Category Archives: ARC571 – Education

Reflections on Architectural Education
Academic Module: ARC571
Tutor: Rosie Parnell, University of Sheffield



Wed 08/12/2010 – Innovation Plan

Getting DMUsed to it…

Just finished what i think is my 4th week teaching in 2nd year at the Leicester School of Architecture. Small group today, but good students. We just talked about their projects on a loosely individual basis, where others could take part of they wanted.

I found this quite rewarding. It was nice after having two very focussed sessions in the previous weeks to have an opportunity to look at their projects as a whole, and think about their interim reviews in a couple of weeks time. I guess they’re also getting to know who I am now too. This made things a bit more familiar, and i found it easier to hear them out before trying to empathise with their situation and help them work out a strategy for moving on.

Im finding teaching really interesting. Ive always been quite critical of who is allowed to teach on architecture courses – my employment highlights the fact in can be anyone! Ive no formal teaching qualification and im not fully qualified as an architect…so on what basis can i be trusted with other peoples’ education? Especially an expensive one…

But i guess what is important is actually the reflective nature of the teachers themselves. Maybe the simple fact that i am interested in improving as a teacher is reason enough? Teaching – like the social production of design – is about co-creating knowledge; about building a common ground for dialogue about an idea that can be put into practice, and in this respect i guess i’ve had five or six years of training! In treating my role as an educator like my role as a designer, i can help students on their journey towards bettering themselves. A solution of aspiration and best fit that is not unlike the design for production of a building, product, service, event, etc

But how can i remain fresh? And resist the idea of settling into a job in a way that breeds complacency and – in the worst cases – apathy and dislocation from those whose time you have taken custody? This happens too often, and these formative and (now expensive) years are just too important to let that happen.


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The University Project…ongoing at the Hub Westminster…

I popped into the Hub Westminster today, just to see what was going on in this interestingly conceived place for entrepreneurial thinking and doing right in the heart of our capital city…

This weekend sees the Hub host the University Project, introduced by Dougald Hine here, which questioned what our universities have become, and asks what we should do next.

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Project Context Debate – “Schools of Architecture Should Be Dissolved!” (unless…)

I had the dubious pleasure recently of being asked to be involved in a debate at my School of Architecture, run by Project Context and hosted by SUAS (Sheffield University Architecture Society) which followed an Oxford-style debate format based upon the motion, “Schools of Architecture Should Be Dissolved!”. I was asked to argue for the motion, alongside Sheffield graduate Alastair Parvin, and current staff member Dr Tatjana Schneider. A synopsis or our argument can be found – thanks to Alastair – here, whilst the debate itself was videoed and broadcast live via Livestream. A recording can be found here (the debate itself begins about 20mins in…). A lively discussion with some interesting QandA…but boy am I glad I survived it!




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The Retirement Home For Amnesiac Wizards…or What’s Wrong With Architectural Education

A good article I’ve come across by Alastair Parvin, a former Sheffield student, in Makeshift magazine’s online stuff…

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BD Student Blog post no.9

My latest BD Student Blog post cane be found here.


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BD Blog Post – 21/09/2011

My latest contribution to BD’s Student Blog can be found here

Let me know what you think!


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BD Blog Post – No.2 – The Review – What Is Our Education For?

***The published version of this post can be found here.***

Hey! Look at me! Im a student! Its brilliant, you can do anything you want… why is it so hard?

Doing what you want – or perhaps knowing what you want to do – is actually quite a challenge, and a source of almost constant anxiety for all but the most driven of students. The harsh reality is that if I don’t explore this idea, or do that drawing, then it is me that loses out, and my (expensive) education that suffers. And so, looking back to that all too fleeting ‘year out’, it is difficult not to long for a source of true validation. I can’t help but feel that by necessarily raising our expectation of what we could become, architectural education also heightens the debilitating fear of failing to meet such an ambiguous goal.

It’s certainly an interesting time of year at architecture school. I am writing this as I prepare for an interim review of my entire year’s design work, with the final review in two weeks time. Needless to say, I am experiencing the heady anticipation of an imminent challenge , accompanied by manic bouts of self-doubt and the all to infrequent flurries of frantic productivity and divine clarity –  not, I would say, a feeling unfamiliar to architecture students past and present. Some silently implode, some violently explode, and some cruise quietly through, miraculously stealing moments of leisure amidst the scraps of trace and plotter printouts. Some prefer the solitude of home working, fading to grey in immediate concerns of those seeking the collective therapy of the studio . Known ‘stressers’ drift between those who, having made their peace with the enduring prospect of too little sleep, have  permanently installed at desks and drawing boards.

Zoe Berman recently wrote in this blog about the nature of the ‘crit’ and the diversity of opinion surrounding its role in architectural education. It is interesting to note that here at Sheffield, teaching staff are keen to refer to the experience as a ‘review’ rather than ‘crit’, playing down the anticipation of conflict in favour of a positive conversation about our general learning, seeking to develop both our skill as designers and our projects as architecture. As we approach the review, there is much debate about the balance to be struck between ‘designing’ and ‘drawing up’, with a forceful argument made by our tutors that the divide should by no means be stark and absolute. This illustrates a core principal underlying the school’s pedagogical approach, that the goal of education – of any kind – is to produce autonomous, life-long learners rather than merely ‘knowledgeable persons’. By derivation, I should reflect on how I am working, rather than what I am producing.

So what do our readers think our education is for? And how do they think we should be using it? Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to light the other end of my candle….

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