Dezeen Magazine


Guardian architecture critic calls for overhaul of "stagnant" UK education system

News: Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright has added his voice to calls for an overhaul of the UK architectural education system, accusing it of being out of date and sealed off from the realities of working in the industry.

Architectural education "has been allowed to stagnate in the UK as a hermetic, inward-looking pursuit" based on a three-part system that stems from a 1958 RIBA Conference, he wrote in his Guardian column.

Criticising the impenetrable conceptualism and "fantasy realms" of many final year student projects, he suggested that the major university courses need to be "radically rethought".

"It has never been more urgent to call out the emperor's new clothes, to question those courses that are only there to further the theoretical position of their tutors," he said.

Wainwright told Dezeen that architectural teaching in the UK is too focused on the degree show, "which itself is conceived as a salesroom to lure the following year’s students."

He suggested that "more emphasis must be put on architecture as a spatial practice – rather than only an exercise in flashy graphics and dazzling model-making."

Asked for examples of good practice, he pointed to schools that are "really engaging with the social, political and economic forces that shape the city – encouraging students to interrogate everything from new planning legislation to different models of development, and how they might intervene as architects."

Wainwright's criticisms echo the thoughts of Sam Jacob, who wrote in a recent opinion column for Dezeen that architectural education is the "accidental by-product of educational politics and economics, of demands of professional training and of murkily subjective disciplinary ideas," adding that education should not be the preserve of students, but "something that is present throughout one's career in architecture."

Earlier this year an American university launched a programme to fast-track architectural students through the education system, while the UK government recently backed down on plans to remove design and technology from the school curriculum.

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Photograph of architectural equipment from Shutterstock.