GAM 18

Editorial

Petra Petersson, Christina Linortner

Architecture (and architectural education) aspire to be a formative or driving force in processes of societal and spatial change, yet it takes place in spaces and within institutions that often do not live up to these aspirations themselves. Questions about architectural education often arise from adapting the curriculum. Should it lead to a more generalist and humanistic education? Should it be a training for building specialists? Or should architecture be taught as an art? These questions are repeatedly discussed in architecture faculties at varying intervals and levels of intensity, but the spaces that architectural education requires and their basic design are taken for granted. Lecture halls and seminar rooms are used for teaching, studios for drawing and production, offices for administration, organization, and research. The chance to deal with the subject in greater depth—even when, for example, the rather rare opportunity arises of building a new school of architecture—is often limited by predetermined spatial programs. The essence of the relationships between predetermined spaces and their function, size, or form remains close to the already tried and tested, not just in architecture departments but in all other university disciplines too.

Universities are institutions, and, when considering their architectural spaces, one must also take into account the societal and organizational structures that underlie them. Lesley Lokko, founder of the recently created African Futures Institute in Accra, Ghana, feels that this linkage is particularly identifiable in architectural education because, “in architecture schools, we do nothing more than simply teach students to think about structures.”[1] She goes on to argue that it is extremely helpful at this stage to develop “a fuller understanding of what we mean by ‘structural,’ … be it structural psychologies, structural traumas, structural racism, structural discrimination. … With the help of this specifically architectural concept, I was now able to bring the problem alive for the students, … they needed to deal with theoretical, technical, and social structures. After all, even apartheid, for example, would not have been possible without the complicit involvement of architecture; South Africa’s racial segregation was implemented in spatial form.”[2]

In the context of this issue of GAM, we are seeking to approach the transformation of university structures and other learning spaces from various perspectives, and to do so we move beyond the boundaries of the institution: not just into the already tried and tested home office or into the virtual spaces of distance learning, but into cities, nature, museums, and exhibitions. This process of crossing borders also includes ideas and concepts that over time have appeared repeatedly and been pursued in various different places. The university institution is inherently a complex one in which change is slow and hard to implement. Nevertheless, social change is reflected in universities too.

In this current issue, the question of architectural education is extended beyond university spaces to the (urban) environment, focusing on the learning experience at different levels. Starting with the spatial and institutional status quo in Austria, Petra Petersson’s opening article reflects on the social and structural boundaries and permeabilities of architectural education. Next, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, in her “Notes on Pandemic Teaching,” takes a look at virtual space and, through the lens of architecture schools, illuminates the moment of crisis that the pandemic has triggered worldwide. She reveals how the unquestioned use of technology to shift teaching into virtual space—or, rather, into the world of private bedrooms and living rooms now used as home offices—has also transferred, and reinforced, privilege and social inequality in the process. In her article “Off Campus,” Christina Linortner considers the recent history of architectural education and how far different attempts to forsake university premises may make it generally possible to overcome their institutional context.

Shadrach Woods, Giancarlo De Carlo, and Colin Ward, in roughly synchronized forays, have attempted to detach architectural education from the purely university context, not only opening it up to the urban environment, but also, to some degree, completely socializing and “de-schooling” it. This endeavor, now called radical pedagogy, is touched on in a conversation between Federica Doglio, Nicolas Moucheront, Sol Perez-Martinez, and Adam Wood. In her contribution, Marlene Wagner deals with a current form of teaching, and specifically with the emergence and (decolonial) critique of a contemporary transcontinental teaching format between South Africa and Austria, namely Design Build; she calls for a culture of critical unlearning, but also for the design of alternative models. “The Casa,” a hybrid and participatory studio project by London Metropolitan University in Belmonte Calabro, Italy, demonstrates the potential that longerterm collaborations outside the university open up for structurally weak regions in Europe and their various protagonists.

Hélène Frichot takes up the task of defying neoliberal flexibilization tendencies and of developing alternatives by reflecting on the architecture faculty at KTH Stockholm and its 2015 move to a new building on the basis of a “care ethic” founded in feminism. This is followed by a compilation of several paired images from an exhibition, curated by Björn Ehrlemark, in honor of the 1970s faculty building, just discussed by Frichot, which was abandoned in 2014. In the very same period that the School of Architecture in Sweden was built and occupied, the Faculty of Architecture at ETH Zurich temporarily occupied the Globus Provisorium. As Lucia Pennati’s contribution makes clear, this former department store adapted for temporary teaching played a role—as a space for pedagogical experimentation, debate, and cultural events—that was crucial in developing a new ETH Zurich curriculum.

A radical alternative to conventional architecture education is identified by Simran Singh, who takes a critical look at the current revitalization of the “holy city” of Varanasi. She advocates the further development of “mat urbanism” as evolved historically along the riverbank of the Ganges, taking the form of a closely meshed urban texture of courtyard houses. Singh interprets the courtyards, which is where the working and private lives of families of weavers take place, as spaces with alternating uses that give their occupants freedom that the usual designation of room functions in architectural planning does not allow for. Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal explain in a conversation with Karine Dana, citing their design of ENSA Nantes, what meaning going beyond the program and the integration of the neighboring urban environment holds for universities and in this particular case, for an architecture school. The sociologist Jean-Louis Violeau supplements this account with a user-based perspective and highlights the diverse urban qualities and uses within the building. In conclusion, Petra Eckhard discusses with Jeannette Kuo of Karamuk Kuo Architects the challenges faced by future educational institutions, using as an example their extension of the Rice University School of Architecture in Houston, Texas, which is still under construction.

This issue of GAM is intended as an incentive to step outside our own context and explore a different perspective beyond the institution, in order to drive forward the necessary spatial changes and changes to institutional structures. ■

(Translation: John Wheelwright/Dawn Michelle d’Atri)


[1] Lesley Lokko, Tom Emerson, Tonderai Koschke, and Sarah Maafi, “Dekarbonisieren, dekolonisieren, deinstitutionalisieren,” ARCH+ 246, Zeitgenössische feministische Raumpraxis (2022): 168–173, esp. 172.

[2] Ibid.