The NJIT Architecture School said, “Kean University’s proposal of a curriculum of ‘drawing by hand’ does not recognize the demands of today’s job market.”

Kean University, a state school six miles away from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, another public university, has announced that they will open the Michael Graves School of Architecture. According to articles in the New Jersey Record, NJIT is apparently trying to stop any nearby competition.* Princeton University has the only other architecture school in the state, but Princeton and NJIT draw from different applicant pools.

I wrote in the comments,

The Graves curriculum will add variety that is needed in architectural education. The only other school I know of that requires hand drawing for the first few years is Notre Dame, which also has the only Classical architectural curriculum in the United States. Because Notre Dame is supplying something other schools do not, the Notre Dame architecture school’s annual job fair has more offices in attendance than the school has graduating students, and all graduate students get multiple job offers.

The Graves school will not have a Classical curriculum, but since Graves is working on the curriculum it will be more open to pre-Modern architectural history than the typical American architecture school today. That too should give its students an advantage that other schools like NJIT don’t have.

For the last 20 years, most architecture schools, particularly here in the northeast, have marched in an ideological lockstep. Looking at NJIT student work on their website, the school seems to be squarely within the norm. The work shows an academic approach that many architectural offices complain about, because the designs are so far from what most clients want today.

The problem is not the work, but the relative uniformity of what schools teach today, and how little it often has to do with professional practice. Many (like Graves, apparently) think the best way to bring more diversity to the system and therefore the profession is from outside the system, because the schools resist change. It’s common sense that if everyone is selling the same product, the institution that provides something different can produce students with easily marketable skills.

Sketching and working in CAD are different ways of working (both valuable) that use different parts of the brain. Sketching freehand, the designer connects most directly to his or her intuition. Inserting a keyboard and a monitor into the process makes it more mechanical and rational. There’s a place for both.

* Kean University, NJIT feud over similar curriculums
NJIT formally questions Kean University’s plan for architecture program
Newly Announced Michael Graves School of Architecture Facing Criticism

About John Massengale

Architect, Urbanist, Author, Educator
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