The relationship between schools of architecture and the profession is not always an easy one. Across the country, relationships can reportedly vary from close cooperation, to relative indifference, to outright hostility, although it is fair to say that neither party is wholly to blame.

The relationship between schools of architecture and the profession is not always an easy one. Across the country, relationships can reportedly vary from close cooperation, to relative indifference, to outright hostility, although it is fair to say that neither party is wholly to blame.

The long-term objectives of the academy – the preparations of future generations of design professionals and the advancement of architectural knowledge – may be at variance with the short-term immediate needs of the profession, that is, the hiring of hard working, appropriately skilled assistants to share the burden of the workload with a minimum of additional training.

The problem is basically one of time. How can the schools establish a firm foundation of professional thinking and attitudes necessary for a successful career while covering the desired work-related bases such as computer skills, office management, working drawings, etc., all in a few years? (Incidentally, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture once mused on the ideal number of courses and studios a student should take to be fully prepared for practice. The final count would have taken 22 years.) While there may be no magic formula that balances the viewpoints of academia and practice to their mutual satisfaction, the level of intolerance between the two can be effectively reduced by cooperation and appreciation of the needs and challenges of either group. Creative engagement is a necessary factor in such cooperation. The more practitioners teaching in studio and classes, attending juries, serving on advisory boards, balanced by faculty who are consulting with or working in local practices, the more the boundaries between town and gown are blurred and the more the collective personnel can focus on the ultimate goal – the seamless transition of students from the learning to the work environment.

The key to longer-term harmony, however, is ideally based in structural change; good working relationships can erode with changes in personnel or shifts in attitudes, so well-constructed, formal partnerships are preferable. Working with local professional chapters, and inviting practitioners to attend annual Interview Days provides regular contact. And, recent programs such as the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s, Plunkett Raysich Professorship and Studio, take the concept of partnership to a whole new level.

Ultimately the success of any school can be defined by many indicators – faculty publications and grants, accreditation results, etc. – although from a professional perspective, it is perhaps the quality of graduates that represents the ultimate acid test of any program. Are the products of five or six years of education worth employing? Do they bring value to the practice?

Open, constructive dialogue between the University and its professional counterparts, engages professional practice in the school wherever possible and gears the smoothest possible transition of students to the workforce (through mentoring programs, internships, open houses). The relationship between practice and academia can never be taken for granted. It requires continuous nurturing and re-invention to stay fresh and vital, and needs a non-stop flow of innovative, new ideas to enrich the concept of partnership.