At the Zagreb Faculty of Architecture, between 28 and 31 August 2019, an annual conference of the European Association for Architectural Education (EAAE) took place with the title The Hidden School. Among the conference guests were Harriet Harriss, dean of Pratt School of Architecture in Brooklyn, Lesley Lokko, director of the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg and Will Hunter, founder and dean of London School of Architecture. In the Faculty Archive, Tadej Glažar, professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Architecture, and Siniša Justić, professor at the Zagreb Faculty of Architecture, discussed the topic of architectural education with the conference participants.
Tadej Glažar: I would like to ask you to share some memories from your time as students.
Lesley Lokko: I was in the Bartlett the year before Peter Cook arrived and I remember everyone saying Peter Cook is coming! I don’t think that anybody in the first year really knew who he was but the school changed, literally overnight. I had studied under the old, more traditional curriculum for a year before he introduced the Unit System, which he had brought from the AA. Since this happened 25-30 years ago, questions of race, identity and gender were quite peripheral to architecture, but the Bartlett was a uniquely forward-looking place. It meant that there was a sense of experimentation and a real commitment to extending boundaries, which in turn meant you could bring almost anything to the table. So, I actually had an incredible experience as a student and was able to find my own voice quite quickly.
Will Hunter: I started at the Bartlett in 1999, about a decade into the Peter Cook years. The first year was taught as a year group, led by Frosso Pimenides. This was a total shock to the system after a rather regimented school experience, where bells regulated when lessons started and finished. I recall teaching days lasting well into the early hours. The first year was designed to make you think differently, by crafting devices for the body that altered your physical interaction with the world, for instance. The second and third years were taught vertically in the unit system that Lesley mentioned, which were highly competitive amongst each other. Architecture students seemed the least integrated members of UCL – geographers, historians and chemists might have debated or played netball together, but we architects tended to stick to ourselves, pulling all-nighters for imminent deadlines. For Master’s I went to the Royal College of Art, which was much more of an art school environment, and significantly more chilled. Nigel Coates nurtured four units, with all the projects based in London. There was only 30 of us, so we integrated much more with the other creative disciplines – fashion, artists, product designers – and it was probably the first place I felt I had found people like me.