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Architecture School: Three Centuries of Educating Architects in North America (MIT Press)
The MIT Press, 2012
400 pp., $55.95
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As is its nature, architecture has found itself in a state of crisis once again. Inextricably tied to the whims of the real estate and financial markets, architecture has been particularly hard hit by the extended recession, with publications like Salon and The Washington Post chronicling the perceived implosion of a profession regarded by many as a luxury service for the so-called "one percent." And if things weren't already bad for those of us in the profession, a recent Georgetown University study has found an architecture degree to have the worst return on investment among all degrees surveyed, below even such notorious "underachievers" as drama, fine art, and journalism. Now is arguably the worst time to study architecture in a generation, which is precisely what makes the release of Architecture School so relevant, not only for potential students and recent graduates but for anyone with the slightest interest in the history, and the future, of architecture in North America.
Published in support of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture to coincide with the organization's centennial, Architecture School is the most comprehensive survey of the history of architectural pedagogy in North America to date. Divided into two main sections—a "Chronological Overview" and a "Thematic Lexicon"—the book manages to tell two versions of the same story: a conventional linear historiography, on one hand, and a dense, topical dialogue on the other. Rather than a "pomo" gimmick, this methodology adds a considerable layer of richness as it allows one to move through each chronological section while cross-referencing topics and reading the work of multiple scholars. Joan Ockman, the editor of the volume, and a refreshingly ecumenical list of contributors have done an exemplary job here.
Western architecture maintains a sometimes uneasy tension between the abstract realm of organization, composition, and "concepts" and the physical realm of structure, ...