ARCHITECTURAL EDUCATION (THOUGHS AND OBSERVATIONS) Arc. J.B. Nerquaye -Tetteh AGIA HEAD, Department of Architecture School of Applied Sciences Central University College

achieducation
BRIEF BACKGROUND
Central University College (CUC) is the response of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) to the need to train transformational leaders and technological change agents for Ghana and Africa. As a private tertiary institution, CUC is committed to pioneering new approaches in the training of academics and professionals for development of the built environment.
The Central University College, School of Applied Sciences, Five-Year Bachelor of Architecture Programme is a hybrid of architectural educational concepts which have three (3) essential features;
• The integration of academia, professional bodies and related industries into the built-environment developmental framework for the purpose of fostering and promoting total architecture;
• The integration of all the key built environmental disciplines effectively into architectural education and practice allow flexibility and choice in the pursuit of career paths
• Systematic graduation of course content from broad foundational studies to highly specialized areas in architecture. (CUC2011 Annual Report)
PHILOSOPHY
The basic philosophy of the Department of Architecture, Central University College, is drawn from 2 background information:
a. The main tenet that led to the establishment of Central University College which states, among others, to train graduate professionals to become transformational leaders versed in Christian ethics, who will go out to create job opportunities for other unemployed youth on the African subcontinent.
a. The paradigm shift in the practice of architecture. A paradigm shift that is pivoted on:
i. The introduction of Computer-Aided Design and computer drafting methods.
ii. The trend towards sustainable use of natural resources and energy.
iii. The need to conserve life on planet earth and the need to reduce harmful gases.
iv. The need to exploit symbols, shapes and forms that are meaningful to the cultural heritage of the people of African descent, or an architecture that will belong to Africa
With these important facts in mind, the philosophy of Department of Architecture can be stated in 3-fold:
a. To train students to have holistic approach towards architecture as a profession. As would-be leaders of both design and construction teams, the programme seeks to train students to be versed in the trade language of all the allied professions. For that matter, basic structural engineering, material and cost estimation, land surveying and building construction will be incorporated into their studio practical courses and not be taught in isolation.
b. As regards the main architectural design studio course, the Department will break the course into comprehensive stages that most practicing architects use in their practices and encourage students to follow suit. These involve:
Ì Freehand Sketching
Ì Graph-Aided Sketching
Ì Computer-Aided Drafting
Ì Computer-Aided Rendering. The first stage of Freehand Sketching will be given a lot of impetus as this had hitherto been lacking in the education of most architects.

c. To help unearth the talents of each student, students will be encouraged to do elective courses of their choice which they will want to set up as a business aside architecture. These elective courses will however be allied to architecture. These include interior designing and decoration, construction management, material and quantities estimation, professional model making and architectural rendering, a course in setting out using land surveying instruments, real state designing, developing and community planning and landscape architecture. Diversion of architects to allied professions had already been stressed by the Commonwealth Association of Architects and we have whole-heartedly accepted this challenge.

Lastly, the philosophy of the CUC Department of Architecture can be summarized as the school that will follow the theme of training architects who are:
a. Versed in green architecture : using natural elements of wind, sun, natural resources and our cultural heritage in design decision making.
b. Specialized in other allied discipline other than architectural designing.
c. Using the fast pace method of freehand sketching to quickly bring interactive rapport between the client and himself
STAFFING AND STUDENTS
The total student population to date is 191. Admission for the 2012- 2013 Academic year is in progress. The current staffing of the Department are (12) Full Time lecturers, One (1) Research Assistant, Two (2) service lectures from the Engineering Department, Nine (9) Part Time Lecturers and One (1) Senior Administrative Assistant. Three lecturers from other Departments teach University-Wide Courses like French, Communication Studies and Principles of Purposeful Living.
CURRICULUM SUMMARY (Ref: Handbook, Department of Architecture by Arc. M. Agbenohevi. First Head of Department) For us to achieve our goals our curriculum has been designed to make sure that our graduates after completing school can diversify into allied fields of architecture which hitherto have not been exploited by architects. Some of these include the following
a. Real Estate Design and Development
b. Interior Design and Decoration
c. Landscape Architecture
d. Community Planning
e. Building Construction Management
LEVEL 100 (first year) Architecture Design Studio The design studio work spans Descriptive Geometry, Community Planning, Housing, Construction Technology, Climate Culture and Environment, Interior and Furniture Design. The main aim of these courses is to introduce the fresh students to the built environment, identify strengths and weaknesses within the communities, analyse and propose solutions within the respective socio-cultural context.
LEVEL 200 focuses on public building design in areas of education, health and offices. Building economics is introduced at this stage to assist students consider costs in relation to building materials and their choice. Sociology and Environmental Psychology is also taught to enable students relate People, Place, Environment to Design schemes. Though CAD is introduced, student work is submitted in pencil; freehand and graph-aided sketches and models.
LEVEL 300 Students undertake physical surveys of the urban environment, document, analyse and come out with recommendations to resolve design issues pertinent to the study area. Design schemes are proposed and developed into working drawings. Principles and Design of Reinforced Concrete structures is further studied and applied to their Working Drawings. Architectural Practice and Business puts them in a position to handle Clients briefs, ethics of the profession. Christian ethics, a University wide course (training of transformational leaders) puts the student in the position to consider Christian morals wherever they find themselves. Students are also to engage in practical attachment with architecture related practices like consultancy offices, real estate developers or building contractors.
LEVEL 400 students undertake studies in Industrial and Sacred buildings and have the option of electives in specialized areas of interest. Construction Technology is taught over four years and embraces from simple construction principles right to prefabrication and modular system building. Towards the tail end of the year students will submit proposed synopsis for their Design Thesis for the perusal of the Departmental Board.
LEVEL 500 is the final year. Students are mostly independent but guided by their supervising lecturers in the Design Thesis. Alongside the collating of data and visual presentation, the students will be taught Architectural Research Methods. Practicing Architects are invited to give seminars for the levels 400 and 500, this is with the ultimate aim of enabling the student relate to the Practice of Architecture in Ghana , to research deep into their Design topics and produce scholarly work.

