TRANSFORMATION OF THE ARCHITECTURAL PROFESSION: WHAT IS THE DEGREE ALL-IN-ONE FUTURE ARCHITECTS NEED TO BE?

Sarhat Petrosyan, Chamber of Architects of Armenia

In May 2011, I’ve attended a conference “Death and Life of Social Factors” organized by Collage of Environmental Design of University of California Berkley, where during one of the panel discussions I made a presentation on how the architectural education is being transformed as we are progressing with online platforms like ArchDaily, Dezeen, Designboom and other online architectural websites. My (funny) suggestion was to add a “My professor likes this” button in social media, as an important academic tool.

During that period, I wasn’t that critical towards these kind of mass media that is kind of flattening the global professional mindset. Now, after a decade, I think that architectural education, and education in general, has been dramatically changed. The “bank of information” and knowledge sharing platform is not enough anymore for housing the academia. Online and sometimes open data sources and distance learning / socializing tools are also enhanced to the level that online education is much easier and more accessible than ever. So, why younger generation needs to apply to universities? I think still the intention of physical interaction and bringing together experienced professionals and inexperienced future professionals in one space continue to be the main reason why we need to go to school.

After “solving” the unsolvable challenge of rethinking the education these days, comes the second challenge. What should we teach future architects? There are several approaches to answer to that question, but I think the main two ones are: Do we teach future architects the designing techniques or do we teach them design thinking? In second case, this means after getting degree, the future architect needs to get his skills by learn-by-doing, aka. working for other more experienced architects.

As there isn’t a definite answer to this question, I suggest adding a new layer to the rethinking process. Who is an architect nowadays? What kind of skills they need to design buildings? Around century ago, architects were also structural engineers and all engineers in one place. Now it’s a common understating that there are engineers that are supporting the realization of architects’ vision. So, what happens today with the new supporting attributes? Is the visualization (3D modeling and rendering) part of the architect’s job, or it’s a separate discipline. Do we want our students to have this skill and capacity, to make nice and understandable academic proposals during their study? If yes, then do we need to teach them?

If there is a common understanding that at some degree architecture students need to do some basic presentation on their ideas, then comes the next biggest and quiet important “newcomer” - Building Information Modeling (BIM). If BIM is coming to take over CAD software, that was a “newcomer” several decades ago, which currently is part of our daily working life, but how about BIM? Do we expect that each architect has proper skills to use this instrument? Does it mean that we need to teach future architects a bit of coding and a bit database management?

As you can see, there are so many question marks. If you ask me, frankly speaking I don’t have answer to these questions, but I know that we need to think, talk and write on these concerns, as the future is already here, we need to catch it up.

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