Monday 28 January 2008

Focus on green issues offers architects ‘exciting design challenges’

IRELAND’S commitment to developing a cleaner, greener, more sustainable environment offers architects a world of opportunities and exciting design challenges, according to a leading academic.

Despite ongoing uncertainty in the construction sector, the future for architectural graduates has never looked brighter, says Sharon O’Brien, the acting head of the department of architecture at Waterford Institute of Technology.

The majority of architectural graduates have traditionally entered architectural design offices upon graduation. This trend is changing and today an architectural education opens up many possibilities for employment, she said.

“Architects are now sought in the public sector as advisors and designers on the build environment in the areas of urban and rural planning and in the conservation of the historic fabric of our cities, towns and villages. With the pressing need to address sustainability more will become advisors and design specialists in greener design,” said Ms O’Brien.

The new department of architecture at Waterford Institute of Technology provides a “learning through doing” environment for the education of architects, architectural technicians and architectural technologists where the studio becomes the workshop, where ideas and practice are tested in model and drawing form, said the acting head of department.

“We offer four degree level programmes, the existing three-year BSc in architectural technology and an add-on one-year BSc (honours) in architectural technology. In 2005, the department of architecture began to run its architectural programme.

“In many respects this was an historic event in the history of architectural education in Ireland as Waterford Institute of Technology was the first third level institution in Ireland outside Dublin to receive academic validation for a new architecture degree programme.

“The programme currently on offer is a five-year degree leading to a Bachelor of Architecture (hons) with an intermediate BScArch. (hons) degree offered after three years,” she said.

The programme is modularised and semesterised and this approach facilitates part time and full time modes of study. Its system of electives encourages diverse avenues of interest through collaborations with existing schools at WIT, namely the schools of engineering, humanities and business.

About half of the first year places will be offered directly via the central CAO route, the other half reserved for graduates from related disciplines, transfer students and mature applicants who have successfully completed an assessment procedure. This non-traditional open access policy creates greater diversity within the student body leading to a stimulating dynamic within the studio. The cut-off for this year’s programme is 470 points.

The department of architecture has an international lecturing staff with practice experience in France, Germany, Britain, Finland, America and Canada. The department has established links with the leading French school of architecture at Marne La Vallee, in Paris and with the world renowned Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

International architects participate on the programme as guest lecturers, and tutors. Erasmus exchange students from France and Germany have already participated in the programme. Cultural trips to European capital cities are also an important element of each year on the Bachelor of Architecture degree.

Irish Examiner

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