M.Arch II Proseminar
Architecture: A discipline concerned with solving problems of increasing irrelevance with increasing precision. (Peter Drucker)
Paul Nakazawa presented a framework in terms of examining the relationship between the pedagogy and practice of architecture. To properly understand this paper, one requires familiarity of the issues covered in Contemporary Frameworks of Practice taught by Paul Nakazawa as well as having a deepened understanding of domain knowledge, in the case of this paper, the domain is the discourse of architecture, and finally the Platonic freedom of venturing beyond the confines of the cave to explore a higher truth - one I will label as extrinsic forces.
The audience of this paper is for anyone who wishes to pursue the study of design, specifically that of capital A Architecture. Even more specifically so, I would love the feedback of anyone studying architecture especially those with professional experience. Don't refrain from sharing your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This paper will examine the relationship between architectural domain knowledge and relative extrinsic forces as well their respective relationships to the practicing world. The paper will have four parts:
1) Compare how GSD prepares its professionals to how the Kennedy, Business, and Education schools prepares their respective domain specific professionals.
2) Define the term extrinsic forces and explain their relevance in the study of architecture.
3) Conclude how deep domain knowledge rarely guarantees professional success
4) Finally, a few concluding thoughts on how best to expand one's understanding of extrinsic forces at a place like Harvard University.
Part I - Educating for Practice
“Doesn't matter if you're the best. If you're an asshole, no one will work with you”
What makes a successful student in a studio setting? And does that setting prepare one to practice in the real world? An obviously loaded question, I would argue the most successful and celebrated student in the studio setting is a recipe for disaster in the world of practice.
Peter Drucker once said: “Beware of solving problems of increasing irrelevance with increasing precision.” This is the academic syndrome under which GSD is operating within. For instance let's narrowly examine the curricula design and how it responds to the educational objective of the M.Arch II track:
There are 4 units dedicated to seminar discussion, 4 units for professional practice, 4 units for teaching pedagogy, and 8 units for studio design - a total of 24.
Harvard Graduate School of Education offers a design studio course - T522 called “Innovative technology in Educational Projects,” (4 units) which combines all the elements of the 24 unit curriculum into a 4 hour, once a week superstudio. The class takes diverse educators with no technical, no design, and no business background and successfully empowers them with: an iterative design mindset, managing user experience and graphic interfaces, group discourse on scientific theories of learning, psychological motivations for learning and models of education, legalistic hurdles for projects, cybersecurity of projects, financial planning and business acumen, production implications, technical jargon in developer/design practice, and educational policy within which these projects must operate. 4 units, 4 hours a week.
The Teaching Assistants in T522 are especially noteworthy considering their credentials. Ann Kaufmann is the ex-superintendent with a Ph.D in education of one of the largest school districts in Massachusetts. Frank Freeman is a serial entrepreneur in educational technologies having founded two companies already with a design and education background. Nick is web/app developer that does professional consulting and covers the tech/business questions. The support gained from the teaching team merely in terms of quantity and quality of facetime, feedback, and experience far surprasses any class I have yet to hear from in the GSD.
HGSE does in 4 units what GSD attempts to do in 24.
I suspect one reason why school of education is so rigorous, effective, and efficient is that, like businesses, the disciplines have one extremely specific and clear objective that has remained unchanged for centuries. Where businesses maximize value creation, educators maximize student learning. It is very difficult to argue otherwise. What is the converging educational objective of Architecture?
Let’s take another 4 unit course at the Kennedy School with MLD224 - Behavioral Science of Negotiations -. Each week there are “pro-seminar” + lecture style classes where we delve into great depths of scientifically validated tactics and psychological techniques. The theory is directly applied in negotiation exercises between colleagues that have extremely relevant negotiation backgrounds who then offer each other immediate feedback.
The equivalent studio project involves real life negotiation between previously unknown stakeholders concerned with real issues that the professor and the teaching fellows assist in as consultants.. Similar to HGSE, one enters the class having absolutely no experience in negotiations or understanding negotiations, and leaves as an expert.
