Background

In the fall of 2005, the NAAB issued an additional condition for accreditation: Studio Culture. Each accredited School of Architecture is now required to have a written policy addressing and shaping its studio culture. Several years ago, the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) created a task force to address both the positive and negative aspects of studio culture and issued its report in 2002. In that report the writers call for explicit policies to support the positive aspects of studio culture, while curbing some of the more unhealthy practices. The positive values identified by the report include optimism, respect, sharing, engagement, and innovation — values which are shared and supported fully by this school.

Policy

The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture believes in the value of the design studio model. Studio learning encourages dialogue, collaboration, risk-taking, innovation, and learning-by-doing. The studio offers an environment where students can come together to ask questions and make proposals, which are developed and discussed among classmates, faculty, visiting professionals, and the public-at-large. Studio learning offers intensive one-on-one instruction from faculty members, and provides the opportunity for each student to develop his/her critical thinking skills and spatial and material sensibilities. The design studio offers a synthetic form of education, where project-based learning becomes the foundation for developing an understanding of and commitment to the school's core values — broadmindedness, interconnectivity, professionalism, exploration and activism — all in service of architecture's fundamental mission: to improve the quality of the built and natural environments.

Open-ended questions.
The school encourages students to embrace studio-based learning as a unique and valuable educational model. Studio creates an environment which allows open-ended questions, for which there may be no "right" answers.

Balance.
The school supports its students and faculty in leading balanced lives.

Time-management.
Students are encouraged to work smarter, not necessarily longer in studio.

Design process.
The school affirms the value of design intention, design process, as well as design product, thus both encouraging and evaluating (1) the student's understanding of the ideas that motivate and the forces that inform the project at hand ("grasp"), (2) the student's assiduousness in the development of ideas and use of information in the process of design ("process" or "effort"), and (3) the material and graphic quality of the studio's final products — be they models, drawings, or representations in other media — as well as the appositeness of the proposed design in its real-world context ("product").

Grades.
Grades are but one measure of a student's performance in studio. Advising and counseling are considered integral to a student's studio evaluation.

Collaboration.
In addition to individual design projects, the school values partner and group projects at every level of design research and development.

Interdisciplinary opportunities.
To become effective designers of and advocates for a quality built environment, the school supports community-based research and design opportunities through which students can acquire a broad range of skills and experiences.

Faculty development.
Faculty who teach studio are selected for their ability to inspire students to learn, to engage students in critical thinking, to bring forward their particular expertise, and to convey a sense of optimism about the field of architecture.

Critiques/Reviews.
Public presentation and display of the work of the design studio is valued, and is essential in developing skills for effective verbal communication. The school supports considered and respectful dialogue—whether spirited debate or sober discussion — during public presentations.

Diversity.
The school supports active, open dialogue and the studio must be a place where diverse life experiences and opinions are shared. A culture of respect and open inquiry supports the life-long learning process that begins in architecture school.