COMPETITION: Pews & Perches - Submission deadline 30th January

RIBA London have launched a new competition inviting students, recent graduates and emerging practices to design one of fifty benches to be installed at waterside locations around London’s Pleasure Gardens. The winning benches will be given £150 to produce their design during the Easter Holidays.

Further information on the competition can be found on the RIBA London website (link)

COUNCIL: Meeting and AGM 6th October 2011

The first meeting of the RIBA Council 2011-2012 was held on 6th October, in which a number of issues were brought to the attention of the council by student and associate (RIBA Part 3) members.

The main proposal was that there should be a formal routine for publicising architectural practices that do not pay students the minimum wage, a problem that has been ongoing for some time (see article). Students feel that companies who engage in wage abuse need to be publicly shamed through the architectural press as a way of tackling the culture of ‘free student labour’. Indeed the council reports that there have yet to be any practices ‘struck off’ the RIBA register since the ruling was passed in July 2011, although there are a number under investigation. On a positive note it was suggested we also celebrate the firms who treat students very well to show that the ‘free labour’ abusers are not the majority.

The student representatives on council will be endeavouring to seek out student opinion on this matter in the coming year. If you, or somebody you know, have experienced architecture firms paying little or no wage please inform us and your report will be dealt with in the strictest confidence. These companies are damaging the industry and students must have the confidence to stand up and fight for the pay they deserve.

The next council meeting will be held on 6th December 2011, if there are any issues that you would like brought to the attention of council please get in touch with the ‘Ask a question’ link at the top of the page, leaving your email so I can get back in contact.

DEBATE: Education in Architecture: Global Difference

Catching up a bit on posting events that I’ve recently attended. The first of which was the Peter and Muriel Melvin Debates held this year with the theme of Education in Architecture: Global Difference. The last of three debates on the international condition of architectural education, this session presented models from Europe, South Africa and South America.

The presentation kicked off with a presentation by The Bartlett’s Neil Spiller. Quoting Walter Benjamin with ‘We must wake up from the world of our parents’, Spiller called for a radical departure from traditional methods in which we ‘must think politically about practice and education, not just economically’. He did however have full confidence that his school was already successful in achieving this with their students.

Vittorio Lampugnani, a professor of history and theory at ETH Zurick, spoke about training architects as generalists, with the university playing the role of enabler so that students can be more free. ‘You don’t learn a recipe, you learn the method’ he went on to say, highlighting the need for a greater transparency in the past-work of teaching staff. By allowing better access to knowledge the university system is opened up for innovation.

The lectern was then handed over to David Dunster who’s informative speech began with a comparison of tuition fees amongst the top schools of architecture. One can’t assume that the teaching style of Yale, who annually receive ‘$59,000 per student’, is superior to other schools of architecture with poorer access to world-class facilities and internationally renowned teaching staff.

Dunster moved on to a study he had made on the websites of 25 architecture schools, which nearly all proclaimed that they have a focus on ‘the sustainable’. ‘The word which has no opposite is virtually useless’ he said summarising the general banality of school ethoses. Architecture used to be taught to yeargroups of 30, however now there are 300 in a year and so they must be split up into units which ‘denies discourse and denies disagreement’. Dunster ended with two suggestions, that students should be taught the confidence to take a position and then be wiling to change and that schools should ‘only teach people who want to be architects’.

'There are too many architecture schools in the UK…and not enough interested architecture students.' Neil Spiller commented, an opinion made true by an obviously missing contingent of architecture students at the event.

Jo Noero, Director of the University of Cape Town School of Architecture and Planning, engaged the crowd with stories that dealt with apartheid and the problem of black representation in schools. Noero followed Dunster with an argument for further uniting practice and teaching, a model that he himself had successfully led for over thirty years, getting away from the studio and promoting collaboration, cultural theory and ethical practice.

Adriana Cobo of Greenwich compared the UK and Columbia, where ‘qualification is equivalent to registration.’ and practicing architecture is fiercely political.

The RIBA’s Director of Education David Gloster eloquently considered the institutes role as ‘peripatetic provider of perspective’ and broadly gave their direction for 47 schools in the UK and 94 overseas.

As the afternoon roled to an end Sean McAllister of Project Context asked whether schools of architecture should be dissolved and Paul Finch suggested that there should be a return to the importance of teaching architectural history. In my opinion architecture students need to get physically engaged with a larger variety of important issues, from politics to economics in scales ranging from their classroom to entire countries. The role of the architect is changing and it is vital that education changes with it.

Tags: RIBA