Visual culture of the late 20th century has become characterized by the saturation of our senses with a nearly continuous stream of mediated images – easily manipulated and fluidly recombined by ever more and, at the same time, more readily available digital technology.
The study of architecture, with its methodical and holistic approach to problem solving and its global and history-laden consideration of design issues, can seem, at times, a charming relic – a staid but dignified elder statesman.
The place of architectural education in a rapidly modernizing world has long been a controversial subject certainly since 1968, when during the uprising in Paris, Ecole des Beaux Artes became a specific focus of student anger and finally collapsed under widespread internal dissention. The extent to which architectural practice maintains its distinctiveness and autonomy with regard to other design practices – or the extent to which it should attempt to emulate their success – is part of a larger discussion of the value of architectural traditions in relation to the importance of architecture as a relevant and meaningful voice in contemporary culture.
We spoke with the heads of seven local architecture and design programs to inquire how the schools are rethinking design education in the face of accelerated cultural production, changes necessitated by new technologies, and altered societal relations between the design community, the producing/constructing sector and the lay public.
The responses demonstrate a wide variety of concerns and reflect the differences in the spirit and focus at each of the schools. The breadth of this discussion can be seen, by extension, to reflect the broadening of our definitions of the parameters of design, design education and architecture.