Stepping into the 'Real World': Architecture Students' Preparedness for Professional Practice

Article excerpt

Literature indicated the need to include a variety of skills in architecture pedagogy to better enable students to establish their footing in professional practice. This study attempted to understand perceptions of fourth year architecture students at two programs regarding their preparation for professional practice. Observations in design studios, interviews with faculty teaching the studio, and focus group interviews with selected students provided data for this study. Five concerns associated with professional practice emerged: (1) Budgetary concerns, (2) Understanding the Design Firm Dynamics, (3) Communicating in the Field, (4) Technical and Legal concerns, and (5) Precedent Studies. These are discussed and implications derived for architecture education which may also be relevant to the pedagogical structure for other fields in higher education


A fourth year architecture student on the first day of my internship, I faced my first reality check. My boss walked me to my station saying, "Forget everything they taught you in school. Let's start over." At that point I was nurturing dreams of getting my architecture degree, stepping into a perfect world of architecture, creating master-pieces and watching them materialize all over the town and country. The internship was an eye-opener, not shattering, but reshaping the dreams. Architecture offices are often concerned about the curricula in schools that focus on creativity more than practical issues like budgets and construction management. This study resulted from a personal need to understand other students' perceptions of their preparedness for the entry and eventual absorption into professional practice. The need to identify these perspectives was further reinforced by literature as the research progressed.

This paper presents opinions from students at two architecture programs about their preparation for professional practice. Student opinions provided important insights and the paper suggests strategies for architecture pedagogy, which may also be relevant to other higher education fields, to provide students with a realistic perspective of what they may expect upon graduation.

Background Literature

Akin (2002) argued that in order for professional education to succeed, there should be substantial representation of applications and actions in professional practice in the core of educational experience. Literature in architecture provides extensive references to the need for incorporating skills in architecture education to better prepare students for professional practice. Most importantly, scholars stress upon the differences between perceptions of architects versus that of their clients.

Kaupinnen (1989) stated that architects' thought process and their perception of buildings can be very different from and may even conflict with the way the public views it. Deasy (1974) elaborated this concept and discussed the difference between the designers' orderly and systematic world against the human world which is constantly changing and influenced by chance. There is a difference between the visualization abilities of designers and their clients. Architects need to develop interpersonal skills in relationship to clients and other professionals, but also become better at listening and responding to, and communicating with building users and the public (Nicol & Pilling, 2000). Tsow and Beamer (1985) stated that the major tool of architects is graphic skills which the client is not fluent in reading and assimilating. They argued that it is essential for architecture students to learn to verbalize and write architecture and the thought process during design. Students need to acquire abilities to communicate their ideas to clients and understand their requirements. Akin (2002) argued that professional education requires substantial representation of applications and actions in professional practice in the core of educational experience. …


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