HBS, HGSE and HKS vigorously confront their disciplines with their relative extrinsic forces. Classes are incessantly exploring the governing dynamics of value creation, student learning, and negotiation outcomes using techniques, research, and data found in disciplines outside their “own.”
How is the discipline and practice of architecture addressing its respective extrinsic forces? How is the pedagogical structure within and outside of the GSD adapting to these forces?
Part II - Extrinsic Forces
“We know what we know. We know what we don’t know.
We don’t know what we don’t know.” - Debbie Millman
The reason why architectural study has become so myopic and esoteric is due to modernism’s failure. It was a period where every discipline was hugely mis-calibrated having not understood the extrinsic forces involved. In the wake of modernism’s failure to tackle questions of urbanism, housing, etc… a backlash that concerned itself with rhetoric, authorship, and argument produced a generation of architects that actively neglected extrinsic forces. The practice since then has been so deeply insular in terms of not addressing:
Educational policy and reform
Material Supply/Chain Management
Evidence/Data driven design
Environmental Public and Personal Health
Legal and Patent Policy
Planning and Urban Design
Real Estate/Mortgage/Investment Banking
Applied Engineering Principles
Many would argue it is impossible to coverage such a wide range of vague topics that begin to define extrinsic forces. Unfortunately, projects that fail to address and incorporate such forces fail to deliver a solution.
I’ve worked professionally at Aedis Architects, a firm specializing in public educational projects. Consider the following statement illustrating the nature of architectural projects:
Bond measures that are passed through local governance systems determine both budget and scope of projects that require the majority of the time, voluntary media, operational, and curricular design to react to psychological studies that point to teaching methods to improve classroom environments and teacher performance which directly applies to federal funding. The ability for school districts to pass such measures highly depend on the neighborhood and land value costs which often times are a product of special zoning configurations and policy ordinances that give exemptions to allow incentives businesses or industries to settle in a specific place to promote economic growth.
The architectural problem offers no flexibility, no negotiation, no understanding, no ability to change because the architects weren’t there to frame the problem. The neglect of extrinsic forces ostracized us leaving architectural issues to be defined by non-architects.
Part III - Tactician vs Strategist
“More is Less” - Day9
For some reason, we seem to pride on not needing to know what we don't know, which has directly resulted in our professional marginalization.
Professor Ali presentation raised an interesting point of how, despite the building industry being a multi-billion dollar industry, we spend a negligible amount of money in terms of research, development, and education to evolve the discipline. Conversely, there exists a quantifiable number that runs across multiple industries in terms of resources dedicated solely to R&D. A substantial 20%.
For example, 3M, a 107 billion dollar industry devotes 20% of all employees’ time to open ended study on anything that is outside of their domain expertise. Google, Fedex, Kodak, Valve, Intel, Southwest, all have similar policies where they force themselves to understand extrinsic forces to heighten their internal domain expertise.
Making a “better” glue, faster and cheaper is a product of mastery of domain knowledge and an understanding of specialized tactics in the science and production of adhesives. Such tactics are necessary, but by no means guarantees the invention of the post-it note. Such innovation is the product of both mastery of internal domain knowledge and the understanding a few of the extrinsic forces mentioned above.
This brings us back to Paul’s presentation. His research is an objective nature of overviewing the taxonomy of practice.
Jorge brought up an important trend of our professional marginalization. Look at the number of consultants, construction managers, client/architect counseling, lawyers, code interpreters, lighting consultants, energy consultants, etc… Such is one consequence of our failure to adapt to extrinsic forces. The topic of taxonomy of practice deserves a separate paper all together, but it’s worth examining the pedagogical shifts that occur in other disciplinary practices in the following case studies:
In the book 3D negotiations, professor James K Sebenius examined the field of negotiations as one solely focused in the domain knowledge of negotiation tactics and behavior psychology pioneered by . In the past, the difference between a good and great negotiator is their mastery over tactics. The greater one’s understanding of body language, logrolling capabilities, estimation of ZOPA, and other esoteric tactics makes one a greater negotiator.
