This post is a discussion of the book 21 Things You Won't Learn In Architecture School by Adrian Dobson. The question being, why don't we learn these things in architecture school?
The premise for the book is to discuss the challenges of being an architect that they don't tell you about at school. Dobson keeps to the basics, teaching us the importance of negotiation, getting paid and how to coordinate different groups of people. A distinct concern of his being that students are trained to sell design ideas to other architects, rather than clients, funders and local authorities.
By segregating architectural education from practical experience, we hinder our chances to be effective and influential in the industry. Ken Robinson's views on education ring true with architectural curriculum.
"The dominant Western worldview is not based on seeing synergies or connections but on making distinctions and seeing differences. This is why we pin butterflies in separate boxes from the beetles - and teach separate subjects in schools."
The lessons and experiences retold in this book are invaluable, but if learning is an iterative process surely the sooner we are able to start the sooner we will get better? So I return to the question, why does this book exist in the context that it does? Why don't we learn these things in architecture school?
In the interview section of the book, 12 leading figures in architecture were asked, "if you could add one thing to the architectural education curriculum, what would it be?"
Simon Allford envisaged a more seamless connection between academia and practice as they both work to the same end. This more philosophical view alluded to the wider consensus between other interviewees, that business skills with a focus on client relations, accounting and resourcing should be taught more widely in the early years of the architectural curriculum.
Soraya Khan of Theis Khan Architects says there is "no question" about the necessity for better business skills. David Partridge, managing Partner of Argent, calls for greater understanding of stakeholder roles in the development process. And John Assael speaks of his passion for educating young people about "what it is like to actually run a successful business."
The need for better business and practical training has been identified by leading practitioners in this country. By anchoring students in the practice of architecture earlier, we create skilled professionals sooner. The work placement system I proposed in my JCT Student Competition essay is one system that could serve to close this skills gap.
For me, this book has been the gift that keeps on giving. It has been a reassuring point of reference for my studies ever since I picked it off the shelf. For any young architect entering the profession I have three words; BUY THIS BOOK.
Robinson, Ken The Element, Penguin Books, 2010
Dobson, Adrian 21 Things You Won't Learn In Architecture School, RIBA Publishing, 2014