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Keeping architecture school in perspective
by Katy Purviance on 05/12/09 @ 08:22:31 am
Categories: Grad School | 312 words | 3235 views

I’m reading a book called The Most Beautiful House in the World by Witold Rybczynski. Interspersed with his retelling of building himself a shed for his boat, he relates a history of architectural practice.

This is interesting because I am learning at the GSD, if nothing else, that we are being trained to practice architecture in a particular kind of way. I constantly find myself questioning the pedagogy. I wonder if it at all fits in with the kind of architect I want to be.

I am a big fan of vernacular architecture, or, more accurately, of “primitive” yet effective built solutions to mitigate certain climate conditions. I have read Architecture without Architects a few times. In a nutshell, this is my observation: how did these so-called “primative” people build such beautiful and useful buildings, and if that knowledge, talent, and skill exists, then why do so many so-called highly trained and educated architects of our era build such ugly pieces of trash? Some famous starchitects build things that look as though a monster has chewed its way through metropolis and then puked it all up.

(Do you know who I’m talking about? Can you think of several famous contemporary architects of whom I might be speaking?)

And so, imagine my delight when I came across the following footnote in The Most Beautiful House in the World:

The two giants of late-nineteenth-century American architecture, Louis Sullivan and HH Richarson, both studied at the Beaux-Arts, but without completing the degree requirements. The great Victorian architect Edwin Lutyens studied at an art school for only two years, did not finish the course, and two years later established his practice, at the precocious age of twenty. Not one of the three best-known architects of the twentieth century – Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier – recieved a formal architectural education.

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places where you could probably learn more about designing and building in just a few days than I did after a year of grad school

Know of some others I can add here? Let me know. Have you already visited some of these places...or planning on it? Let me know and I will feature your story and your photos here!

I am starting a new kind of architecture school. Unlike most architecture schools, you wouldn't have to submit GRE scores or good grades or letters of recommendation. You wouldn't have to put the rest of your life on hold for 3 to 5 years. You wouldn't have to accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt. At my architecture school, anyone could come for a few weeks and learn how to build a house with their own two hands. My teachers would take skills and concepts from some of these other workshops I've listed above... except classes would be held year-round to make it easy to fit into your schedule. I would have a number of different campuses around the country that would teach building designs appropriate to the local climate. And I need your help. Can you donate land for a campus? Can you dotate books for a library? Can you teach a workshop? Can you provide start-up capital? Let me know.

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