Dezeen Magazine

Tom Dyckhoff - Sam Jacob -twitter

"Poor communication skills" to blame for architecture's problems, says Tom Dyckhoff

Writers Sam Jacob and Tom Dyckhoff have clashed over the way architects speak about their work, with Dyckhoff claiming obscure language is to blame for lack of public interest in the discipline and Jacob saying he is "sick" of people making this claim.

The row started on Friday 1st June 2018 when Dyckhoff, a British writer and broadcaster, tweeted that "Poor communication skills start in architecture school & get worse from there".

"How architects talk: 'Spatiality, interrogation, materiality, praxis.'," he wrote. "What the rest of the world hears: 'Blah, blah, blah.' Poor communication skills start in architecture school & get worse from there. No wonder architecture's in the state it's in."

Jacob, a London-based architect and Dezeen columnist, immediately hit back, saying architecture was a "specialist subject" that needs specific language to describe it.

"Disagree strongly !" Jacob tweeted, adding: "Sick of jurnos [sic] and PRs saying this! Architecture is a specialist subject with deep culture, long history, involved technologies and complex politics. Of course it needs specific types of language to talk about it!"

Dyckhoff responded, saying he saw "no problem in having a technical language within a profession". He added: "It's when communicating with the rest of the universe that the problems arise."

Dyckhoff also criticised this year's Venice Architecture Biennale for failing to engage the public.

"Architectural exhibitions 80 per cent of the time are poorly curated gobbledygook, that rarely connect with anyone but other architects, and even THEN not very well," he tweeted. " included. We need more and better curators of architecture."

The argument prompted dozens of comments, mostly in support of Dyckhoff.

"Sam, it is deeply elitist to suggest that everyone should learn to speak like an architect to understand architecture," tweeted journalist Milly Burroughs."Communication is a two way street and perhaps if the industry focused on accessibility things would be better understood,"

"Architects have a tendency towards inadvertent snobbery," replied architect Elsy. "I found this to be a problem as an architecture student where my 'experienced' superiors spoke to me in an alien language assuming that I already knew everything, then made me feel stupid when asking for an explanation."

Architect Skylar Moran wrote: "Architects learn as students how to misuse language to avoid criticism of ideas they don't wholly believe in themselves. In practice, they repeat this when arguing their value for the same reason."

"I find many architects try [to] wield language as a kind of intellectual capital to try to boost themselves above others," wrote architectural technologist Gill Armstrong.

However, some Twitter users supported Jacob's point of view, including art historian Stew Harrison who added: "Would you want a surgeon talking about using her sharpy-cutty-thing on the pumpy-blood-thing? Language/vocabulary should be pitched at the level of the audience and increase in complexity as appropriate."

Dyckhoff writes a regular column for The Guardian and is a former presenter of BBC Two's The Culture Show and current presenter of The Great Interior Design Challenge. His latest book, The Age of Spectacle, examines the phenomenon of iconic architecture.

Follow @dezeen on Twitter.