The teaching of architecture, structural engineering and planning in higher education has, for the last sixty years or so, been strongly governed by the requirements of professional bodies who have set relatively strict guidelines on content and approach to curriculum content and method of delivery. The result has been that these disciplines have ploughed their own furrow and developed independently of each other. From the point of view of the architect, environmental engineering has become seen as something of a technical fix and planning a bureaucratic process, both sitting at arm’s length away from the ‘real’ business of the design studio (see Hagan 2008). This has been to the detriment of all.
This paper argues that this traditional approach can be, and should be, challenged. It examines the criteria of the professional accrediting bodies and sets out an alternative approach in which all three disciplines have been brought together in a single year-long graduation-year studio that is taken by students studying for degrees in architecture & planning as well as architecture & environmental engineering. The paper draws upon the experience of the authors and others in setting up and running such a studio and (importantly) of the students who have participated in it. At the core of the approach taken at the University of the West of England is an interpretation of the relevant ARB-RIBA criteria as requiring a design centred studio focus (GC1) for all, but also as allowing a leaning towards the structural and engineering criteria (GC8&9) for some, whilst others concentrate on the more social and urban criteria (GC4&5). The authors contend that the key to integrating these two approaches in one studio lies in how students work with each other on a single brief and in the outputs required of students – to the advantage of all.