Monday, 26 March 2018

UK RIBA validated Architecture Schools do not offer value for money

I spoke on BBC Radio Scotland about my traumatic experience at architecture schools. The discussion was whether or not going to unversity for years is worth it. Well, it wasn't for me.

The architecture course is five years long but then there is the cruel, but profitable business of making students repeat years which they do on a regular basis. It's the way these RIBA validated, 100% subjective courses have been operating since the 1950's and the same haphazard system persits today. Is it a gamble you want to take?

Monday, 11 September 2017

women in architecture and why they leave it

The RIBA did commission research to find out why there are so few women in architecture. 
Why do women leave architecture? by Ann de Graft-Johnson, Sandra Manley and Clara Greed - University of the West of England, Bristol, May 2003 
The key findings were: 
“UWE found that there was no definitive answer to the central question. A number of identifiable problems did however come to light. The reasons why women left tended to be a combination of a number of factors and or a ‘final straw’ moment. Some of the key issues are as follows:
  • Low pay  Unequal pay Long working hours
  • Inflexible/unfamily friendly working hours
  • Sidelining
  • Limited areas of work
  • Glass ceiling
  • Stressful working conditions
  •  Protective paternalism preventing development of experience
  • Macho culture
  • Sexism
  • Redundancy and or dismissal
  • High litigation risk and high insurance costs
  • Lack of returner training
  • More job satisfaction elsewhere
There was little evidence that women left because they were incompetent designers or that they no longer wanted to be architects.” 
One respondent had written, At the *** School of Architecture, the attitudes of certain tutors towards averagely talented members of my class was dismissed and utterly shocking. I was lucky I had the strength of character to come out of the course relatively unscathed. I saw three highly intelligent individuals suffer a complete breakdown in confidence due to the tutors on this course. You could pass every other aspect of the course with 100 per cent, but if your design work was not favoured, you were left to rot. I cannot stress strongly enough how favouritist this school is. It is not a sexist issue, but a taste issue in terms or what design style is “flavour of the month” with certain tutors.”
I would add to the list above that sometimes, like me, there are just failed unfairly and thereby kept out of the profession.

During my time at architecture school there was not one female tutor/lecturer, but changing their gender won’t improve the standard of architecture education. It needs a complete overhaul and this is currently a hot topic and being written about at great length by Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright, (see dezeen online magazine).

In uk architecture schools both male and female students are treated badly so I prefer not focus too much on the gender issue. I haven’t done so in my book BRICK WALL which is an honest account of my experiences as a young woman at three architecture schools in the uk.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

25% of Architecture Students experience mental illness

Architecture Students experience mental health problems

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Study Finds 25% of UK Architecture Students Have Sought Treatment for Mental Health Issues

In a recent article I focused on women in architecture, but on the architecture course young men can equally suffer. Many have written to me. The problem is not a gender problem. The problem is that the only "teaching" that takes place is through criticism and students are kept in a perpetual state of anxiety because, no matter how hard they work, how clever and creative they are,  they do not know until the very last day of each year whether or not they will gain a 40% pass mark for their project work.

Shock results are dished out at the last minute as all the projects leading up to the final project each year are discarded - meaning students who gained good marks for their first two projects can in fact fail, and conversely, students who have failed their first two projects can gain a high mark. It all depends how much architecture tutors rate your final project and rate you.

Read article

Monday, 28 August 2017

Where Are the Women Architects?

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Where Are the Women Architects?

Good question, considering for several decades now 50% of 1st year architecture students have been women.

Where Are the Women Architects? is an excellent book that should be read by young women considering a career in architecture. They will discover that the odds are very much stacked against them.

Results of a 2016 survey studying Women in Architecture is a depressing read. I believe the bias begins in university where male attitudes dominate. When I studied in the 1980's-90's in the U.K. there were no female tutors at all, in 2016, in academia, this survey shows a figure of just 3%!!!! Despite a 50/50 ratio starting out in 1st year. It also shows only 3% will every reach director level in an architectural firm.

I found an article in the The New York Times written in 2016 titled Why is the world of architecture so male-dominated? It claims "Today, deeply entrenched biases remain." 

In 2017 an article in Dezeen magazine shows instead of becoming narrower, the pay gap between male and female architects is, in fact, widening. Read full article

Before starting out on a path to nowhere, I wish I had noticed that the only known female architects in the world at that time were married to famous male architects - Wendy Foster (married to Norman Foster), Dennis-Scott Brown (married to Robert Venturi) and Su Rogers (married to Richard Rogers) etc.

