Star⋅chi⋅tec⋅ture School stär'kĭ-těk'chər skool
When I found myself subtracting or adding columns because it made my rendering look better, then I knew I was in a starchitecture school.
- Architecture schools that build their attractiveness, competitiveness or status on the accomplishments & reputation of their starcitecture faculty.
- architecture schools that grooms students to become "starchitects"
- architecture schools that mimics the teaching practices of starchitecture schools.
Below are samplings of diploma projects selected from two different schools. As you look at them consider the following questions:
Which ones would you rather live or work in?
Which ones would you choose as the location for an exciting movie or video game?
SAMPLE SET A
SAMPLE SET A is from Diploma Unit 20 run by Professors Shaun Murray and Marjan Colletti at The Bartlett School in London. One can safely describe this studio if not the entire Bartlett as an architecture school that mimics the teaching practices of starchitecture schools.
SAMPLE SET B is from a Thesis Course run by Professor Lance J. Brown at The City College of New York. Opposed to The Bartlett, The City Collage does not seem to fit the profile of a starchitecture school.
The projects in both sets lack to varying degrees some credibility as a project that is possible to realize. Obviously one much more than the other.
The is because most architecture schools are not set up to teach you how to design a building.
In fact, The point of architecture school is NOT to teach you how to design a building.
Let me say that again.
The point of architecture school is NOT to teach you how to design a building.
Take a moment and meditate on that.
If you want to learn how to design a building you should go and apprentice for an architect or a builder under no false pretense.
Then what's the point of architecture school you ask?
The short answer is that it has many points depending on the school that you go to.
For example most schools share some of these objectives:
- How to challenge the boundaries of conventional practice
- How to communicate ideas through drawing, model making, writing and speaking
- To be socially and ethically engaged in society (a few will do this)
- To expose students to the creative and technical aspects of architecture
- To equip you with the knowledge required for making architecture
- How to be critical of current practice
- To bring you abreast with the prevailing issues in current practice
- To give you the scholarship to define architecture on your own terms
- To give you a rough understanding of building construction and design
and if you are lucky, you might also learn
- How to understand & appreciate good craftsmanship in building
- or something about building construction methods
You will find some of these same objectives in starchitecture schools but what makes them stand apart from other architecture schools is that they prioritize one objective over all others:
- How to create projects that have high entertainment value.
Because of this emphasis, there is little time left to actually learn about designing a building. Creating entertaining images takes enormous amounts of time and energy, time taken away from seriously engaging in an investigation of your building's craftsmanship, construction methods, or its social or economic viability. God forbid any talk about end-user satisfaction, even plain old common sense is sent to the side lines. These are not so important in the big picture as far as starchitecture schools are concerned. Projects in such schools only need to demonstrate the remote possibility of being credible in the real world that you and I live in. The possibility that just maybe it can withstand the force of gravity, that maybe there is some kind of material on this planet that can do the things you show it doing in your project or perhaps it might be able to keep us relatively dry and warm in tumultuous weather. The term "suspension of disbelief" comes to mind.
I have seen many students walk through the doors of starchitecture school with earnest minds wanting to learn how to design a building. Their attempts at rigor by questioning the viability of their high entertainment value projects in the real world are met with explanations that are lacking in reason, smoothly buttered in archispeak and delicately glazed in the finest snake oil possible.
The ones who quickly realizes that it is not about learning to design buildings and that it is about creating an entertaining project wins the cake. And when I say they win the cake, I mean they win the cake with a capital C. You will get extended one-on-one desk crits with the starchitect or star-minded professor(s) who will design your project with or for you. They will have you make your project based on their own pre-formulated theory and convince you that it really came from you. They will tell you which projects to "reference" and which magazines to find them in. They will help you pick out a sky for your rendering and show you how to tweak the elements in the foreground and background to create depth in your image. They will even advise you on which font to use on your poster. When your project is done, you will get the VIP spot on the wall to hang their/your work and a hearty pat on the back for a job well done. The ones who don't get it are sent packing like a fired Donald Trump apprentice.
