How Can Higher Education Build a Better Architect?
In the 2010s, design-build programs were the cutting edge of architectural education. Today, young architects must master empathy as much as any design software or construction know-how.
At a point in human history where time has never felt so bent and warped (we can all agree August straight-up disappeared, right?), it’s a balm to be able to reflect on the past.
Flipping open a copy of Dwell’s January 2010 issue, dedicated cover-to-cover to exploring the future of design, is a way to find some much-needed temporal balance; it’s a grounding portrait of a hopeful time. Ten years ago, writer-architect Dan Maginn covered the future of design education, and in his story (“Not So Big, Not So Easy”) he offered an optimistic look at the design-build programs that were starting to crop up at architecture schools around the globe.
At the time, these courses were fledgling entries into a new era of hands-on architecture, ones that celebrated collaboration and encouraged both thinking and doing, taking bright young things out of the classroom and into the world.
And 10 years later, in the unending time distortion that is 2020, we’ve never been more grateful that this idealistic future of architecture is our here-and-now reality—because now, more than ever, we need programs that create citizens, not starchitects, and that treat empathy as reverently as drafting skills.
A Decade of Design-Build
In Maginn’s 2010 story, he reported on Tulane School of Architecture’s innovative UrbanBuild studio as it tackled its fourth project: A 1,200-square-foot shotgun-style home for a challenged neighborhood in New Orleans, intended to be as novel as it was economical. A decade later, hundreds of other aspiring architects have followed in their footsteps.