Teaching within the Corporation

Corporatism is an unchallenged organizational model insinuated upon all educational administrative structures whether this model is pertinent or not.

Problematically, corporate philosophy constructs a creed of ‘more is better’, out of a perceived necessity to extend the influence of a corporate ideology, for itself.

The establishment of an ethics of management, under the aegis of the corporate banner, plays foul with those aspects of intellectual production, which are poorly suited to the principles of such a class ideology. Education of the young fares poorly under the pessimistic weight of such a yolk, since the general demeanor of the administrative corporation and the behavior of its acolytes, is like that of practical pessimists, by which I mean, individuals directed by a presentiment of impending disaster real and imaginary, and therefore sluggishly indifferent to the wellbeing of others.

By constructing administrative agendas which have as their primary objective, not the extension of learning and the creation of a critical re-reading of things as they are, but rather the avoidance of litigation and a need to comply with tacit and material contracts based on the exchange of money, corporate management in education constructs a distorted ethical geometry in which more management equates directly to improved outcomes; more teaching to better results etc.  What is at stake is not the quality of the reception of learning but the quantity of delivered outcomes. Under the yolk of corporate administration the quality of the reception of education has no existence, since it is the measurement of quality, the transformation of quality into quantity, which allows perceived contractual liability to be vitiated.

Within the architectural school, students are thereby disciplined to confuse teaching with learning, grade achievement with education, success at diploma with competence and the production of architectural imagery with the ability to say something new. The imagination of the architectural student is forcibly “schooled” to accept the service of teaching in place of the value of learning; consequently efforts directed at substantial changes in teaching practice, which might bring about a realignment with the real demands of architectural work and a re-evaluation of professional activity, must firstly confront a systemic corporate anxiety within education and more extensively within society itself, in which for example, medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military readiness  for national security, the production of drawings for architectural innovation and the rat race for productive work.

Creative educational endeavor is defined in general terms, no less than architectural education, in more specific terms, as determined by the performance of the teaching institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend upon the allocation of more and better resources however these maybe defined. An economy of achievements follows, as a necessary adjunct to this kind of mythicisation, in which the performance of schools of architecture is judged against some extraneous standard of quantities, drawn up by a centralizing corporate institution, to wit, the RIBA and the ARB. Since subsequent professional success cannot be measured in terms of educational achievement, – the performance of students at diploma level is no indication of how they will perform within the profession itself, – the achievements of architectural schools are quantified intrinsically, in terms of the process and delivery of teaching performance articulated through agreed and ultimately misguided documentation. Whatever the images of the architectural profession may be, within the corporate structures of tertiary education, those images remain anachronous and wholly dislodged from the rough and tumble of the demands made by current market conditions. Such images are never more deceptive than in times of recession when the relative stability of demand on architectural consultancy suffers a substantial reduction.

The constancy of educational need, in so far as it is contrived by self-interested institutions, which profess to meet such a perceived need, must, and for reasons of self-preservation alone, construct a constant ground of reference, ‘a level playing field’ to use the current jargon, in order to exhaust such a need under the demands of corporate compliance. Architecture, in so far as it remains a legitimate operating term of reference for these institutions, seeking to establish such a ground, is firstly an hypostatization, in contradistinction to real instances forged from economic circumstances. To construct agendas for the teaching of architecture as a separate idea, sui generis, rather than for ‘architectures’ as a collection of material instances, subject to a series of differing and often contradictory ideas in continual renovation, is precisely the error embraced by institutions who can offer no more than they are able to, given the shortcomings of underfunded and inappropriately staffed higher educational establishments under the thrall of potential litigation and the demands of corporate obeisance. Should a materialism of this kind embrace architectural schools faced with a need to bolster diminishing recruitment, they would do well to alter their idealist agendas for a curriculum, which delivers appropriate skills to a contracting market. Self-evidently such an agenda lies beyond the scope of architectural schools in all their current formulaic and rigid administrative forms. Circumstances, contrived by funding changes in the U.K., will deliver this as a matter of necessity, as self funding institutions recognize, as in the United States, that success of individual courses will come to rely upon a numbers game.

The pursuit of a fetishized and undereducated picturesque has comprehensively throttled schools of architecture in England. Too much drawing and too little thinking has led schools to contract the breadth of a comprehensive professional scope to offer a short-hand education which concentrates exclusively on the spectacular drafting of implausible images which serve to obscure the need for pertinent solutions to real problems. Drawing as technical craft is the primary delusion. The creation and extemporization of minor style obsessions has become a tainted economy, obscuring the corrosive and ever widening diversion of architectural education from pertinent professional execution.

The fantasy of critics who wish to retain a desire to exhaust their anxieties concerning architectural form, require students to pursue their imaginations at the expense of understanding key aspects of the business of architecture as a social and intellectual practice. A mythology results from this contingency, in which the dancing images of so much architectural school production, gains high value as a demonstration of virtuosity for itself, rather than for addressing directly, through directed imaginative and creative processes, the thorny problems well known to the operating profession at large. Issues of cost, social pertinence, economy of materials, contextual relevance, histories of type, statutory restrictions, commercial development formulae, the current state of manufacturing, the problems of procurement and the management of the architectural business itself, are considered to be restrictive to the pursuit of images wrought from the unfettered imagination. Consequent designs which spring from ‘unhindered reflection’, so called, offer little scope to students, which might aid them to construct strategies for the production of architecture under existing conditions of the market. This situation is exacerbated either by the inexperience of educators who have little professional understanding of commercial architecture, since they are fully engaged with the production of teaching outcomes, or by seasoned professionals, who certainly do, but see an engagement with teaching as some wistful return to the salad days of less demanding and more unfettered times. Either way prescient terms for the production of architectural works within architecture schools, which remain pertinent to the current market place, are overlooked as somehow distasteful or disturbing to the decorum of teaching politely.


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