Architecture Professors: What they Profess? The professors in architectural schools are a varied bunch and students learn to clump in with professors that they enjoy/understand, or are forced to enjoy and/or understand. Professors vary in type from those who are seen as viewed as being helpful to students to those who are viewed as being purposefully difficult. Some professors are considered ‘venerable heroes’ with students hanging on their every word, while others seem to ramble on about nothing, in a way that is impossible to understand, let alone learn from and enjoy.
The administrators can be laid back, or over zealous; both kinds can drive everyone else crazy or amuse them, depending on temperaments. Some professors are quiet and shy while others are outgoing and passionate. In short, it is important to understand that a school of architecture is a community, complete with all different personalities who have to work together, or at least tolerate one another, in order for the system to work.
Professors also bring in their own set of ideologies, passions, and biases and students have to constantly be aware of these prejudices and personality quirks while they are in the classes and doing projects.
They also have different views on what to get out of architecture; some believe that historical architecture is the most important thing for a student to learn, while others specialize in the technological aspect of architecture, believing in the strength of the computers and graphic design in the architectural work place. Some profess the importance of morphology-that is, the shape and design of the building and treating it almost like a living organism. Still others profess the importance of functionality; that is, that the building must serve a purpose of some sort and that the architect’s design has to reflect this.
The ecology of a building setting is also important as we all have to live with nature and professors can have differing views on how to deal with this fact of life. Some believe that buildings are meant to shield people from the elements and others believe that buildings can be created to work with nature. The latter is beginning to grow in strength as the green movement progresses.
The differing teaching emphasizes often overlap, giving a rich and varied education from the professor to the student. The bottom line is that every professor has a priority, or a small set of priorities to impart on their students and it is these priorities that the student should keep in mind when deciding on courses and getting to know their professors. These preferences, combined with the personalities of the professors and faculty provide an interesting cocktail for the student to wade through.
There is always an emphasis placed on urbanism as well, as good buildings make a good town or city. Architects have to be aware of the placement of the buildings they are constructing since they have to be placed within the wider range of the urban center as a whole. Part of every student’s education is knowledge about urban space.
Architecture can also convey symbols and meanings. This is bound up in the culture of the people who are living in those buildings. Japanese architecture is very different from American architecture for example, and this is partially because of the differences in culture. This can also be bound up in events around the culture-times of war lend themselves to simpler building design, while times of great religion lend themselves to grand cathedrals. In order to get work, architects have to be sensitive to the needs and wants of the people that hired them. Students often learn this alongside building materials and history.
All of this diversification makes it very interesting for students to choose coursework and professors that will help them in their profession. It is important that students understand what their professors specialize in and how their thoughts and passions influence their teaching methods.