What would Vitruvius Do?

31Jan16

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 08.56.59.pngRe-Thinking Architecture Education for the 21st Century University

Winifred E. Newman, Shahin Vassigh

Florida International University, Miami, Florida

ABSTRACT

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 08.56.59.pngIn the 1996 AIA Convention in Minneapolis, the governing bodies in the education and professionalization of architects; namely, the AIA, AIAS, NCARB, NAAB and the ACSI released the Boyer Report, subsequently published as Building Community: A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice. The report was named in honor of Ernest Boyer, an educational theorist who also participated in writing the text. Less comprehensive than the canonical texts by Vitruvius and his interlocutors, it is nonetheless a mirror of our current assumptions about the education of the architect. This paper looks at the epistemology inherited from Vitruvius as it shapes pedagogy up and through the Boyer Report and into the twenty-first century. The basis of our argument is that historical divisions between professional or applied knowledge and liberal, or theoretical knowledge inherited from the past limit our capacity within architecture education to integrate new strategies for knowledge creation and dissemination. We conclude that considering architecture education also means reconsidering the basis of architecture knowledge. What of the (persistent) Vitruvian model is relevant in our post-modern condition? What do we learn from the image of our profession projected through the lens of the Boyer Report and it’s like? In other words, what would Vitruvius do?

KEYWORDS: Architecture epistemology, pedagogy, education, design thinking

INTRODUCTION

Our purpose in this study is to look at issues in the epistemology and pedagogy of architectural education in the twenty-first century. Our starting point is a broad analysis of the canonical texts in architecture education originating with the Roman military engineer and architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio’s first century text, De Architectura or The Ten Book on Architecture, that arguably still informs the underlying intellectual structure of the education of the architect. The educational context of Vitruvius’ text was a post-Eleatic, pre-Scholastic discourse without institutional bearings. Universities as such didn’t exist in Augustinian Rome. In contrast, recent texts such as the 1996 Boyer Report are a product of the modern research university whose origin in Germany in the early 1800s is indebted to the liberal artes or ‘free arts’ model divided between 1) knowledge for knowledge sake and 2) knowledge about how things are made. The clarity of the modern academic structure where liberal arts are separate from technical schools was contaminated in the mid-1900s with the advent of interdisciplinary and hybrid degrees like bioengineering, but architecture schools and the profession still labor under an older epistemological paradigm. It is not clear if the Boyer Report helps or hinders us in the search for a new paradigm, but search we should as the contours of our disciplinary landscape are shifting. What of the (persistent) Vitruvian model is relevant in our post-modern condition? What do we learn from the image of our profession projected through the lens of the Boyer Report and it’s like? In other words, what would Vitruvius do?

The basis of our argument is that historical divisions between professional or applied knowledge and liberal, or theoretical knowledge, limit our capacity within architecture education to integrate new strategies for knowledge creation and dissemination. Another way of framing this is to say that the current pedagogical structure is awry to an epistemology of architecture.

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