Architectural Blatherations

The Boston Architectural College Writes

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The Good Oil

After we published our research ratings of the USA's architecture schools, Boston Architectural College (formerly Center) sent a hurried note to the inestimable journal Archvoices. We produce the response in full below. You can read our comments here.

BAC writes to Archvoices

'Here's a staff response to your latest issue, from the BAC, after much internal discussion (edited from this e-mail) about how to best describe our teaching faculty, which is constituted primarily of practicing professionals who volunteer their time to teach, conjoined with a smaller full-time teaching staff (not all of whom are listed on our website). We will cross-list our faculty (now listed on our Community page) within our website where it may be more obvious to Dr. Stevens and others, in response to this new listing, but there is a deeper question raised here about how 'academic' research is best linked to research that occurs in practice.

'It is interesting to note that among the small number of other schools similarly constituted to the BAC, the same issue came up as to how we express our commitment to research. The fact that our faculty are not listed in the same manner as is the case at university-based programs does not mean that we don't undertake or value research--to the contrary, we were awarded the first Boston Society of Architects research grant several years ago, and I've been a member of the AIA Large Firm Roundtable's Dean's Task Force on Research for the past few years. At the BAC, we teach research skills to our architecture, interior design and (emerging) landscape students, and we are one of the few design schools that maintains a writing program specifically focused on how to write one's findings so they are comprehensible to professionals and clients. The bulk of our thesis students, in particular, link their academic work with the full-time work they do in practice to produce some very int! eresting and practice-grounded research.

'For the handful of schools that are not university-based, how we report and value research will not necessarily appear on a website in the same way it may within a university context, where research efforts are an integral part of the tenure process, and where practice may not be as highly valued even if it's linked to research. The point is that we, and others similarly situated, are not coy or reticent about our research commitment, and had Dr. Stevens employed a somewhat different methodology he would not only have found our faculty (and their credentials) listed, but he would also have found some of the reasons that explain why so many of our former faculty and staff have become Deans and program heads at other schools, and why respect for our practice-based research orientation may have been part of the reason I was just elected President-elect of the ACSA.

'We value research training as the first step toward inculcating in emerging practicing professionals a commitment to life-long learning, sharing research and knowledge among peers (as is now too rarely done), and serving a public that expresses little understanding of the intellectual rigor that underpins our profession. The fact that our commitment to research may appear less in the handful of useful scholarly journals that serve our profession, than in the actual work done by professionals, should not be interpreted as a diminished sense of the value of research. To the contrary, for the BAC, research that enriches practice is the most valuable research that can be done.

'That said, Dr. Stevens has usefully raised the visibility of research as a measure of how seriously a school may value deep and life-long inquiry into real issues within the design professions, and I thank ArchVoices for disseminating his work. Hopefully, it will encourage all program heads to examine the role that research plays in our professional learning environments.

'--Ted Landsmark, MEvD, JD, PhD, President, Boston Architectural Center' (latterly Boston Architectural College)