How Happy Is Architecture?

Topics: Architect, Higher education, Education Pages: 31 (9673 words) Published: April 27, 2013
how happy is architecture?

andre ford

ma architecture_2012
7057 words



Fig 1. RIBA Pt1 Entries and Pt3 Passes 1996-2009.

Fig 2. Howard Roark, the protagonist of The Fountainhead

Fig 3. The Belbin team roles for architects’.
Irena Bauman, How to be a Happy Architect (London UK: Black Dog Publishing, 2008) p.72.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them that they didn’t understand life.”

- John Lennon.


To say anything definitive about the subject of architecture is preposterous. To write 10,000 words on the subject is to devise an insomniac’s panacea. That said, this dissertation aims to be a critique of the current state of the architectural profession and education in the UK. I hope that potential students of architecture might read this before signing up for architecture school, or any degree at all for that matter. I hope these potential students might recognize the insanity of the situation and react accordingly.

I believe that the higher education system in this country is not set up in favour of the individual student, and that politicians and the system at large have sold students a lie. I maintain there needs to be radical re-think of how and why we are educating students in the UK. The current system is absurd and immoral and is contributing to the downfall of many professions – architecture being the one with which I am particularly concerned.

Fig 1. RIBA Pt1 Entries and Pt3 Passes 1996-2009.

Admissions to architectural courses have witnessed an unprecedented increase in the last decade, despite the demand for architectural services remaining relatively consistent. “The number of students entering UK universities at part I rose 23% between 2004-2009.“ Fig 1. I believe architectural education is witnessing its very own ‘CSI effect,’ and rather than regulating this influx universities have seized the opportunity to expand existing courses and introduced new courses to absorb the surge.

The CSI effect refers to the increase in demand for places on forensic science courses due to the popularity of crime-drama television programs such as CSI. These television programs have glamourised forensic science and inspired a generation of school leavers to enroll at universities, which dutifully responded to the demand by creating courses to receive this newly enthused cohort. In 1990, there were two degree courses in Forensic Science on offer in the UK. By 2009, there were 285. With blood splattered walls in their sights, these young men and women have left home, taken out loans and embarked on an academic journey, hoping that one day they may don paper jackets and plot the trajectory of said blood splatters.

Aside from the predictable gulf between the televised version of events and the day-to-day realities of a job in forensic science, there is a more disheartening issue that a graduate in forensic science will have to face - namely the number of paper jackets. As Tim Dowling notes in his article ‘The grisly truth about CSI degrees’ - “crime has not kept pace with the explosion in TV detective shows… In order to ensure there are enough jobs to go round, more than half of them (students) will have to retrain as serial killers.”

Architectural education has been subject to a parallel phenomenon, despite the architectural profession suffering from a catastrophic double-dip recession and...
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