The COVID pandemic has forced architecture schools to adapt to an uncertain future. These include students pursuing B.Architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, urban design planning. The students faced a rapid change from studio sessions and fieldwork, to online learning. Technology has eased the education crisis caused by the transition. But the current situation has shown the problems that architecture schools are facing. This leads us to rethink what design schools might look like in a post-pandemic world.
Due to the COVID pandemic, students and faculties have to discuss through video calls. Faculties have to conduct online lectures. But, architecture is a course that requires intense hands-on work and studio sessions. Unfortunately, the online classes are unmeet meet that efficiency in architectural education. The priority for colleges has been making sure students are safe at home. Now all the architecture schools are thinking of ways to adapt to an uncertain future.
While technology has been important, the pandemic has also revealed its limits. The Dean of Cornell Architecture, Art, and Planning, Meejin Yoon, said that before, they took technology as an equalizing force. “But having moved to remote instruction, we’re finding that equity is a major issue.” The sudden shift—“a push, not a pull” into online learning—has highlighted many inequities. Spread across “every time zone.” The students face many challenges. These include lack of high-speed internet, to the lack of drafting instruments. Yoon further asks, “How we can experiment with architectural teaching methods? But in a way that’s as fair and accessible as possible?”
ARCHITECTURE SCHOOLS COPING WITH THE SUDDEN BLOW OF CHANGE
A few institutions considered gaining balance from the sudden disruption. They decided to do so by scrapping the pressure of grades. A teacher at the Columbia University Graduate School said, “We’re treating this situation as an opportunity to explore, and try new things.” His class has taken a playful approach in learning through the video conferencing grid. But, an important element of personal contact is still missing. Andrew further said, “I can’t get a complete a picture of everything my students are going through in such a moment.”
The first-year undergraduate architecture students are affected the most by the shift from hand-drawing and material exploration to a digital representation. This is because the first year undergraduate course in most architecture schools includes loads of hands-on work, fulfilled by the practical mentorship of faculties. This practical experience also included the exchange of ideas between classmates. However, the faculty mentorship is possible online to some extent, but the inter classmate discussions is now missing.
For those students who are about to graduate this year, teaching limitations are compounded by the major concern regarding how the post-coronavirus economy will affect firms’ ability to hire. The pandemic has led to a stop in various activities like access to the library and frequent one to one thesis discussions with their mentors on campus. Furthermore, it is disheartening that they will not have a grand farewell on the campus this year.
REOPENING OF ARCHITECTURE SCHOOLS POST COVID IN INDIA
Since the major part of architectural education lies in studio lectures, online classes cannot be fully efficient in this field. Undoubtedly, they will have to reopen soon to begin proper classes. Currently, the Government has proposed a reopening date in October for all colleges. Furthermore, most colleges in India are not able to open soon because many of them, especially Government colleges like the School of Planning and Architecture, IIEST, NITs, etc. are being used as quarantine facilities.
However, there could be some alterations in the teaching methods. Different architecture schools may obtain different alternatives, all learning from one another. Faculties from different architecture schools have proposed various views to the reopening of classes post-pandemic. Students might need to visit the studios only for studio-based lectures. On the other hand, theory lectures can be conducted online to prevent regular gatherings. Moreover, both students and faculties will have to take extra precautions while attending studio lectures, like wearing masks and sanitizing their hands and the instruments frequently.
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