'skill' is at the heart of 'design'
Here at UT there seems to be a great undercurrent of fear that we slip into becoming a "trade-school," meaning that we start teaching "skills" instead of "design" — as they do at A & M. While I have my quarrel with this as some classist nonsense, what is more worrisome is the argument which is mounted to justify this pedagogy.
More than once I have heard this turn of phrase from a professor: when you graduate into the real world you will be beset with demands, legal, zoning, human, etc., and the worst thing you could possibly do is to run around "putting out fires" because the result will be the loss of overall vision, conceptual clarity, or design intent.
Not only does this show little faith in the student, but it contributes to the idea that the measure of an architect is found in solitary vision and stubborn adherence to an idea. Nothing could be more preposterous. If an architect is to be an effective leader she or he needs to be flexible and light on their feet, able to react, modify and adjust their ideas graciously — to communicate well, but to listen better. In service of all of these goals the ability to anticipate, find, and manipulate relevant information is critical. The extent to which the school continues to devalue pragmatism as a core skill of the modern architect is a disservice to their students.
The skill of "putting out fires" should not be undervalued and students should not be shielded from this reality. This pedagogy is both paternalistic and outmoded. UT — I love you, but get over it. Pragmatics are not misaligned or mutually exclusive with 'high design thinking.' Quite to the contrary, it is this very skill — the efficient use of time and software, the ability to interface fluently with consultants and contractors — which are the best tools in the young architects' kit. It is precisely the ability to problem solve ad hoc and on the fly which will allow graduates to maintain control of their vision when things start to heat up.
You want famous students? Trust that they have artistic integrity. And then give them the skills to quickly move through the ranks of middle management so they can set out as young principles of their own firms while their creative blood still courses fresh, and hot.