Technological advancement is shaping the future faster than we can imagine, affecting just about every industry in its wake. Architecture is no exception. Newer waves of technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are already disrupting the workforce, not only changing the way work is done, but also the type of skills needed to thrive in the 21stcentury.
While technology can be a driver of innovation, this also means architecture professionals will need to upskill to ensure they can work with and alongside technology and are ready for career success. Issues such as sustainability are high on the political agenda, paving the way for architects to play a role in social responsibility through design innovation.
In a similar vein, graduates and architecture professionals must adapt and use technology to their advantage and come up with innovative solutions that can transform the built environment and change the way buildings are conceived. Tapping into emerging technology, which will become commonplace in the future, enables professionals to leverage sustainable materials and designs that can also stand the test of time and contribute towards the cause.
Advanced study in architecture is one way of future-proofing yourself to stay relevant and competitive in this increasingly global and technological economy. The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) is one such institution that offers postgraduate programmes in architecture, ideal for professionals looking to gain a competitive edge.
Founded in 1972, SCI-Arc is a world-renowned centre of innovation and is one of the few independent architecture schools in the US. Located in Los Angeles, California, the school lays the foundation for aspiring and practicing architects to engage, speculate, innovate and take the lead in reimagining the limits of architecture. The school has also consistently performed well in rankings.
For instance, graduates of SCI-Arc are among the most hired by firms, according to a survey by DesignIntelligence 2019 School Rankings Survey. SCI-Arc itself is also among the Most Admired Architecture Schools and rank among the top 10 across all four of the survey’s focus areas, including design theory, construction methods, materials and sustainability, in both the graduate and undergraduate categories.
Producing architects for the future
SCI-Arc offers the MS Architectural Technologies, a one-year programme that provides hands-on experience with cutting-edge technologies of architectural production as well as a robust conceptual and critical framework. Students can expect to be exposed to a select group of Architectural Technologies and experienced faculty, including Programme Coordinator M. Casey Rehm, Postgraduate Chair David Ruy, Peter Testa and Marcelo Spina, among others.
The core of each semester of study is the design studio, where students develop their projects through group and individual work. The studio is supported by a design lab, a platform for technical research. This includes areas such as machine vision, digital automation, material computation, robotic manufacturing, as well as synthetic ecologies, recursive tectonics and aesthetics. Students can additionally choose from varied elective seminars in visualization technologies, speculative aesthetics, contemporary construction methods and building delivery, and architectural history and theory courses to complement the Architectural Technologies curriculum.
To ensure students are graduate ready, they work with some of the most progressive architects, designers and theorists in the field, inventively speculating the near future of architecture in the form of specific projects, sophisticated prototypes, complex tectonic and material systems and strange aesthetic objects.
The programme prepares students to graduate as capable and confident architects who are ready to embrace an entrepreneurial approach to architectural thinking and practice. Recent graduates have pursued various professional paths ranging from new careers in allied fields such as media, product design and robotics; to the development of distinct, independent practices or a focus on academic and scholarly research.
Preparing architects who push the boundaries of the field
Architectural Technologies students have had opportunities to work on exciting projects in the duration of the programme, contributing to their understanding of the role of technology in architecture. For instance, recently, students were tasked with investigating how new technological paradigms emerging from advanced computation, automation, AI, machine vision and augmented reality might alter the way humans inhabit space and developed design projects which experimented with material, environmental, aesthetic and cultural implications.
Student Anthony Samaha was drawn to study Architectural Technologies at SCI-Arc thanks to the institution’s focus on the breadth of concepts, in addition to its obsession with exploring new opportunities in design. Another student, Pedro Ferrazini, shared that the advice he received from the fabrication staff had a huge impact on his work, which not only resulted in him improving his usage of tools, but also in achieving better prototyping results and in integrating fabrication techniques into his designs.
Pedro, who came to SCI-Arc after completing his undergraduate studies in Argentina, said: “I originally envisioned that the Architectural Technologies programme would allow me to integrate new tools with my professional practice, but the seminar courses I took with Eric Owen Moss, Graham Harman, Benjamin Bratton and David Ruy also expanded my knowledge of how society, architecture and culture have been influenced by technology, shedding light on questions that I had always been looking for answers to. These theory courses have helped me situate myself within these discussions and develop my own position in relation to them.”
There’s no pause button for technological advancements, but it’s clear that SCI-Arc is leading the way in ensuring tomorrow’s architects are poised to tackle future industry challenges, transforming our built environment through technology to build a better future.