Questions of structural integrity

January 29, 1999

The institutional setting of architectural education is barely hinted at in Sir Colin Stansfield Smith's draft report, nor in Kam Patel's otherwise useful report ("Architects fear course renovation", THES, January 22).

Many universities house architecture in the category of the built environment. From encompassing planning, landscape, architectural science and architecture, this coverall term now includes civil engineering and three surveying disciplines, both numerically mightier bedfellows.

Further challenged by the inclusion in the built environment research assessment exercise grouping, architecture easily becomes the Cinderella of this family, struggling to define an autonomous area that could be called architectural research against more developed disciplines. The report does little more than draw attention to this problem to which others must now find a solution.

Architecture within universities' diverse structures receives no direction from the body that claims a deep interest in it - the Royal Institute of British Architects. How different from other professional disciplines such as medicine and law and the cognate subjects concerned with the construction industry where the profession not only claims a voice in academe but supports education.

The question Sir Colin does not address is what position within university structures would best benefit architecture? Facing this would open up a truly radical discussion of how architectural education could develop.

Architects may "fear course renovation" but many academics would claim that the only brake on change is the speed with which academic structures can accept them. Here is the root of the problem: the profession appears to want training while universities want schools of architecture to educate and research.

Serving two masters who speak different languages is a contradictory position for architecture that Sir Colin should change.

David Dunster Roscoe professor of architecture University of Liverpool

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