Happy New Year.
As I noted in my first post on this subject in 2016. Architecture school does not necessarily teach you everything there is to know about architecture. I am constantly astounded by those architecture students who think that by completing all the subjects at architecture school they will know everything there is to know about our complex field of knowledge. Unfortunately, the tick the boxes mentality is all to prevalent in our universities and is at odds with real education.
A good architecture school, like the one I teach at, is only an introduction to architecture. It’s up to all of us, regardless of our position in the profession’s career path, to be responsible for our own architectural education and educate ourselves as architects. Without wishing to sound overly didactic or clichéd architectural education is a life long process. Observation and experience are central to this process. Observing, experiencing and recording the world as we encounter it is central to this process. To a larger extent, rather than a lesser one, I think all great architects are self taught to some degree. That was certainly the case for the 20th C modernists. The oldey-worldy apprentice system, the Beux Arts, even the Bauhaus all seemed to encourage the singular and self taught autodidact. In the modern age the rise of the pedigreed architectural education has perhaps eroded these older norms. Being responsible for your own education is vital; and in saying this, I don’t wish to privilege the singularly focused auteur or genius. Collaboration with others is just as much a part of the self-education process as anything else.
The festive and holiday season, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, is the time for all good architecture students and architects to get out and experience life beyond the digital screen of the studio or the office. So here are my tips for what to do over the holiday season in 2017.
Go to a party.
The Cambridge architectural educator Peter Carl was infamous for telling young architecture stduents what they needed to do to expand their realm of experience. Decorum prevents me from saying exactly what it is he is said to have often said. But I can say its great to get out and party. I dont mean one of those pleasant instagrammy Reyes filter in the garden hipster-style picnics. I mean a real party. The kind of nasty snapchatty VICE and vodka filled borderline legal substance party. A selfie in the bathroom over the faucets party. The kind where everyone gets trashed and you get talk to and know people you would not ordinarily meet. Its little wonder I havent organised for myself a birthday party after my 4oth.
Read a book
Yes, as with last year’s list reading a book is a really good idea. I know this is hard for architecture students and perhaps harder for busy parenting architects. So my suggestion is to not read any old book like one of those middle brow crime novels or historical dramas. I dont want to sound pretentious, but try to read a really difficult book like Finnegan’s Wake, or De Sade or Debord, or light up a few big ones and read Deleuze and Guattari; try and stay away from reading anything by Heidegger (a Nazi after all) and Kahil Gibran.
All of my above suggestions have ideas to convey about architecture, place and spatiality.
Poetry, which I have recently discovered thanks to Susan Fealy, is also good thing to read. As some of you may know about me I am fond of the poetics of place. This year reading the poems of Cafavy I was reminded how a city can be rewritten as poetry.
Go on a road trip
Yes !!!! My recent road trip to the Ngarrindjeri lands of the Coorong was great. Indigenous history, a unique ecology, sand, water and total adventure in my efforts to avoid getting my vehicle bogged or washed away. Whilst I suggested in last year’s list that architecture students should go on road trips where they see buildings. this year I am suggesting that architects go and visit the great landscapes that inhabit the interior of our nation or any nation for that matter. Landscapes are also cities in their own right. Like cities landscapes are also usually layered with the culture of occupation.
Of course you may be thinking that there is nothing worse then being stuck in a car with your friends from Architecture school. I always had fun with my friends doing this and we had crap cars. Not like the Tesla’s which most students seem to drive these days.
Look at Art
Yes, the art gallery at in your local city is always a good place to hang out on the holidays. In my home town I just saw the Victor and Rolfe exhibition and I am bracing myself to see the Hockney spectacular. I also visited the latest NGV pavilion (dare I write what I think of this?) Further afield, if I was following my son the young prince to the Paris Cy Twombley is on at the Pompidou. James Ensor is at the Royal Academy in London. I wouldn’t bother going to the States at this point in time so you can forget about that.
I am sure there is more to see across Europe. The contemporary architects of Spain and Austria beckon.Get in there quick whilst there is still a thing called Europe.
Finally, get Organised
I think that this year more than others will mean we need to organise collectively. Get your friends together and start your own social enterprise or activist group. I fear, and indeed hope, that the coming Northern summer will bring new movements and tendencies. More and more, architectural design is under pressure to become a lap-dog of those who seek to diminish our civitas (whatever that may be). Simultaneously, the new strongman Fascists and Baathists are inflaming schisms and then, after that mean handiwork, are ramming the security card down our throats. The situation at Parliament House in Canberra being a case in point. On the other hand the neoliberal project continues to run amok and privatise every bit of public space that isn’t nailed down.