What People Say about the LSA
Architects, critics and educators share their impressions about the London School of Architecture
Charles Jencks, eminent historian:
‘The London School of Architecture promises a much-needed model for architectural education today when there are three strong trends underway that can be treated together, synergistically. In a period when architectural education is a lengthy expense favouring the well-off, we definitely need a quicker, more affordable route into the profession. At the same time, the profession itself sorely needs motivated young who can help with design and research. Finally, the older model of ‘learning while doing’, a staple of education theory, must be reinvented in the era of the third trend – the networked society. Thus, no surprise that the LSA has gathered together some 40 practices in London, from which they hope to offer 25 placements in their first year.
The LSA’s two-year programme is different from other types of architectural education, a hybrid between the unit-based academic system and the (rarer) dispersed practice-based model. By locating in practices around London, students will not be isolated in the placement year, but able to constantly meet up, trade ideas and disagree with each other. By bringing the spheres of academic and practical concern closer together the school hopes to foster a rich culture of invention, one engaged with reality. Too often a youthful creative spark is bred out of student architects kept away from the building scene.
As a historian, I am pleased to see the teaching of history being given such prominence in the school, with a course dedicated to how architects have approached the task of design and expression in different periods. The larger historical context is not only a spur and a standard of excellence, but the storehouse of plural solutions. It entails tolerance, interpretation and renewal; it acts as a solace during the inevitable downturns and frustrations of practice.
Taking advantage of networked-working, the LSA is determinedly 21st century. Globalization, not to mention global warming, raises issues that can be well-channelled through metropolitan London. The school can move around the capital, investigating and speculating about a different borough each year. It could adapt quickly to change and take advantage of opportunities, and new ideas as they arise. Obviously, as a pre-eminent global centre with a diversity index as great as New York, the city is a perfect home for such a broad and fast-moving school.
This integrated approach to education could produce some interesting and important architectural outcomes – it deserves every success.’
Professor Flora Samuel, University of Reading, co-author of Demystifying Architectural Research:
‘I have been singing the praises of the LSA model since spending a day there in January, first giving a lecture on the direction I think practice should be taking – collaborative research – and the problems we have in demonstrating that what architects do has any value without evidencing it through research. The afternoon was spent on the inaugural Think Tank workshop when the students, their practices and industry experts all got together to discuss the generation of their collaborative research projects so I was very happy. I really like the lean, high quality model being pioneered by the LSA team.’
James Soane, former Chair of RIBA New Course Group, LSA Director of Critical Practice:
The experience of teaching at the LSA is unlike tutoring anywhere else. The atmosphere is one of collaborative learning, of intelligent debate and knowledge sharing. This not only reflects the values of the school, but also the landscape of innovation and change. By re-casting the question of theory into one of practice, together we are advocating propositional thinking and leveraging the agency of the architect.
The success of our critical practice collaborations has been borne out in the challenging yet grounded writing of the students, each of whom has sought to understand the nature of their host practice while developing a thesis for their own future practice(s). In this way the question of ‘theory’ is seen as a process to engage in rather than a separate entity, existing outside the boundary of architectural production.
Sir Terry Farrell, author of the Farrell Review:
‘Professional education for architects is based on a model that is fifty years old and it must be radically rethought to prepare graduates much better for the future. The equation between cost of education and subsequent earnings for a career in architecture does not stack up unless the student has independent financial means.
This lack of accessibility is unacceptable, and we need architects who are able to relate to broader society. To widen access, we need a diverse range of different courses and training routes to be made available. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is no longer appropriate and risks institutionalizing students at a time when we need them to interact better with a rapidly changing world.
For these reasons, the arrival of the London School of Architecture on the scene is a welcome one. It addresses many issues with an innovative and distinctive approach that could offer a new and powerful way to educate architects.
Creating a coalition of talents, the LSA has established a network of practices, of which we are delighted to be a member. The practices will provide part-time placements, so that students can progress with one foot in practice and one foot in the academy. This has been designed to encourage the extraordinary imagination that flourishes within British architectural education, and focus it onto the real-world challenges we face today.
The LSA wants to be a nimble and responsive organization, and it is interesting in how it proposes to dematerialize the ‘institution’ and disperse as a network of spaces and opportunities within London. Their emphasis on the city is absolutely right, as it promotes the view of the built environment as a process rather than a product. Too often today architects are educated to exert a controlled view of the world, seeking definite solutions.
With accelerated urbanization and the city in flux, however, there is an urgent need for contemporary architects to shift this mindset and learn from the theories of complexity and emergence. The LSA begins its two-year programme with a close reading of the city as a living organism, an understanding that underpins all the design work until graduation.
In short, the LSA is an intelligent response to the changing nature of both the architectural profession and the higher education sector. Its model proposes a deep engagement with contemporary urban and architectural issues, and offers a much more affordable route to becoming an architect. It has my full endorsement.’
Matthew Claudel, MIT Senseable City Lab, co-author of Open Source Architecture:
‘The discipline and practice of architecture has been upended at key moments in history – and we are in the midst of one now. Transformations are happening at every stage of creating the built environment: inhabitation, construction, fabrication, design, collaborative ideation, and, of course, education. There are shifting motivations for engaging with architecture, in any of these stages – whether for students, materials scientists or occupants.
The LSA is brimming with the pulse of those shifting motivations. A revolutionary pedagogical structure has reconfigured the pursuit of design, creating new hyperlinks between industry and education, between policy makers and app developers, between builders and thinkers. The city has become a laboratory, and designers are taking agency of their careers. A small and nimble group of students, educators and practitioners is diving head first into critical and proactive design. The LSA is positioned squarely at the most active nexus in the field of architecture, and it is poised to reimagine the future of the discipline.’