Vishaan Chakrabarti, AIA, is a developer, architect, planner, and director of the real estate development program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.
The design profession today is much less siloed. Architects, planners, developers, landscape architects, and others work seamlessly in a more horizontal fashion. Design teams are much more interdisciplinary. The more cross-fertilization you see between those fields, the more responsible development and innovation you will see—true advancements that are relevant to the world we’re moving into. We’re at a point where we’re poised to revolutionize the development and design of cities.
I’m a firm believer in design education, and I don’t think we should infiltrate it with real estate finance or zoning. It’s fine to have a taste of that, but at the end of the day I believe in the studio philosophy: to focus on design and become a better designer. I think that architectural education is enormously powerful and well-suited to the world we’re headed into. The way we learn to design is project-based; we figure out how to come together around a problem. What I’m hoping is that we start to see architecture as a broader field than the design of buildings. It’s really about solving problems. The real change that has to occur in education is what happens after students graduate from architectural programs. In many cases, for a more holistic education, it makes sense to augment an architecture degree with a development degree or business education in order to create more well-rounded professionals.
Today’s students are interested in an international knowledge base. In China and Brazil and India there are a lot of chances to just go and build. Those countries’ urbanization issues dwarf America’s largely suburban mindset. Young people are poised to go over there and deal with those issues in a fundamentally different way. We can actually bring those lessons back to this country.
As practitioners, architects must be sensitive to all sorts of demands. This is why I believe that dual degrees and cross-disciplinary learning are the way of the future. It’s important not to see it as melding different hats, but wearing different hats—each one is distinct. It’s important for people to think fluidly across different logics. The most successful architects will be the ones who can move along that spectrum. As told to William Richards.
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