How do you balance people’s welfare with architectural aesthetics? Is the coronavirus pandemic a design problem — and if so, how can architects solve it? Is Milan’s plan to repurpose 35 kilometres of roads into pedestrian-friendly streets a good idea? Was it a feat or folly for the Paris mayor to introduce new and fully protected bike lanes to reduce congestion and pollution? What’s the alternative to expensive office spaces and shining skyscrapers as the workforce moves to remote working environments?
Architecture has always been impacted and shaped by pressing problems in society. From the Plague to World War II to today’s intensifying climate crisis, all have left their marks on the built environment and the ways people moved in them.
It’s a constant to redesign, improve and reinvent facilities, buildings, homes, and even entire cities. The new normal today is no exception. Apartments — which now serve as makeshift offices and kindergartens — are slated to have more flexible functions and sizes; having access to fresh air and nature will likely be a bigger priority too. Universities are requesting for “sufficient public space in and around shared facilities,” to allow social distancing. Studios are envisioning parks to be maze-like and divided by high hedges to allow people to be outdoors while maintaining physical distance.
Central to this pipeline of innovation are world-class architecture schools that consistently produce the next generation of talents. Here are the top architecture schools that equip them with inspiration, guidance and strategic skill sets to become tomorrow’s success stories:
Innovative, experimental, radical — student projects at this Top 10 architecture school are anything but dull. At its Grad Thesis Weekend 2020, a thrilling virtual smorgasbord of student projects was served to visiting critics, architecture professionals, as well as SCI-Arc faculty and leadership.
From “The Perfect Boyfriend Builder 4.0” to the “genesis of new artificial terrains,” graduating M.Arch 1 and M.Arch 2 students presented new perspectives in architecture and design. It was a display of the strategic skill sets SCI-Arc has equipped them with, and a sign of all the potential they are set to harness from the applied research and cross-disciplinary experience gained here.
“In terms of aspiration, what we at SCI-Arc want the thesis to be is an absolutely vital first step towards a professional life; that’s the best that it has to offer as a pedagogical, academic, and professional tool. Another important aspect of the thesis is not only each individual finding their voice, but also providing a place for all voices in the school to be expressed,” explains SCI-Arc Director Hernán Díaz Alonso.
Offering undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate programmes, SCI-Arc is strategically housed in the historic Santa Fe Freight Depot located in the Arts District of Los Angeles. Surrounding it are architectural landmarks such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Chinatown and the Mayan Theater; on campus, it’s an integrated suite of resources that support academic progress and experimentation. Learn more about this laboratory for architectural experimentation here.
Students at the Department of Architecture in ETH Zurich (D-ARCH) in Switzerland are designing for a different world. Guided by high-quality teaching and informed by research, they are exploring the issues of future cities, energy, climate change and sustainability — and putting their own stamp on them.
Faculty here are diverse and highly-skilled, with expertise ranging from the development of new construction systems to conservation, from the use of robotics to historiography and sociology.
Working in close proximity with students and with the protection of academic freedom, they encourage students in both bachelor’s and master’s programmes to make full use of ETH Zurich’s freedom to architecture.
The institutes of D-ARCH are: Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (GTA), the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA), the Institute of Historic Building Research and Conservation (IDB) and the Institute of Landscape and Urban Studies (LUS). Each is closely linked with the design studios through the interdisciplinary definition of task; research findings are funneled into teaching. Further collaboration with other divisions of ETH Zurich — such as the humanities, social and political sciences, as well as the material, environmental and engineering sciences — complement this.
Located in the Lung Fu Shan neighbourhood, this faculty offers students an innovative approach to architectural education. Its research arm HKUrban Labs seeks to answer the question of how we understand, plan, design, produce, govern and manage cities of the 21st century. With the research and outreach energies of scholars of architecture, conservation, construction management, housing, landscape, planning, real estate, surveying, transport, urban design, urban economics and urban studies, solutions are emerging and students are getting access to them.
Five new specialist labs support this collective research effort: Sustainable High Density Cities; Healthy High Density Cities; Smart High Density Cities; 5D-Building Information Modelling Lab; and Architectural Conservation Lab. Currently in the works is a new gallery, a heavy construction workshop, as well as three new research centres.
Another facility that’s always evolving and inspiring? The city of Hong Kong itself. At a density unprecedented in history — and still rapidly growing — students here get to study, live and learn in a living laboratory. It’s a real-time, real-world setting to learn rural-urban linkages and settlements in the hinterlands and heartlands of mega-city regions.
Located in Australia, this faculty prepares the next generation of architects through a multidisciplinary approach that allows them to become innovative leaders in the field. For example, Bachelor of Design students are given flexibility to combine in-depth study in a particular area with subjects from other disciplines in design. Master’s programmes equip students with knowledge across a wide range of disciplines and practical learning opportunities to apply real-world knowledge.
The faculty also has a strong international reputation for graduate research, where students and professors focus on the latest debates and engage with industry professionals, policy-makers and the community in analysing and solving complex problems in architecture.
Another unique and beneficial aspect of the faculty is the number of collaborative groups, research hubs, centres and institutes located within the Faculty that bring together internationally-recognised leading experts in the field. These include the Australian Centre for Architectural History, Urban and Cultural Heritage and Connected Cities Lab.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International