ArchitectureDesignSuccess stories

Education of architects

It is a topic wide and adventures like a river or like a full-body collection of dichotomies and questions.

Szymon Wojciechowski

Firstly: individual ego versus teamwork. Someone said that if there are nine out of ten similar papers on the exam in a ‘normal’, meaning non-architectural university, then the other one is probably wrong. In architecture, the odd one would be the best. It leaves an imprint on the personality. How are these very individual personalities to be found and operate in a team work of architecture?


Secondly, the dichotomy between the dreams cherished at the university and the reality outside of the education institution. One of the professors stated beautifully at the inauguration: you already have wings, and I will teach you to fly. Ok, so let’s fly … As students, we draw beautiful projects, uncontaminated by regulations, economy or the laws of gravity. And then we get between a fireman, a constructor and an investor’s Excel spreadsheet. Inside this mill languishes, some get frustrated, others give up. Only a few find themselves in it with minimal loss to the quality of architecture.


Szymon Wojciechowski, fot. Bartek Barczyk


Thirdly, following both fashion and timelessness. How to convey to a young mind that what it reads in architectural magazines will one day pass without killing the freshness by routine? How to pass on the wisdom of Denise Scott Brown: ‘Basically, since everyone wants to be a revolutionary in architecture, you will be most revolutionary if you try to do ordinary things’?


Fourth, educators and practitioners. The eternal rivalry for the rule of souls between great educators without practice and practicing architects who lack pedagogical experience and knowledge. And time. 


The list goes on.


The most important thing is not to create frustrated and disappointed architects through education: unhappy people will never be good architects.

Only the magic of the university – a unique place where youth and experience, knowledge and inspiration, bureaucracy and unbridledness meet – makes it possible to raise good architects. With good architectural taste. With a good system of values.


Success? Not necessarily.


Despite my 40 years of experience as an architect, I am constantly surprised by opinions on architecture expressed by ordinary (and sometimes extraordinary) people from outside of the industry. Expressed not only in comments on internet forums, but above all by their everyday life and financial decisions on a different scale: buying that and not another house, arranging the interior in this and not another way or even meeting for coffee in this and not another cafe shop.


These opinions are as different from architects’ opinions as their clothing differs from an architect’s black suit (by the way, have you noticed how easy it is to recognize a group of architects within a crowd?)


So the next challenge is: architectural education. Not of an architect, but of an ordinary person, a civilian, an amateur. Absolutely crucial issue. According to Daniel Liebeskind, ‘Architecture is in fact, in an extraordinary way, an unfinished act: only when a building is finished does it take on a new life, it becomes part of a new dynamic: how people use it, how they live in it, how they think about it.’.


So people with a specific architectural education decide about its success. That is, they decide what buildings will be in demand in the future. That is, they determine the future shape of architecture. Architects are a medium that expresses the society’s value system in a spatial form. Often in dissonance with their own system of values, shaped in the process of educating an architect.


Thus, the quality of architecture will be determined more by the architectural education of the society than by the education of the architects themselves. Good education of architects is a necessary condition, sine qua non – without it, good architecture will not be created – but it is insufficient in view of the quality of the society’s taste. This is a significant area of work to be done…


Denise Scott Brown: “Basically, the idea is that everyone striving to be revolutionary, you will be most revolutionary if you try to be ordinary”


Daniel Liebskind: “In a strange way, architecture is really an unfinished thing, because even though the building is finished, it takes on a new life. It becomes part of a new life. It becomes part of a new dynamic: how people will occupy it, use it, think about it.”



The column was created for the printed issue of the Architecture Snob magazine. Magazine available for purchase, e.g. in