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UMD Re-Thinks Architectural Education

March 5, 2013
Contacts: 

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946

Students from ARCH401 hard at workCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - More than 40 years after the University of Maryland created its architecture program, the school is re-thinking how to best arm the next generation of students with the tools and experience to succeed in tomorrow's marketplace.

Since the creation of the program, the architecture profession has encountered sweeping changes in technology and practice, profound environmental and economic challenges, and a more diverse and accessible cultural landscape. These challenges, coupled with a downsizing of architecture firms since the onset of the recession in 2008, have sparked new questions about the future of architectural education.
 
"The profession is wrestling with immense and immediate pressures, such as computational changes, the economy of service, globalization and sustainability, which in turn are forcing significant changes to the practice of architecture," says David Cronrath, dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. "In turn, we need to find a way to adjust our curriculum and teaching that prepares our students to adeptly navigate the profession of the future."

The tools used to navigate these challenges, explains Cronrath, revolve around a core set of principles that will drive an innovative and re-conceptualized curriculum for UMD's architecture program. When paired with new ways of teaching, curriculum flexibility and opportunities to collaborate and explore, this holistic approach to teaching architecture will put students on the path to success. Focusing on a key foundation of analytic skills, creative problem solving, rhetorical and communication skills, ethics and most notably, visual thinking, allows the curriculum to adapt and grow with changes in the profession.

Adds Cronrath, "These changes are not only necessary for the future of architecture; they are what the next generation of students will demand."

Architecture director Brian Kelly leading a lecture series discussionThe 2012-13 architecture lecture series, "Conversations on the Future of Architectural Education," offers a glimpse at what that future could be. The series, which resumed this past month, brings together experienced practitioners, industry leaders and innovative educators from across the country—alongside UMD students and faculty—to discuss, debate and examine the future of architectural education. According to Brian Kelly, Architecture Program director and "Conversations" creator, the series facilitates a key step in researching curriculum best practices, taking the temperature with other academics and professionals, providing critical discussion and facilitating idea exchange.  

"Nationally, this is a topic that all schools of architecture are struggling with," explains Kelly. "Many schools are embracing the notion of curricular change and how to deal with evolving technology, sustainability and the changing role of community. How are other schools doing it? It is this sort of collaboration of ideas and viewpoints that will help us to push the curriculum forward."

According to Michael Ambrose, assistant professor of Architecture, a reconceptualization of the curriculum has broad implications for the profession, providing the tools that will not only develop a well-prepared architect, but that equip students for a number of career paths.

"It's a great time to be doing this, because there are so many cultural shifts at play," explains Ambrose. "There is no longer a "traditional" college student. Now is the prime time to open up a discussion and examine how to make ourselves more flexible. These important conversations will help us develop the most engaging modes of delivery."

Join the conversation
"Conversations on the Future of Architectural Education" runs through May, and features lively discussion and debate between professionals, academics, industry leaders and students on the future of education and the profession. The next lecture, "Take Five: Should Architectural Education Change?," featuring a conversation with American Institute of Architects Executive Vice President and CEO Robert Ivy, takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27, at the School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. Click here for a full schedule.