OBSERVATIONS AND THOUGHTS
(Informal chats with level 200 to 500 students)
As we enter our fifth year, the graduating year of our first batch for this programme, I recount some observations and thoughts over the period.
These thoughts and observations are based GENERALLY on informal chats with CUC Architecture students, and which have primarily focused on particular frustrations. This article limits it four (4) main observations. It is worth noting that some of these same frustrations are comparable to those commonly voiced throughout many institutions across numerous schools of architecture.
1. Identifiably students start by critiquing lack of attention on the creative process, the hindering effects of tight deadlines and surprise at the lack of time available for the creative design process and claim more time is given to preparing presentations than the actual design.
It is essential to note that architectural education is not entirely focused only on creative exploration. Different levels and semesters often have a different focus, which usually depends on the designed plan of study, focus of faculty and their philosophies. Over the years, faculty has placed emphasis to cover the basics of effective verbal and visual communication, time-management, self-motivation, group effort and design.
2. Also architecture students continue to describe the grading comparison between classmates, these results in competition rather than group effort; this in my opinion represents a biased view, blinds students from being objective and retards intellectual development.
This idea of competition has both positive and negative facades, in recent years; a focus on group effort seems to reflect the modernization of the field. Professional practice and the scale of emerging projects have praised firms which have used group effort to meet deadlines. Group effort fosters innovation and creativity, and it is an important skill that faculty must emphasize in architecture education from undergrad level right through CPD. (Continuous Professional Development)
3. The lack of technological skills taught throughout architectural education is a major complaint as well to many students. The educational system appears to have a difficult time keeping up with the rapidly evolving technologies of the field, thereby failing to provide adequate courses and time to address this; the responsibility is passed onto the student.
In-depth knowledge, costs of popular software are necessary to be competitive in the job market and a major issue to struggle with.
4. Lastly, the lack of ability to maintain a balance between academic, practice and personal life seems to be an issue that is prevalent throughout the profession.
Sacrificial tales of the dedicated architect are common, but the lack of ability to maintain a balance is often a result of poor time management or unrealistic expectations.
Typically in the early years of architectural education, students struggle to maintain this balance. However, during graduating years in school, many students have learned effective time management skills and require fewer all-night ‘longers’. On the contrary, this is not always avoidable.
CONCLUSION
It is impossible to design every detail in a project within a semester and sometimes putting in extra hours is worth the effort to further enhance the design.
Wherever your architectural education is, its purpose is certainly intended to teach students self-learning, timemanagement, and critical thinking and visualisation. Similar to most programmes of study, it is difficult to keep up with the rapidly evolving architectural profession, technological trends and demands of clientele. It is worth comforting to mention that there is always room for improvement.
However, as reluctant as students and practitioners may be to admit, there is much to be gained from an architectural education. How much is attained is largely dependent upon the individual relationship with the faculty and the regulatory bodies in the context of the individuals study and practice

References: Central University College Annual Report 2011 Curriculum of Department of Architecture (updated October 2011) Handbook of the Department of Architecture (2009) Students of Department of Architecture(2008-2012)