What Sebenius found, was that although deepened domain knowledge surely contributed to one's performance, the impact and outcome of that negotiation is ultimately limited by not understanding the extrinsic forces involved in negotiations. His realization implied that the best negotiation outcomes are actually be achieved by leaving the tactics on the table and completely reframing the negotiations through extrinsic forces. The book uses Staples’ CEO Thomas Stemberg as an anecdotal example of how this was achieved.
Professor Josh Flax of the Kennedy School uses the most recent example of the Iran nuclear crisis to illustrate Sebenius’ argument of using extrinsic forces to achieve unprecedented negotiation outcomes. It was only by leaving the current negotiation stage and introducing a new party - Russia that allowed the international talks to move forwards. This new party would be interested in purchasing the enriched uranium designed for weaponry and convert it to fuel to be sold back to Iran which creatively solved the issue.
It is hard to argue that being more effective at anchoring, or using behavioral tricks and tactics would persuade the Iranians to stop producing weaponized Uranium.
The consequence of adapting to the extrinsic forces is a complete pedagogical shift and re-calibration of the negotiation’s domain knowledge - making it even more relevant to society and aspects of everyday life.
What is the architectural equivalent of a complete pedagogical shift and re-calibration?
Being a better negotiation tactician doesn't necessarily make you a better negotiator.
Being a better business tactician doesn't necessarily make you a better businessman.
Does being a better architectural tactician make you a better architect?
Part IV - Moving Forwards
“The best way to predict the future is to make it” - Continuum
By no means am I arguing to abandon the theories and histories acquired through understanding the five points, the 10 books, the four chapters. There is a place Foucault’s pli, Baudrillard’s critique of technology, Heideggerian epistemological gaps, and the Eisenman’s infatuation of Tafuri’s texts on the rhetoric text and signs
It is by simultaneously expanding depth and breadth of domain expertise that we validate the practice and discipline of architecture.
GSD is the place to go deep into our field with absolute rockstars such as Jorge Silvetti, Michael Hays, Sanford Kwinter, Farshid Moussavi, Rem Koolhas, David Adjaye, Peter Cook, and the list of esteemed faculty goes on - all whose knowledge rivals that our the Harvard archives. However we fail to explore the broad range of factors that make, for instance Rem, as successful as he is. I will argue that Rem’s expertise in both the architectural domain and the understanding of extrinsic forces is what made them successful as practitioners of their ideologies. I am, of course, borrowing Paul Nakazawa’s argument. I wonder if an Alvin Roth moment will ever happen with our discipline where a figure such as David Gensler, who “studied economics at Darmouth College, and then earned an MBA at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business,” (www.Gensler.com) will win the Pritzker prize.
Architecture school teaches a divergent mentality of ideation and novelty along with the development and refinement of “techniques.” The success of the architecture student is celebrated in the individual production of drawings, concepts, models, and “knowledge.” What we widely celebrate in terms of lectures, built work, student theses all fall under the trap of domain knowledge.
We are trained to speculate the future and achieve fluency in architectural language while operating under pressure and multi-party multi-issue scenarios. Paying homage to Ken Robinson and Carol Dweck, I suspect many of us were informed architects are not good at business, negotiations, computer science, marketing, law, etc... Scientific research show that is absolutely and perversely false. Psychological barriers are the only barriers, and Dr. Carol’s work is the tipping point to an educational revolution in terms of realizing just the extent of what we’re capable of grasping. (another paper)
It is painfully ignorant and outrageously dehumanizing to hear faculty at a leading institution make assumptions and inferences about the architectural profession that continues to belittle the potential impact architects can have on the world.
Harvard University is THE PLACE to study extrinsic forces to further Architecture’s domain knowledge. The world needs design more than ever, and Paul Nakazawa’s presentation is the light in Plato’s allegory of the cave.
Just don’t stone me to death.