Last week, a several-year old compilation of things not learned in architecture school resurged between us bloggers. Having before only read such lists while in school, I figured I’d give it another go to see if anything felt relevant to my current situation. A third of the way down the 101 item list, #36 stopped my eyes.
“Expect to be regarded with suspicion if your undergraduate degree is not in architecture.”
Memories surfaced. Me, shifting around in ill-fitting clothes, explaining my undergraduate career to architects in crisp suits, of how and why I switched. Defending my educational choices, trying to sell them as positive. Fingers frozen over my computer, I felt the same stressed fluster, as if I was still wilting under scrutinizing and skeptical gazes. A few bad experiences need not make the rule, but after seeing the words following #36, I have to ask.
Is that the common view?
Are non-architectural bachelors’ degrees causes for concern? If so, I would then need to ask, Why?
To re-brew spent coffee grounds, medicine offers itself as a useful analogy, one that I’ve used before. Careers in medicine follow fairly set paths – a few years in school, a few spent interning, and finally (hopefully) licensure. Medical schools themselves are similar in duration to longer graduate architect programs (like my own former 3.5 year track), their curricula intended to build upwards from very basic coursework.
Yet medical schools don’t require undergrad degrees in pre-medicine. And, if my years spent volunteering under various doctors while still courting a career in medicine offer any reliable indication, medical schools actually prefer different degrees for the diversity of perspectives and experiences that they bring to the field. Pre-medicine itself is viewed with suspicion.
The human body is far more complex than a building, so why do architecture students ‘require’ more schooling than their medical counterparts in order to be more successful and saleable?
I’ve so often heard that in architecture as well as medicine that the real learning happens in the field, and my own limited experiences have so far corroborated this. So why does medicine, with its great complexity, only require three years of field-specific study, while architecture prefers six? If most learning happens in the workplace, why would an undergrad degree in physics or fine arts preclude adequate learning?
Furthermore, #81 even seems to address this: “If you already have a B.Arch, consider further education in a different field. Your M.Arch can’t make a real contribution to the field if you’re just showing off software skills.” Key point that I seem to interpret? Diversity your skills. Differentiate yourself.
And for another point from the list, #59: “Architects should not intermarry. Inbreeding is not good for the gene pool.” Further argument that a measure of diversity – in a marriage, in an industry, in a species – is not only healthy but also healthier.
The gene pool of architecture consists of perspectives on the world and its inhabitants, of ways of thinking, or of ways of even organizing or running a business. Limiting the experiences and skillsets of the industry’s adherents only weakens the field, perhaps irreparably.
Skepticism can be a healthy thing. But, if misplaced or based in ignorance or faulty assumptions, it can also be destructive, to an individual or an industry.
If the suspicion is common, I would love to know why.