School of Architecture College of Design

What We Learned: Closing the Knowledge Loop

What We Learned: Closing the Knowledge Loop

In her first entry to an ongoing blog series, Pratibha Chauhan discusses Arch 5261 - Professional Practice and how students attempt to close the "broken knowledge loop"

Arch 5621 Professional Practice in Architecture, offered to graduate students of architecture in their second year at UMN, attempts to close the "broken knowledge loop" in the architecture profession by combining class based learning with assignments that require students to step out of the bounds of academia to understand the interplay of issues discussed in class.

In our first assignment, the students were divided into groups and asked to visit a local architecture firm to understand the firm profile in general. The assignment offered a unique opportunity to students to ask questions ranging from firm philosophy, flow of responsibilities, budget, firm projects, to challenges, contributions, and aspirations of the architecture industry as a whole.


Students conducting interviews at their assigned firm to understand the firm profile in depth.


A large number of professionals interviewed during this assignment see the biggest contribution of architecture to be providing humans a sense of place, quality of living, and an innovative way of thinking. In the words of an interviewee, "we may not always be designing buildings, but architects will always design solutions." When asked about the biggest challenges that the industry currently faces, the lack of recognition and respect for each other, lack of understanding of how prepared architects are to take on the future of design, working collaborative in and outside of the profession, and making the architectural profession more accessible to the public, are some of the critical concerns discussed in the interviews.

The interviews were concluded by asking the professionals to impart words of advice for future graduates. The advice given by the interviewees provide a rich repertoire of wisdom that students can highly benefit from. Some urged students to remain "curious and cognizant of the surroundings," while others highlighted the importance of "being patient and selective; and if necessary, to wait for the job that teaches the skills one wants." Advice such as being deliberate about one's interests, defining a focus within the profession, and doing what one loves serve as a reminder for us to think about both specific and broader goals at the same time.

The assignment's unique nature that allowed us to interact directly with local firms helps us contextually the issues that we have been discussing in general as part of our architectural education at UMN. These issues range from ethics, responsibilities and role of architecture in the society, to the value of interdisciplinary thinking and the future of architecture. Most importantly, this exercise highlighted a strong sense of "community" within architecture - albeit with problems bound by shared passion and vision towards a common future.










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