Windsor Forum on Design Education: Toward An Ideal Curriculum to Reform Architectural Education

Edited by Stephanie E. Bothwell, Andres M. Duany, Peter J. Hetzel, Steven W. Hurtt, and Dhiru A. Thadani New Urban Press, 2004, 437 pp, $35 paperback. “As far as I’m concerned, everything is architecture, from silverware and furniture to cities like Paris or London … Well, maybe Paris more than London.” Colin Rowe Windsor Forum on Design Education documents lectures, educational models, and discussions that were presented at a gathering of more than 40 educators in 2002. The chapters are chronological and build on each day’s lessons, commencing with Stephanie Bothwell’s introduction to the Boyer Report (Building Community: A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice, 1996), the controversial landmark study. Twelve education models, beginning with Victor Deupi’s concise history of L’Accademia di San Luca, where professional excellence replaced the guild system, are described. The summation of each of the models is clear and impressive. Christine Franck emphasizes engaging the real world where lessons are applied to actual problems in Classical education. Ellen Dunham-Jones tackles Modernist education in which students learn via jury to orate and defend, to lead, educate and convince, promoting signature styles and iconic monuments, yet leaving them unprepared to handle mundane challenges. The most profound is Colin Rowe’s Cornell model, neatly distilled by Matthew Bell and Steven Hurtt. Bell and Hurtt examine Rowe’s focus on urbanism and contextualism, his use of historic reference or precedent with the result that graduates of the Urban Design Studio are predictably “good” architects. The Beaux Arts model by Andres Duany is collaborative, has a strong tradition in drawing, and promotes working en loge to develop designs quickly, efficiently, and with greater originality. The European model represented by the New School of Viseu, summarized by Lucien Steil, is an intense curriculum that includes substantial exposure to experiential practice. Emily Talen discusses planning education, the sole nonarchitecture model. Planning offers the advantages of understanding the big picture, public realm, mixed use, and context, yet the field is often overwhelmed by policy and process. A charrette developed five architecture curricula, undergraduate and postgraduate, varying from three to six years. The findings and recommendations are telling, concluding that creating urbanism is a collaborative effort involving architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, and other fields, such as policy and law. Methodologies exist that can increase students’ technical, place making, and presentation skills. Changing the architecture curriculum will educate architects to understand context, urbanism and placemaking, but changes in problem solving must involve other professions as well. Part II is a series of essays, including an original paper by Stephanie Bothwell on long-term health and environmental design. Other essays describe fallacies and offer critiques of the design process and studios in order to provide a platform for revising architectural education. The Council for European Urbanism’s 2004 Viseu conference and the Viseu Declaration are addenda. While there are five editors responsible for this substantial book, the contents are really grounded in the work of the contributors and participants: academic leaders who saw the need to overhaul the paradigm rather than attempt small fixes individually. It’s a fine effort and an excellent critique by leaders who teach and practice and who know it is crucial that education become relevant so that it can bring about real solutions to today’s urban problems.