student chooses to pursue higher studies) years. Every day is a lesson. In today’s fast-paced world, where change is the only constant, it is easy to get lost in the pandemonium; which is what makes these years of learning and comfort wholesome, and impossible to forget.