2018 THE VIRGINIA ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE

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AN UNFINISHED EDUCATION: THE GROUNDWORK OF GREAT ARCHITECTURE

June 3, 2017

The best architectural education encompasses everything that is not remotely related to architecture. Speaking with Mohamad Ismail, a graduate student, I realized that academia is the slightest factor in a continuous and endless education. Ismail emphasized that an architecture education is omnipresent in the sense that designers never cease to acquire new knowledge; instead, they treasure and apply every minute detail within the human experience to their innovations. Hence, an unfinished education.

 

Ismail says, “The true test on whether you care about what you are doing is that it’s never too far from your mind, even if you’re doing something different.” He encourages himself to step outside the classroom in order to engage in unusual thoughts that deal with a multitude of topics. In retrospect, I make similar cross-disciplinary connections in my Gender Studies course where I play around with the relationship between gender and the built environment. Architecture possess an intersectional identity that relates to everything else in our lives. Ismail argues that designers should attempt to sympathize with and understand the language, culture, perspective, or identity of the prospective inhabitant. Learn by doing. Where it is through travelling abroad or locally, or interacting with people, architectural knowledge can be acquired through a variety of mediums.

 

What strikes me as a student who is drowning in readings on architectural theory, Ismail learns by reading vibrant fantasies and sci-fi texts. Ismail has not intent of those readings effecting his work, but knows perfectly well it will to some extent. Being alert to your environment, Ismail believes, while simultaneously being open to the idea of not knowing solidifies his designs. “By brooding my life and human experience, I am making my architectural work deeper.” Ismail’s most enthralling conversations were with people who “just happened to walk by;” in this moment, although full of uncertainty, Ismail is optimistic about being open to critiques and sharing as a form of education.

 

Ismail also notes that architects are perfectionist. Architects become “satisfied” and “comfortable” in their designs, Ismail says. By embracing an unfished education, Ismail is kicking down the safety guards that restrict his designs from an organic and a novel state. Contradictory to the rigid education in university, everything Ismail learns will “unconsciously and consciously” make his design better.  He concludes this enriching idea with: “an unfished education means you’re doing it [architectural design] right.”

 

Anyone brave enough to endure architecture school will agree: designing is hard.  We are constantly eager to finish a project, yet we are hungry for more excitement. Luckily, education caters to our peculiar needs. Ismail will finish graduate school and will receive a degree, but he will continue to “combine every weird interest” in exchange for a superior degree in studying the human condition. Architecture education is eternal. Before you begin to stress about an everlasting and daunting studio class, note that college is a minor part of your life. After graduating, Ismail will hybridize a vast body of knowledge based on casual encounters, fantasies, explorations, and metaphysical ideas. Ismail says, “it is scary that we don’t know everything, but also it’s exciting that you can’t ever stop learning.”

 

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