Ray Moss – Healthcare Facility Education
Opening The Debate
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the AfH event on 30th November 2006 at the new Libeskind Lecture Space at the London Metropolitan University, and indeed was doubly distressed for as I am keenly interested in the topic of architectural education in general, and post-graduate specialist training and research in particular and was moved to establish MARU because of strong feelings in this area.
That said I have to add that I think that the debate proposed by Architects for Health has been opened on the wrong note. By this I mean that there are critical flaws in the education of architects that override teaching healthcare facility planning in one or other of the schools of architecture, as currently structured.
The general and generalist level of undergraduate education may have something to commend it, teaching the basics of design and construction, brief building and so on. Indeed some hold that it is arguably better not to have had any previous experience of a particular building type, but to come to it with a fresh, and enquiring mind.
Much more to the point is to ask whether the basics are being taught properly in order that the products of our schools of architecture are equipped adequately to progress in whichever facet of modern professional practice they choose to work in. And perhaps more importantly to regain their seat at the top table where the big decisions are made rather than just becoming more effective and efficient in what I call the ‘no clout’ department.
In my view, one of the important reasons why architects have lost their seat on the board is that the ‘basics’ are not being taught as well as they might even if they are taught at all. Key subjects now are accurate cost forecasting, both building and whole life; designing to reduce operating costs (systems engineering); informed site appraisal; sustainability; design for continuous change; creative brief building etc etc.
For a large variety of reasons architectural education has let slip some of these subjects and this accompanied by a growing belief that we do not need to design to suit the materials any more but we use or develop materials which do what we want them to do has led to the development of the ‘concept’ which can be anything from what somebody thinks the building might actually look like to what somebody would like the building to look like.
This trend is not particular to architectural training but is noticeable also in product design and fashion.
So I would like to suggest that if it is considered desirable to create interest in; develop knowledge of; be aware of developments internationally and generally influence the future of things, that we should not be imposing the odd design programme on random schools of architecture but developing centres for the study of health design to which people with a genuine and long lasting interest in the subject can look as well as schools of architecture for whom the Centre can run credible programmes either in the school or at the Centre.
In my view it is a question of doing things professionally to prepare architects to play their role fully at all levels of health planning and design – including the ‘clout’ department.
Professor Raymond Moss MBE Ph.D RIBA