Architectural Blatherations

How to be a Brilliant Architectural Professor

top rule

The Good Oil

So: you've got your first proper job as an architectural academic {professor}: perhaps a lecturership in one of the Commonwealth nations, or an assistant professorship in North America. How can you retain this chumbly lifestyle for ever? Read on to find out how to spend the next 30 years in cosy comfort.

The academic chimera

Architectural academics are the tragic thalidomide victims amongst the alpha-plus academics meandering the world's universities; rendered even sadder because they believe themselves beautiful.

They can never understand why they are reviled as ugly both by architects and by other academics. They are easily dazzled by other professors. Their design colleagues regard them as on the fringe of the profession, as slightly dotty types shoring up their tottering practices with solid academic incomes.

To their university colleagues they are academic paupers, with their petty Bachelors and Masters degrees. In most places in academe, one needs to be a postdoc to gain a humble teaching assistant position. In architecture, the concept of a postdoc barely exists. About 2.7% of America's university students are studying for doctorates. Only 1% of America's architecture students are. Where other disciplines in academe consider the PhD as the first stepping stone, architecture schools dismiss it as egg-head-ism.

Architects don't want to be PhD eggheads, but they are rather keen on being called 'Doctor'. Hence the moves afoot to upgrade their titles and the stupid idea of a DArch.

Faux academics

In the architectural academy, the intellectual superstars are not even full-time academics, but the eminent architects who fly in for a few weeks of studios, entourages and Issey Miyake in tow.

We shall dismiss these immediately. They are no more academics than our cats. Great designers make excellent inspirational speakers, but they are rarely decent teachers, and they certainly do nothing remotely resembling what the rest of the university thinks of as research. Many of them are actually quite uninformed, even if they fancy their intellects as beyond the rest of us.

In our opinion, they can be positively dangerous. The great designers tend to be arrogant, disdainful and self-important. If they have a large practice, the more so. They are used to bossing around employees, whose options are limited to either taking it or losing their job. When they bring this demeanour in to the design studio, students can be subjected to a withering criticism that can do nothing but harm to their development.

Strategies for success

Here is our quick and dirty guide for budding architecture professors wanting to propel themselves into the academic stratosphere.

Get other people to do all your work

Most important of all, get other people to do your work for you.

Stay at the cutting edge

You can fool some of your professorial peers and some of your students only some of the time. On second thought, that's not true. Your academic colleagues, confident in their intellects, hold themselves incapable of being duped. Which makes them ripe for the plucking. Your students actually want to be swindled. Take advantage of these character defects to stay on the cutting edge.

Become Professor Everywhere

Nothing conveys a sense of global importance than a frantic international schedule.

Go for the gold

Just because you are on a fixed salary doesn't mean a lack of financial opportunities.

Other resources

The first place to start is the wonderful book Academic Gamesmanship by Pierre van den Berghe (Abelard-Schuman, New York, 1970), a third-generation American academic. This delightful confection can guide academics of any discipline to fame and fortune. There is also a famous paper from the Journal of Higher Education, reprinted several times. If we can ever find it again, we'll put it here.

Another source is that kooky game for all the family, Survival of the Witless (Avalanche Press, 1997).