Conclusion: Studying architecture may be a good choice if you are dating an architect or already married to one. Otherwise forget it.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Views of architecture students and architects who have contacted me

Since creating this blog in 2013 and publishing my book BRICK WALL many students of architecture past and present have contacted me with their own, mostly depressing stories. I am publishing snippets here without names or details of where they studied to avoid any repercussions.
"The architectural education system (and RIBA) are completely unregulated, it makes me so sad to see so many people, like myself, strive to achieve in this degree. The system made me mentally and physically ill to tell you the truth, and I doubt that I will ever recover from it."
"What can we do to campaign for change? Appealing to RIBA is obviously not an option. I would love to help you in your pursuit."
"I studied architecture starting at _______ in 2002, failed 3rd year, repeated somewhere closer to home to save money, did a year post part 1 and then pg dip. then I was unemployed for 4 months, I work as a university administrator now."...
"I agree with much of what is posted on your site and some of resonates deeply. Your article 'what I learned in architecture school' could have been written in my own hand. My experience of architecture school cut very deep. I won academic prizes at school and it counted for nothing at architecture school."...
"Architectural education in the UK is a trainwreck, and I think everybody that can count themself an insider knows that. I don't think 'outsiders' have any idea, and there could be a real need for a piece of substantial campaign work in this area- you will have no difficulty in collecting depositions from former students, I am sure."  
"I found your blog on the internet and I REALLY love your articles, which are very true. I couldn’t help write to you. I’m an international student studying Bachelor of architecture in America. My degree is a five-year program, and now I’m a 5th year student. So far I had three summer internships, and after I did my third internship this year, I’m 100% sure what we learn in school has nothing (or has little) to do with the real practice of architecture."...
"Our school gives us no clues about the real world, and employers are not willing to train new grads, so it’s not easy to get a job as entry-level architects (actually it shouldn’t be employers’ responsibilities to train new grads…)"... "I know two people working for BIG (in New York); they both think working there is a great accomplishment even though BIG pays them the minimum wage (about $8 per hour in NY)."
"Anyway, I enjoy reading your articles, and I feel happier that I’m not the only one who experiences and struggles with the huge gap between architecture education and architecture workplace."
"I very much enjoyed reading your book over the bank holiday and as a qualified architect who did part 1 and 2 at _________ I would like you to know how much of it rung true with me."...
"It wasn't just being made to study a subject I love in such a backward, warped and irrelevant way - which at times was almost torture - but what I particularly dislike is how it turned me from someone who is generally kind, tolerant, easy going and level-headed into being resentful, suspicious and at worst an emotional wreck."...
"At the lowest point I remember stumbling into the university doctor's office in floods of tears after having barely eaten or slept in several days through stress."...

"It is all so upsetting, as it's a course now dependent on the the tutor's theory, the tutor's likings, and our personality. With all the regular crits, and work progress, and expectations from tutors and also group members, anxiety is one of my biggest problems right now. I believe the education is a mess as of many other students. With ongoing petitions and student reps trying to sort out what architecture school should actually be, nothing is changing, or changing way too slow. I don't believe that the architecture course needs to be 6-7 years long, because at the end of the day, we students teach ourselves, find information and resources ourselves, do everything ourselves, even organise site visits ourselves. All tutors do is give their own opinions. All our tuition fee for the university, when at the end of the day we aren't really being taught anything, we teach ourselves."
Just ask yourself, if there is nothing wrong with the architectural educational system, why do fully qualified architects read my books and write essays to me? But don't just take my word for it, search the student rooms and see what current students are saying about the course. Are they enjoying it? Are they learning anthing? Bare in mind it takes a logical mind to make sense of it all.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

How NOT to become an architect in the uk

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New Release in Paperback - the two books under one cover - Architecture "Education" - for sale now on Amazon - includes 15 Reasons NOT to study Architecture and Brick Wall (my autobiography).

DON'T embark on any RIBA validated course  anywhere in the world without reading this first.

Note: Architecture schools around the world are taking notice of this book - the length and cost of the course being a hot topic. Qualified architects and architecture students past and present send messages to Moira with their own stories and thank her for speaking out

Architect Patrick Lynch (, Sept 2013) poses the question, "Where would you safely send your child to study architecture in the UK? Answer: nowhere if you can help it." He argues, "it isn't a system; it's a lucky dip."

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This blog has been created to compliment an autobiographical book called Brick Wallwhich criticizes for good reason the highly subjective system of training architects in the uk. It is also a story about overcoming adversity and keeping going when it feels like the whole world is against you, which can be a common feeling on the architecture course. Some schools are better than others but, they ALL operate the same warped system of assessment.

The architecture schools I have attended in chronological order are: 

1. Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art (GSA) in Scotland.
2. Dundee University in Scotland.
3. Newcastle University in England (ranked 5th place in 2018 in the UK).

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Don’t head off to university without reading 15 Reasons NOT to study Architecture; it encompasses a lot of research into architectural education past and present and is condensed down into bite sized chunks taken from articles on this blog. 

The opinions of current architecture students and practising architects gathered from various sources are included in an appendix at the end of both books.

Please note: The only reason Moira has written any of this down is to save other people suffering the same misery she and countless others have suffered at the hands of a brutal, unfair educational system that has been wrecking lives for decades. But don't just take her word for it - do your own research.
Feel free to contact Moira if you have been similarly affected (you are not the first and you won't be the last). It is no disgrace to fail the architecture course at any institution, on the contrary it demonstrates intelligence and a questioning mind.