Going forward (4) – making equitable spaces for architectural education and practice


A group of students from the Accelerate programme, aimed at widening participation into architectural education at the Bartlett School of Architecture.

A longer-term action research plan is about exploring how to make more equitable spaces for architectural education and practice. This is still at a very early (and vague) stage. It is about investigating the multiple and intersecting aspects of our learning and working environments to better understand how everyday normative social, spatial and material practices act to disable some and enable others in becoming architects and other built environment or associated professionals. Such as investigation needs to interconnect the conceptual and ‘procedural’ spaces of the discipline with the actual spaces in which it takes place – the built designs of university campuses and design offices.

There are many innovative, radical and exciting initiatives going on in this field – within for example, higher education, architectural practice, student activism, disability studies, race and queer scholarship – but it feels like this remains quite fragmented and doesn’t necessarily cross disciplinary boundaries – for example across disability studies, inclusive pedagogies and curriculum design.  I feel like I am moving towards two initial questions:

1.) When and how does built space matter in moving towards more equitable post-compulsory education? How do issues of architectural design intersect with more inclusive curricula, services etc? And how can we do this in ways that are nuanced and recognize contestation rather than being merely ‘aesthetic’ or ‘metaphorical’ interventions?

2.) Rather than inclusion meaning just adding disadvantaged groups to ‘normal’ architectural education and practice (enabling more people to join the club), how can and do non-normative groups challenge the assumptions within our discipline – that is, aim to change the very nature of the club? How would that affect the ways architecture is currently inculcated in terms of curricula, design methods, organizational frameworks, assessment processes, working practices and so on.

For now, I have started collecting examples of radical re-thinking of architectural education. This includes from Prof. Alan Penn’s Architecture Beyond Sight and Accelerate initiatives at the Bartlett, to work being developed in making architecture an equitable discipline at the University of Michigan by the Dean Jonathan Massey, and the innovative work of Lesley Lokko at the Graduate School of Architecture (GSA) University of Johannesburg. Happy to hear of any examples you are involved in, or know about, to add to a developing list that can help inform and – ultimately – shift architectural education and practice more widely into a more equitable space.