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In this respect, prizes that associate the results of these works with local issues are very motivating because they encourage closer ties between the University and society as a whole, and the student becomes aware of the “usefulness factor”, that assurance that his/her work is not in vain. One example is the prize awarded by Valladolid City Council for FDPs and end of master’s projects by students at the University of Valladolid, accessible at HERE.

Choose Your Own Adventure: The Strange Case of FDPs in Architecture

In the 1980s, a collection of books called “Choose Your Own Adventure” achieved considerable commercial success among adolescents of my X Generation. The appealing thing about these books was that each title had different paths for the reader to follow at the end of each chapter, thus offering multiple possible endings.

If I may, I’d like to compare the success of those little paperbacks with that of the Final Degree Projects (FDPs) submitted in our schools of architecture. I wanted to highlight the results of this new “obstacle” which now closes the basic training phase for undergraduates in Architecture – a degree undeservedly undervalued for its non-coverage of certain professional skills.

As an experienced academic tutor and member of numerous FDP tribunals, I can confirm that the works presented are highly appealing and full of potential for students of architecture. FDPs are, of course, a sine qua non prerequisite for obtaining the degree. In the best of cases they are worth 6 ECTS credits. The limited amount of time devoted to them would seem to preclude any great results, but the reality is actually much more gratifying. Not only do most of the works presented obtain very high marks (something very rare in Architecture degrees); they also reflect the interest and enthusiasm of a new generation of architects keen to map out their own programmes of study.

And that, precisely, is the key to their success: students “choose their own adventure” by personally deciding what area of knowledge and specific subject they want to focus on in their FDP. And then, depending on that choice, they conscientiously select the most suitable tutor. Each FDP is a projection of the latent personal aspirations and concerns stimulated by official syllabuses. Students explore areas they find attractive for their greater accessibility and interest, and in which they often see prospects for future activity following graduation. They consider the FDP as a first “calling card” on their road to a future still in the making.

In several cases, I’ve tutored projects that came about following periods spent abroad thanks to Erasmus scholarships. This illustrates one of the greatest benefits of such schemes: the forging of an international dimension to students’ perspectives, with all that that implies: language, contact with foreign research establishments, knowledge of other methodologies and realities, etc. On other occasions motives are more personal, with students wanting to carry out research in areas directly associated with very immediate, local realities1 as a first step in the exploration of certain social and cultural dynamics in our everyday environment 0} that are often not properly addressed by professional architects unless they form part of a specific brief.

However, FDPs are still not exploited as much as they could be. It would be interesting, for example, to encourage knowledge transfer and actions abroad more orientated towards specific socio-cultural needs susceptible to academic analysis in university departments. Of course, for that to happen, certain structures (FDP laboratories?) would need to be built which would help identify and/or handle research opportunities and even channel the results of studies to other interested institutions with greater capacity to disseminate information (councils, foundations, cultural or residents’ associations, official architects’ associations, social collectives, etc.).

Such strategies could give a huge boost to FDPs which now often go unnoticed – even within our university schools of architecture – and with which universities could almost certainly contribute to building future alternatives when their authors graduate and start work.

We still don’t know how this adventure will turn out, but it’s sure to be worth the effort.


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
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In this respect, prizes that associate the results of these works with local issues are very motivating because they encourage closer ties between the University and society as a whole, and the student becomes aware of the “usefulness factor”, that assurance that his/her work is not in vain. One example is the prize awarded by Valladolid City Council for FDPs and end of master’s projects by students at the University of Valladolid, accessible at HERE.

Autor:
(Teruel, 1974) Arquitecto por la ETSA.Valladolid (1999) y doctor en Arquitectura (2013). Fundador del estudio [r-arquitectura], oficina de proyectos arquitectónicos y editor del blog de [r-arquitectura] . Investigador permanente sobre Arquitectura Moderna y Contemporánea, profesor de la ETSA.Valladolid, y autor del libro Mies van der Rohe: el espacio de la ausencia.

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