FSA or Free School of Architecture


Last September, Peter Zellner issued an article entitled “Architectural education is broken—here’s how to fix it” where he stated his opposition toward the prevailing model of architectural education. According to Zellner, “the schools of architecture that modeled new and innovative forms of teaching in the 70’s and the 80’s ” are now responsible for a series of wrongdoings and for “having robbed several generations of students of their voices and their right to grow potent individual practices“. Zellner then discusses a post-studio/ post-digital model along five imperatives:

  • engaged debate, critique and conversation
  • individual genius should be challenged
  • awkward experimentation and slow growth
  • teachers and students following shared paths not parallel ones
  • intelligent challenges shouldbe celebrated

Just a week later Zellner, following the advice of his supporters, announced the launching of a “tuition and salary free” school seeking to “explore the edges of architectural education which he calls Free School of Architecture.” In his interview to Diana Budds, he protests against the high fees of tertiary education and the incredible amount of debt students have to take up.

In his interview to Antonio Pacheco, Zellner announced that “12 students will join 10 teachers in June and July of 2017 for 6 weeks” and that “12 courses will be taught of which I will teach two classes, to open and close the year. The remaining 10 will be taught in 30, 60, and 120 minute blocks by the FSA’s 10 teachers.”

The curriculum will be divided into five course bundles, says Nicholas Korody quoting Zellner: architectural history and theory; design and aesthetic theory; practical and vocational topics; philosophy; and general studies. Zellner hopes that, while these groupings may seem “fairly traditional or generic”, the professors will expand these topics to encompass broader concerns, such as the socio-economics of education, diversity, and political outreach.

The program is essentially aimed at a postgraduates, so a minimum requirement for entry is one professional degree, probably an undergraduate, and students can be enrolled in a master’s program. The expectation is really discourse first. There’s no project required, no submissions, no grading, and there’s no assessment per se. At the end of our initial six-week summer school, students will be able to make a defense and that can be in the form of a challenge to something they’re learned, or a critique, or ideally a kind of practicum statement in which they outline their academic or professional ambitions or outline what they plan to do with their lives as creatives.

Zellner’s statements have already been subject to criticism by Todd Gannon. I personally think it is too soon to tell. Zellner must get a fair chance to try out what he claims should change. Experimenting in small workshops seems ideal in his case and let’s hope that by this time next year there will be a lot more to talk about.

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