Architecture school from the ground up

The Prague Post

New institute offers degrees in English and stronger emphasis topics like city planning and monument upkeep

For students who dream of high-rises and well-planned cities, a new private school in Prague may be the blueprint. The Architectural Institute in Prague (ARCHIP) plans to open its doors this October, offering bachelor’s degrees in architecture through an English-only program.

Regina Loukotová and her husband, fellow architect Martin Roubík (who has since passed away), had been thinking about a private architecture school for nearly 10 years. Roubík had returned to Prague from Oslo, where he had been teaching and working, and both felt something was missing in the schooling offered for architects here.

“There are seven different places in the Czech Republic where you can study architecture,” she says. “The other schools also offer programs in English, but not the whole package – a bachelor’s degree in English.”

A lack of emphasis in certain areas also worried Loukotová, and these are the subjects ARCHIP will highlight.

“Architecture is not an exclusive profession. We think architects are missing on different levels,” she says. “Society needs more architects in municipalities, for example, advising on the preservation of monuments or in planning and building departments – architects with a complex understanding of all the problems.”

Improving urban life

Besides monument preservation, landscape design will be another area of focus at the school.

“It’s not so developed here,” she says. “It was Martin’s idea, because, in Scandinavia, it’s a normal program. Here, they don’t emphasis how to place a building in the landscape and make public spaces pleasant.”

“It’s connected with urban living and how the whole city is laid out,” adds Petr Pištěk, a co-founder of the school.

Loukotová also hopes students will look to fields not normally associated with architecture.

“I am desperately missing architects in places that are important to society – the education system for example; people who will study here can have the chance to teach architecture, both modern architecture and history,” she says. “There are also very few architecture critics. You can study the theory and history, but few people are interested in analyzing a site and looking at it critically; in media, there are no architects publishing critiques.”

Pištěk, a former student of Roubík’s, is a freelance architect (all four of the core people working to open the school still have their day jobs) and is still young enough to remember his school days. He agrees that architecture education here is lacking.

“ARCHIP wants different fields to collaborate together at the beginning of the planning process and this includes collaborating when you are a student,” he says. “I missed this a lot when I was in school.”

Loukotová adds that since architects rarely work alone, the school plans to take a personal approach, and the students will be doing a lot of team-based projects. They want to build close cooperation with architecture offices, building sites and municipalities so students can see the opportunities available to them upon graduation. They’ll also use Prague as a backdrop to learning. What better place to study the history of architecture than standing in front of a Gothic cathedral or functionalist building? The downsides of Prague’s city planning also provide a case analysis, for example in urban planning and transport.

“For us, the most important thing is to concentrate on basic knowledge and the ability to coordinate and communicate with people in different fields,” Pištěk says. “Make a connection between theory and practice. A student’s work shouldn’t just be academic, but useful.”

Along with educating the next generation of architects, raising the profile of the architecture field in general is another priority.

“We want to develop a professional platform for architecture through exhibitions and workshops,” Loukotová says. “By organizing different public oriented workshops and lectures, we want to bring people there, to make the school open and spread the word [about architecture].”

ARCHIP feels very lucky to have secured classroom space in the National Gallery’s Veletržní palác in Prague 7. Loukotová says it’s a win-win because the school has a prestigious address and an excellent modern building in which to teach architecture and the National Gallery should benefit from the added activity of exhibitions and other public activities.

Getting off the ground

The school received its final approval to operate from the Education Ministry in May 2010. Loukotová feels they are now under the gun to get things up and running.

“Right now is a difficult time. We are late [receiving approval] and want to open in October,” she says. “We’ve announced the admission process and are looking forward to applicants. We’ve already been recruiting and publicizing both here and abroad.”

As part of the school’s application process, ARCHIP had to announce its teachers. It’s secured 45 professors, about one-third of whom are Czech, and the rest are from abroad.

“These are recognized professionals, not only in teaching but also in their professions – architects, art historians, etc.,” Pištěk says. “We’ll offer a really good product in this respect.”

Class size should be another attractive option. Class years will be around 60 students, compared with the roughly 300 at the Czech Technical University, he adds.

With an international character of both students and staff and a program in English, the school certainly offers something different. But ARCHIP’s bottom line will be teaching the fundamentals of architecture.

“The professional character of this field can be considered a matter of style, but it’s important to emphasis facts, principals, problems and objective issues,” Pištěk says. “You may or may not like the building, but where you park your car or find a place to relax in a square is also a matter for architects.”

The Architectural Institute in Prague (ARCHIP)
Veletržní palác
Dukelských hrdinů 47,
Prague 7
Tel.: 602 216 975