Starchitecture teaching methodology focuses on having students create projects based on said professors latest theories that he/she is very excited about. If it seam rolls your education in the process, well so be it. If you demonstrate independent thinking or fail to fall in line behind such theories, prepare to be ignored, disowned or snubbed. Remember your job is to provide fantastic images in the form of a project that celebrates your professors latest theories. How well your project flies is directly connected to starchitect-professor's ego and self worth. It can be extremely stressful, not to mention embarrassing for him/her to invite his colleagues over for a jury to show off his latest ideas....ahem... I mean your project, and have you make a mockery of it.
A major point of STARchitecture school is
to make your professor look good when he/she
brings their coleagues over to see their/your work.
If you are a very successful starchitecture student, not only will you have learned to fall in line, you will have learned to research all your professors projects before-hand. You will not only know what kind of rendering style he likes, you will know how to mimic them as well. When your starchitecture professor brings over his black cloaked star-minded friends for a crit, he will proudly point to your project on the wall and say "Isn't it amazing?" and they will say "yeaaas that's very interesteeeeng" and then another will say "its rear to see a work with such originality and passion". They also love to say stuff like "oh, you have captured the essence of ....bla, bla, bla." At this point try to remain humble. Your clueless classmates are probably scratching their heads and foaming at the mouth at how they managed to look past the gaping holes in your projects plausibility (especially when they were grilled on every undotted "i" and uncrossed "t" in their crits). Don't get me wrong, these guys are capable of criticizing the project of the starchitect's prodigy. They might say "Oh just one minor thing though, I would have liked to see some more orange from the sunset peaking out from behind the building in that image." "yeaaas, yeaaas, that would have nailed it" the others might confirm.
By the time you finish starchitecture school, you should have a portfolio of very interesting and entertaining looking projects thats kind of credible. Don't worry about credibility, a good starchitecture firm will overlook this "hey this is a school project you don't have to worry so much about reality, it is about communicating your vision"
When you bring this to a starchitectre firm, it will remind him of himself as a young man. He will say "wow this kid has passion, he has got imagination, he can render, he has a good eye, he works with photoshop well, he knows about graphic design, he can put a compelling image together. You are hired!"
So why did he hire you when he knows very well that you don't know how to design a building?
Because you are not hired to design buildings stupid! you are hired to provide fantastic images that celebrates your employer's projects, to make good images for the media. You are the office's latest graphics plug-in.
Inside the starchitecture firm you will meet some architects who think about issues like rain, and light, and circulation, and fire safety, and how the components of the building fit together, and such. No it gets even crazier... are you ready for this? They love this stuff. They find it very exciting. They can talk for hours on end about building joints and details. They don't care about poster fonts, or archispeak or what kind of sky, or foreground or background is used in an image. They understand architecture through the notations of plans, sections & elevations. They can imagine how a building looks without the aid of a rendering. Thats right! no renderings. Imagine that. They have no other agenda but to design a functioning building that is well made and pleasant to be in. You will find a few of them in Starchitecture firms.
Say hello to these dullards, they are the people who will teach you how to design a building and make an architect out of you. If they are like any other architects I know in this position (resigned to teaching architecture 101 while trying to deliver a project), they are grumpy as all hell. They will snap at you for not knowing what V.I.F. means on a construction document or for not knowing something that they deem "basic-shit-that-every-dumb-ass-should-know" (what ever that is for them that morning). But never mind, just suck it up, what does he know? He is just an architect. He is no star. He respects plumbing diagrams and toilet bowl specifications, not magazine covers. He will never be famous for anything. Who ever gets famous for designing a building that is just good to live or work in. Ever heard of a reporter asking to publish your building because it performed well under fire. He will never even raise his head from the murky depth of obscurity, not even for 15 minutes. You've got your priorities straight and you are on your way to becoming a Star.
NOTES ON BECOMING A FAMOUS ARCHITECT
Liberating Minds Since August 2007
64. What is important in STARchitecture school (part 2)