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Tell me what School you’re from, and I’ll tell you what your Final Project is


– Dad, I’m an architect now!

– Architect, that sounds wonderful!

That was how effusive the character Antonio came out of his last exam of Architecture as he ran towards his Dad, nervously waiting for him in the corridor, to give him a hug. This is a scene from Fernando Palacios’ film “La familia y uno más” (1965).

To anyone who has actually done a final project in architecture, for it to be possible to get one’s degree in architecture (or whatever new variant after Bologna) and be accredited to practice as a professional after merely passing an oral exam about cupulas is one sees in the film, this is enough to make them laugh, or cry.

Something similar happens when one leaves the School environment for workshops, an Erasmus programme, internships, post graduate degrees, maybe even to work,  and discovers the difference between the type of work, requisites, effort and evaluation that one has do undergo depending on the school.

The horizon in Spain where degrees can be earned in any one of 33 schools, many of which run three different curricula concurrently, doesn’t seem that outlandish. But it is. And it’s unfair. Things vary depending on the school in these ways:

  • The range is from two, three (four) years for final projects in some schools to a single course with a final project in other schools;
  • The range is from work by oneself in pyjamas correction every three months if one is in an overcrowded workshop to mandatory weekly corrections.
  • The range is from turning in the final project in phases to being evaluated by a panel who has never seen your project and, after taking a 15 minute glance at it fails you, three years of work later, because they don’t like the site or brief.
  • They range from the backing of your director’s signature, or even her presence on the panel to having your director be a bystander, unaware years afterward whether you turned your project in or not.
  • They range from failing you because your project was too simple or traditional to failing you because you were too innovate or complex. This also holds for earning honours.
  • They range from 25 A1sheets of basic and construction designs of a building (or several) in some schools to a single A1 panel where you present a strip cartoon.
  • They range from technical building code calculations and justificationsfor the entire project (building, structures, facilities), in 12 A1 sheets and a 400 page report to an A1 for the conceptual structural design of a roof.
  • They range from projects that spend three weeks in a drawer until the panel “leafs through them” in 15 minutes, for the first and last time just a few hours before they give you the grade to revisions throughout the course and an oral presentation (with questions and answers).

This post does not aim to fiercely criticise, but rather to bring unfair differences to light and encourage those responsible for the final project regulations to go out to other schools, debate, compare, and weed out the bad and emulate the good…as some schools are doing.

The idea is to make this final accreditation projects something constructive, not destructive. We earned our keep to become architects. And people deserve respect for their time and work.

Text translated by Beth Gelb
arquitecta (ETSAG), y compagina la actividad profesional con la divulgación, la investigación y la docencia. Es máster en Teoría y Práctica del Proyecto Arquitectónico (ETSAB) y en la actualidad realiza el doctorado en el grupo de investigación Habitar (UPC). Corresponsal de La Ciudad Viva, desde noviembre de 2013 forma parte de Re-cooperar, colectivo de jóvenes arquitectos de Barcelona, con el que ha participado en varios proyectos y ha sido docente de diversos talleres en la ETSA La Salle (Barcelona) y ESARQ UIC (Barcelona).

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