FANTASY FACTORIES

Dream_Castle_by_SukhRiarOliver Wainwright writes an excellent article on architectural education in The Guardian. He is particularly good describing the distortions that have accumulated in the so-called academy. Here are some highlights:

Wiry contraptions hang from the ceiling, while globular fungal forms nestle on tables between the spidery legs of 3D-printed creatures. A post-apocalyptic confetti of scalpel blades, empty Pot Noodles and cans of Coke is scattered among this landscape of foreign objects, while a sleeping bag pokes out from under a desk – perhaps with someone still in it.

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Attending final presentations as an external critic, it has been striking quite how far students are marshalled under the prescriptive dogma of their tutors in a lot of schools, producing projects with astounding graphic flair, but with a tenuous grip on reality, and often little sign of a critical position. Taught by the same people who mark their work, many students said the safest thing was to keep their heads down and follow the prevailing agenda – or else literally pay for the consequences.

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With all energies directed towards the climax of the final exhibition – conceived as a salesroom for students and tutors alike – the emphasis is too often weighted on creating a dazzling polished product, rather than the rigour of the process of getting there. Seductive alien imagery trumps the perceived banality of buildings, with the visual cacophony masking the lack of underlying spatial ideas.

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 The common retreat into introspective dreamworlds can be directly correlated against the dissolution of the architect’s powers, which are increasingly superseded by specialist consultants for every stage of the process.

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 No one has the answer yet, but at least students’ plaintive pleas for relevant teaching are finally being taken seriously – and they may soon have an alternative to costly years trapped in fantasy factories.

 

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