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Don’t Kill the Design Studio—Make It Better | Architect Magazine

Aaron Betsky argues for making studio culture, and undergraduate architecture education in general, more affordable, universal, and sustainable for all students.

courtesy Pexels
courtesy Pexels

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For all the problems with the inherent racism in architecture that I laid out in my previous blog, I love walking into an architecture studio at a university. Wandering around our open spaces at the architecture school where I teach, Virginia Tech, seeing the messy desks filled with laptops perched on wads of paper with half-built models towering over them while small groups of students and faculty gather around the walls to discuss what, at first glance, are incomprehensible sections gives me a sense of design happening in the here and now, as exploration, experimentation and sometimes just fun.

Beyond the racism in the content, however, is studio culture for everyone? Is it productive, efficient, or even fair? Is it truly available for everybody at the school, and do its methods serve to educate future generations to create a more sustainable, equitable, open, and beautiful human-made environment? These are the questions that we must confront as the relevance of not only making buildings in the traditional manner, but educating future architects to do so, is in question.

The problems start with the basic mechanics of the studio. Take that mess of models and drawings and laptops. The latter must often be a souped-up version of what your average student might use, often with built-in gaming engines, and can cost thousands of dollars. We assume that they will last the length of a student’s career, and we subsidize their purchase when necessary, but these days they often have to be replaced within a few years. This cost comes on top of whether these computers influence the designs themselves in ways we do not yet fully understand. Then there is all the filament for 3D printing and the extensive paper prints that have replaced yellow “bumwad” as the way students can communicate their work. These costs also continue to rise, while the mounds of material going into the dumpster at the end of semester also keeps growing.

courtesy Pexels Laptops upgraded for design, as well as architecture software programs, can run up the costs of an undergraduate architecture studio by thousands of dollars.
courtesy Pexels Laptops upgraded for design, as well as architecture software programs, can run up the costs of an undergraduate architecture studio by thousands of dollars.

The costs, whether physical or environmental, do not stop there. At our school, we believe in the value of hands-on experience, not only in the studio and the workshop, but also through extensive travel. We encourage our students to travel as much as possible, from short field trips to studios we offer in Chicago and Boston and Switzerland, to longer trips across Europe. All that costs money, as do many other ways in which we urge students to understand their built environment so they may make it better. It also creates a large carbon footprint.

Read on >>>> Source: Don’t Kill the Design Studio—Make It Better | Architect Magazine

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