Why schools of architecture should be more like architectural fi rms—and vice versa
Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.
—William Butler Yeats
Since 1966, we have developed, fostered, and nurtured a dynamic, close, and successful relationship between education and practice at Texas A&M University's College of Architecture. Throughout that time, we have collaborated with architectural firms on a wide variety of actual projects, as well as research projects related to Architecture for Health. Dallas-based HKS Architects, Inc., has served continuously as an advisory teaching firm for Texas A&M's Architecture for Health program since 1973. The Texas A&M program has undertaken more than 500 projects [see sidebar, “HKS/Texas A&M Collaborations”] since it was established. More recently we have formed the Health Industry Advisory Council (HIAC), consisting of the firms Jonathan Bailey Associates (Dallas); Ellerbe Becket (Minneapolis); FKP Architects (Houston); HDR, Inc. (Omaha); HKS Architects (Dallas); The Innova Group (Georgetown, Texas); PageSoutherlandPage (PSP) (Dallas); RTKL Associates, Inc. (Baltimore); NTDStichler (San Diego); Watkins Hamilton Ross, Inc. (WHR) (Houston); and Wingler & Sharp, Architects & Planners, Inc. (Wichita Falls, Texas).
We also collaborate with firms including (but not limited to) NBBJ Architects (Seattle); Perkins Eastman (New York City); Perkins & Will (Atlanta and Houston); Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Architects (San Francisco and Chicago); VOA Associates, Inc. (Chicago); Cannon Moss Brygger & Associates (Grand Island, Neb.); SmithGroup (Washington, D.C., and San Francisco); Steffian Bradley Architects (SBA) (Boston); Metis Advisory Group, Ltd. (Chicago); Chan Krieger & Associates (Cambridge, Mass.); and Geller DeVellis, Inc. (Wellesley, Mass.). We also are involved with many other universities, individuals, firms, and agencies around the world through GUPHA (Global University Programs in Healthcare Architecture).
This unique relationship between education and practice has enhanced the national and international reputation of both the school and HKS as leaders in Architecture for Health. Ideas and approaches geared toward improving Architecture for Health have flowed back and forth between the university-based program and HKS throughout the years, leading to improvements in education, research, and practice. As a result, we welcome continued involvement with the firms mentioned above, as well as with other firms in the future.
A collaborative relationship with architectural firms benefits not only an architectural school's reputation, but also its students and faculty. Schools of architecture can improve the depth, quality, and effectiveness of their teaching, research, and outreach programs by working with architectural firms on actual projects involving actual clients on actual sites, with actual programs and budgets. This kind of effort anchors the educational experience for students in a context of reality. It exposes them not only to the real-life responsibilities of architectural practice, but also to the excitement inherent in the practice of their future profession. Their learning is multiplied by receiving feedback, critiques, and input from the practitioners actually undertaking the projects, and often from the clients, as well.
This close working relationship between the College of Architecture and HKS Architects has led us to share with you some of the concepts behind the title of this column: “Why schools of architecture should be more like architectural firms—and vice versa.” As a result of our long-standing relationship and collaboration, we have specific experiences to share that we believe can help others improve both architectural education and research, as well as Architecture for Health practice.
For example, working with architectural firms increases the students' sense of worth: By working on actual projects with practicing architects, they come to realize that perhaps they actually can influence the design of a medical facility. For aspiring architects, this creates vision, enthusiasm, and a high degree of motivation that are truly gratifying to see.
The students aren't the only beneficiaries of such a collaborative relationship. In our program, students have had the opportunity, on a regular basis, to present their projects to healthcare clients and their architect mentors. Each student brings his or her fresh creativity and imagination to problem solving, and the architectural firm and the hospital or health facility client can benefit enormously from these fresh ideas.
Additionally, presenting the best design concepts for projects that have been completed or are still in progress at nationally recognized professional meetings brings recognition and broad exposure—both to an individual architect and to the firm he or she represents. A firm's opportunities to speak at these meetings are increased by its association with a school of architecture, because faculty members are strongly encouraged to present their research and projects at these meetings. Publication of projects and research in scholarly journals is also of enormous benefit to both the individual and firm.
Unfortunately, some architectural firms focus only on their day-to-day practice and neglect the ongoing learning process its personnel experienced while in college. It would be better if firms became more like schools of architecture by having internal, ongoing continuing-education programs in place. Lunch seminars, for example—with experts from both within and outside the firm—should be offered and attendance encouraged. Rewards and incentives for continuing education and obtaining further credentials, such as registration as an architect or certification as a member of the American College of Healthcare Architects, will also help motivate practicing architects to engage in professional development activities.
In a collaborative relationship such as the one we have established and described, the school and its students and faculty obviously benefit when firms share their considerable knowledge and accumulated expertise. Architectural firms likewise benefit from the relationship, because schools of architecture have the resources to undertake exploratory inquiries—such as exploring new building types or undertaking huge projects like the “SURGE” hospitals (for surges of patients and mass casualties in disaster situations, completed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security)—that firms aren't able to undertake on their own. And because students come to Texas A&M University from all over the world, they bring new ideas and thinking from their cultures that enhance both the school and, subsequently, the architectural firms they later join.
We believe we are reinventing how architecture can be taught within a very dynamic and synergistic context, i.e., the practice-based research and design studio. This advanced research and design model has elevated the academic level of design studio pedagogy and has raised the practice of architecture to a new level. It has resulted in national and international recognition of both Texas A&M University and firms like HKS Architects as leaders in Architecture for Health. We welcome new joint challenges and new relationships in the future. HD
HKS/Texas A&M Collaborations
Selected projects that HKS Architects, Inc., and the Texas A&M College of Architecture have collaborated on include:
American Mission Hospital, Bahrain
Children's Medical Center of Dallas
Children's Memorial Medical Center, Chicago
E.F. and Bertha Kruse Memorial Lutheran Village, Brenham, Texas
EROne Project at Washington Hospital Center, Washington, D.C.
Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for the Aged, Boston, with Perkins Eastman, Chan Krieger & Associates, and Geller DeVellis, Inc.
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
Methodist Rehabilitation Center, Flowood, Mississippi
MUHC-McGill University Health Centre, Montreal
Presbyterian Garland Center for Diagnostics and Surgery—a proposed new short-stay hospital and medical office building, for Cambridge Holdings and Presbyterian Healthcare System, Texas Health Resources, Garland, Texas
Presbyterian Healthcare System, Dallas
Presbyterian Healthcare System—prototype medical office building and ambulatory care center, Coppell, Texas
Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children
In addition, since 1967 we have mentored 19 AIA/AHA Fellowship awardees researching various topics encompassing emerging new issues related to Architecture for Health.
George J. Mann and Ronald L. Skaggs