Current Call for Papers
ZARCH is currently accepting the submission of articles for their consideration, following the external Peer Review process as described on this website. They should address the topic for the upcoming issue.
Issue #12: "The Learning of Architecture"
Deadline for submission of articles: December 10th, 2018
Expected publication date: June 2019
From a general point of view, the learning and teaching processes of architecture do not differ from other professions and disciplines. As in any educational dynamic, learning basically takes place in two stages: perception and understanding. During the first stage, we receive a certain idea, phenomenon or reality. The second stage encompasses all the mechanisms through which we not only receive certain information, but also assimilate and retain it, and we are then able to apply it in new circumstances and under different premises; that is, we are capable of being creative. Perception can occur through experiences or via abstract concepts (feeling versus thinking), and understanding, through a practical action or by reflecting on it (acting versus reflecting). The curricular content of any of the study programmes that lead to the University Degree in Architecture includes numerous training activities and educational methodologies that are precisely a response to these processes, regardless of the specific subject matter.
Nevertheless, it is worth asking whether teaching and learning are comparable activities. Those who teach follow a systematic procedural model that is prepared in advance to direct and channel the learning of knowledge and skills. However, those who learn do so in both an explicit and implicit way. They learn the ‘what’ (contents), but also the ‘how’ (attitudes). They select, evaluate and relate in an unexpected and even random way. Therefore, in all learning processes strategic issues combine with capricious issues and reasonable issues with autobiographical ones. Consequently, in schools, these two activities—learning and teaching—should be present and coexist so that those who wish to teach can use the drive and the desire of those who wish to learn, and vice versa. Therefore, all subjects, but especially architecture and urban planning workshops, should be spaces for cooperation. They should follow collective work—where teachers guide—resolve queries and open up horizons. However, students take the initiative and offer solutions to be opened up for discussion. The objective is, therefore, inclusive, cross-cutting and cooperative learning, in which students take on an active role, both in the search for responses and in the production of knowledge.
In any case, this should not prevent us from warning that, in the specific field of architecture and urban planning, their multidisciplinary nature and the high professional attributes—and criminal liabilities—of professionals who work in the field entail greater complexity in learning environments. As the American lecturer and historian Joan Ockman has stated, schools of architecture have undergone a major transformation since the beginning of the 21st century. Globalisation, digital technology, the social and political role of architects, environmental responsibility and an educational economy that is increasingly market-driven are some of the strong forces that are transforming schools. Questions raised by global urbanisation, economic instability and growing awareness of the environmental crisis have stimulated a reconsideration concerning the design methodologies and the potential of multidisciplinary and collaborative work. Research projects such as Spatial Agency, by the lecturers and architects Jeremy Till and Tatjana Schneider, have specifically shown the numerous and experimental collective ways, both past and present, in which professionals and/or academics work in the profession. Specifically, three of the most used concepts by participants at the Spanish pavilion of the 2018 Venice Biennale (curated by Atxu Amann), focused on new learning environments, are: experimental, social and collaborative approaches.
For all these reasons, the International Union of Architects (IUA-UNESCO) states that the education of architects represents one of the greatest challenges for the built environment and its environmental, heritage and cultural balance. Universities and educational centres bear the responsibility for improving the theoretical and practical training of future professionals so that they can meet the expectations of 21st-century societies. Therefore, teaching and learning methods must be diverse, so that they can improve cultural richness and make it possible to ensure study programmes are more flexible in order to respond to the demands and requirements of clients, users, the construction industry and the profession itself, remaining alert concerning the political and financial motivations that cause these changes. That is the reason why debate, reflection and research into these matters by the most varied educational environments should be promoted, including both academic and professional environments and disciplinary environments and those on the periphery of education.
In this context, the objective is to provide students with the knowledge, instruments and skills required to work in the profession—in its numerous and varied branches—beyond project architects or builders. The objective is also to find an educational approach that will define architectural and urban planning problems and opportunities and make them explicit. Therefore, we seek an exercise of the profession that is capable of referring to its disciplinary roots and own forms, but it also owns the ability to transform society and collectively improve our inhabited environment. It is, therefore, necessary to combine many artistic and scientific disciplines that come together in the design and construction of the physical environment at all its levels: from the land and the landscape, to cities, buildings and all the elements that make up the private space of our homes.
This issue of ZARCH attempts to study these and other thoughts on education in architecture, using the sixth Workshop on Educational Innovation in Architecture (JIDA, for its acronym in Spanish) at the School of Engineering and Architecture of the University of Zaragoza, at a time when the establishment of the university degree in Architecture is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Also, it is now 50 years since the “May ‘68” movement, which was the driving force for major changes in university structures in the 1960s and 1970s. On the occasion of these anniversaries, the JIDA workshops are covering the issue of teaching in emerging Spanish centres, and this monograph forms part of this, from a more global view of the education of the architect. The intention is to bring together researchers who will carry out research into the changing role of the architect and its educational implications. The aim is that they will study the importance and presence that great teaching traditions still have today, after emerging from the Beaux-Arts – Bauhaus dichotomy that found its greatest antithesis in the radical practices and activists of the 1960s, as has been shown in recent years by the Radical Pedagogies project by Beatriz Colomina. The final aim is that these and other questions will be included in the modern role of teachers and students, and that the dynamics inside and outside the classroom will be included in the teaching of architecture.
The aim of all the above is to provide new points of view regarding questions related to both the near future of the profession and how future architects will be educated—and will educate themselves. As the lecturer and former Dean of Columbia University (Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation), Mark Wigley, said: “A good school fosters a way of thinking that draws on everything that is known in order to jump energetically into the unknown”. Josep Quetglas said something similar, when stating that: “Teaching should be out-of-date: teaching a profession as it is no longer practised, and teaching it as it has yet to be practised. This is the price of making professionals taught this way capable of adapting and defining their role to suit any circumstance, no matter how changeable or unexpected”. Teaching, therefore, should be extemporaneous and cutting edge at the same time. It should not instruct, but educate. It is not about informing; it is about broadening knowledge and preparing students intellectually, morally and professionally. The market demands instant profitability, applicability and efficiency: teaching demands patience and large doses of utopian thought, so that, based on this, professionals can respond to these demands.
Berta Bardí i Milà, Daniel García-Escudero, Carlos Labarta