Keeping the Faith: Architects discuss idealism, young minds and internship benefits

Keeping the Faith: Architects discuss idealism, young minds and internship benefits

Idealism and the workplace – are they compatible? And what does young blood bring to an established practice when interns come on placement?

Dreams of grand designs have always been a source of inspiration for those studying to become architects – but does idealism survive the initial exposure to the harsh realities of the workplace?

And in the age of downloads and digital designs are students still as instilled with creative visions? Or it now the case that lecturers and professionals are the ones with the broader outlook – and is it up to them to instill a sense of mission in the next generation of designers?

Middle East Architect spoke to a lecturer at the American University of Sharjah, Cristiano Luchetti, BSBG architect and academic Salim Hussain and intern and student Hinjal Kumar to find out the current relationship between academia and commerce.

Study and work need to coexist, according to both Hussain and Luchetti. But both accept the relationship is not always an easy one.

Hussain said: “It is a very important link but one that seems to be treated with suspicion. Some of the practitioners I have spoken to see academics as offering idealistic scenarios that do not prepare students for the real world.

“Conversely, some of the academics I have spoken to see commercialism at the heart of practices where perhaps something else should be included.”

But he felt an engagement on the part of both parties would lead to the business as a whole profiting as well as individuals on both sides of the fence.

Luchetti said that university was the right place for important themes to be explored.

He said: “Although the ultimate goal of architecture schools is to teach students how to become professional architects the relationship between study and practice was not always idyllic.

“Students should learn how to innovate the discipline through an active criticism toward any status quo. Their approach toward architecture should be based on the philosophical, political, social, and environmental implications which will be activated or implemented by their work. The only time we have to
discuss and learn how to deal with these big themes is in school.”

Hussain works alongside the university in Sharjah to bring interns into the workplace and he said the practice can benefit as much as the students gain in experience, as the wider range of student thinking can inspire professionals who have become focused on one particular specialist discipline.

Luchetti said that work placement is vital for career development, but in his experience the results are mixed.

“Some return from their internships with great motivations some with deep disappointment. As there is good architecture and bad architecture, I guess there are good firms and bad firm, From BSBG they obviously come back with a glitter in their eye.”

Both experts relish idealism and Hussain said without it architects are lost, professionally.

“You have to always be an idealist,” he said. “If you start measuring idealism, passion and the belief in changing people’s lives for the better then you have lost before you start.” But Luchetti feels that vision is under threat.

“Idealism is a great thing,” he said. “It could be dangerous but it has often being the engine of the world we live in. Unfortunately, I do not see much of it left around.

He said new generations, the “digital natives”, appear to be more interested in very practical issues rather than ethereal philosophical concepts.

“I am obviously aware of the importance of being conscious of opportunities and constraints in the practical world but I often find myself pushing students to challenge their comfortable position where taking a design risk seems to be too costly,” said Luchetti.

“I wish students could take the opportunity to push their boundaries and explore unknown disciplinary territories while in school.”

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