David Cronrath, AIA, dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, missed Cheng’s talk but has since reviewed her proposal with enthusiasm. “Anything we can do to expedite the speed with which people can get licensed is a good thing,” Cronrath says. “What Renée has done is establish a roadmap which a lot of people can follow. And, I think, of course they will.”
Cronrath hopes that improved collaboration among architecture’s four gatekeeping organizations—the AIA, NCARB, the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture—will eliminate some redundancies and help speed things up. “If you look at IDP and the knowledge and skills [it requires], particularly in some of the core categories, a lot of those are already required by NAAB, and are part and parcel of what the academy does,” Cronrath says. “In the future, why can’t we get greater synergies out of that?” Cronrath calls NCARB’s rule changes a “huge step” in this direction.
NCARB—whether deliberately or not—has empowered schools like Minnesota to dream up new programs based on its changes to IDP, which it has been advertising by sending representatives to schools to host workshops and answer questions. “I’m really anxious to see what we can further do to integrate education and internship,” Falconer says.
But he makes clear that the intent of the rule changes is not to accelerate the licensure process: It is to recognize more types of legitimate experience. “What we want to recognize is valid experience. If it conforms to the rules of the program, then it should be counted.”
“People keep asking me how long it takes to complete IDP,” Falconer adds. “The answer is: 5,600 hours. How you personally go through that program—and I’m not trying to sound harsh—it’s based on personal circumstances.”
To some extent, the length of the IDP is a necessary flipside of its rigor. The internship requires that experience hours be spread across multiple categories, so that those wishing to practice architecture get a solid grounding in all pre-design and design skills and in both project and practice management. The seven-part ARE assesses whether intern architects are competent to protect public health, safety, and welfare—not a light responsibility.
Yet despite their exacting standards, the internship and tests are largely self-guided. Sure, it’s convenient that you can take the ARE tests in any order, wherever and whenever you want to. But “one of the issues of why people aren’t taking the exam in a timely way is a lack of cohort,” Cheng says. “There’s potentially so much flexibility [that] you don’t have a deadline.” By imposing more structure on the process, the Minnesota program seeks to foster cohorts like those that go through medical residency together, or through the architectural licensure process in other countries.
The larger goal of Cheng and her collaborators is to spur a change in culture that spans architectural practice and the academy, joining them in a feedback loop that has long been broken. Currently, the knowledge within firms is often proprietary, and closely guarded; research in schools is shared mainly through academic channels. When educators and practitioners together assume more responsibility for training future architects, they have the opportunity to close the loop, informing each other’s pursuits in a meaningful way.
“There’s tremendous knowledge in the academy, tremendous knowledge in practice,” Lee says. “I would hope in five to seven years we have a model and a structure for that knowledge loop, and that exchange is really pervasive in the profession.” If other schools of architecture create programs like Minnesota’s—which, Cheng stresses, she’s happy to share and offer as a template—it could happen.
That’ll be too late to help Andrea Dietz (based on NCARB’s recent changes, more of her early work experience would have counted toward her IDP record), but she thinks the new program sounds “really good for students.” (Although she worries about them having to pay for another year’s worth of school.) She’d like it to become standard for American architecture students to get most of the way through IDP while still in school, and then to do residency-style apprenticeships.
Why has she stuck with the internship for 13 long years? For ideological reasons: “The title of architect needs to apply to more than it does now,” Dietz says. In her view, licensure will help legitimize her nontraditional, multidisciplinary mode of practice.