Cities are works in progress. Human inhabited cities have to reinvent themselves every day. New devices move about them questioning coexistence and forcing their normalization; infrastructure to control traffic with technology is implemented; districts and neighborhoods are designed based on innovation and the knowledge economy; and if that wasn’t enough, a wide variety of applications installed on our smartphones give us the ability to consume it.
To this is added the “perfect crime against reality”–as Baudrillard would call it–because our lives in the city go beyond the present reality. We live in spaces that are still being built, we enjoy experiences in worlds on a screen, and we consume products that we do not touch. And it’s not only cities that are works in progress, outside of the big metropolises, the need for huge rural reform looms as the architect and most provocative Priztker prize winner of our time, Rem Koolhaas, stated in his manifesto Countryside. According to him, the future of architecture is in the countryside. Meanwhile, in this “extensive state of play of the world,” parents concerned with the education of their children wonder: Does a degree in architecture have job prospects?
Architects have a number of opportunities they can work on. In the words of Thomas Vonier, president of the International Union of Architects, “Architecture knows no boundaries. We are unified in our purpose: improve human conditions, everywhere, for everyone.” In that case, how can we detect and professionalize all of these demands and opportunities in modern cities? And more difficult still, how do we teach students to detect and professionalize the needs of the city, the countryside, or the planet? How do we formulate proactive and specific responses to all of this? Today, this is the greatest challenge facing architecture schools.
Luckily, this great challenge is accompanied by the fact that architectural education is provided increasingly by architects, strengthening it as a way of providing vision of the industry with a theoretical and professional focus. Publications like the Journal of Architectural Education–which in 1947 set out to improve architecture studies in design, history, urban planning, cultural studies, technology, theory, and practice–and Architectural Review contribute to this. In the latter–after two articles published in 1989 and 2012 entitled What’s Wrong with Architectural Education? –architect and critic Peter Buchanan concludes that the biggest problem facing architectural education is the disconnect between academia and the profession.
Building bonds and consistency between academia and the profession, the curriculum, and the real world causes us to design critical pedagogies, ones where we don’t only have to pay attention to teaching methods, but, also to encouraging the development of an attitude with regard to things–with regard to the city–in order to stimulate a real-world education. Having the university report directly to society as a knowledge entity, as a thought and production lab in response to vital needs is the way to pay attention to the world, to understand how architectural education and architecture combine usefully in this complex mechanism that is the city. For this, learning prototypes and formats able to include innovative methods and to lead students to an attitude of commitment are needed.
When the management of the School of Architecture accepts this challenge, when contemporary society can be felt as Bakema made so in 1964 as a professor at the Architecture School of Delft–bringing the latent questions of the time to the classroom–that is when the school becomes not only an architecture workshop, but also workshop of research and social transformation. Today the practices of the School of Delft can be classified as CBL (challenge-based learning) methods, as students take on issues of interest to their era, a challenge with a practical side and with direct consequences for society. He also conducted research in a real-world context with a team, encouraging commitment and involvement by contributing specific solutions.
These practices require new learning formats (contests, training sessions, cross-disciplinary workshops) that disrupt the student experience, taking them out of their usual work space (the classroom or dorm room). They must be brought to such uncertainty that will allow them to recognize and develop themselves as Bruno Latour suggests in his Actor-Network Theory (ANT), a method “to live, to know, and to practice in the complexities of tension.” These new formats will give students the necessary intellectual freedom to allow them to move at their own pace and to take on new challenges; it teaches them to look carefully, to think, to design, to propose, to take risks, to materialize, and to overcome challenges as if they were easy, as if they weren’t architects, as De la Sota would say.