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The Critical Practice modules rethink the profession and your role within it

JAMES SOANE

During the Inter-Practice Year, the two adjacent Critical Practice modules – Placement and Theory – create a critical collision between speculation about architecture and speculating within architecture. This premise is at the heart of the LSA philosophy: that the dialogue between the process of designing and the trajectory of practising is common to the education of an architect at all stages of their career.

By examining the activity and outcome of architectural production, we seek to uncover and propose different models of practice and praxis. We will look at established modes as well as those in the margins, in order to gain an understanding of where we might fit in, where our agenda lies and how we wish to operate. Some of this knowledge used to be called theory, but perhaps a more straight forward interpretation is required?

Working within a practice allows each student a view from the ground and they will be operating as part of a team or system. Unlike the notion that education is a mission for self-enlightenment, having a critical input, in real time, allows us to calibrate and understand our actions. The constraints and opportunities of being embedded within the profession demand a sophisticated and thoughtful response. The range of architects participating within the programme inevitably means that as a group students are exposed to a multitude of viewpoints and attitudes. Over the course of the year the thesis developed in the Critical Practice Manual should reflect a move from assumptions and preconceptions to an in-depth research tool. This is a live project conducted in the present tense.

Supporting this project the Methods and Models lecture series aims to unpack and appraise a number of alternative, often radical, approaches to architecture. What motivates the architect and what shapes their creative and commercial output? What are the dilemmas facing current practice? We wish to interrogate the realm of aesthetics and form as the outcome of a critical design process. Key to this is developing an understanding of the balance between received knowledge and self-conscious design direction and having an intuitive sense of ‘designerly ways of knowing’.

Students produce a Critical Practice Manifesto, which is a tool for each to start measuring themselves by. It is a new way of interacting and being part of the debate on architectural theory and ideas. We recognise that embedded within the discussion is an awareness of risk and how far design ideas can be pushed while still having relevance to people and places. What can architecture mean?