Interview with CJ Lim at the Bartlett

Ideology

Can you describe the ideology of your school (in five sentences?)?

The Bartlett is very much research orientated. We have many part time teachers who work four to five days a week at an office. About 1/3 of the staff is half-time and full-time academic. This brings in a sense of reality in to the academic world. So we give the students a kind of balance between the theoretical academic world and real life practice.

Diversity is very important to us, we want to have a very diverse international outlook, community, teaching faculty and student body. Because that is the thing that makes the school successful. Every single student brings his own cultural background, interest and stories from where they come from. We try our very best to diversify.

How does your work at Studio 8 influence your teaching and vice versa in terms of ideology and methods?

My work at Studio 8 which is research that is based in intellectual thinking has influenced the agenda in the unit at the Bartlett.

Context

We understand “context” as the spirit of the time also including the social, political, and economical environment. What elements of your school’s context are particularly present in your teaching?

Architecture is no solution, is just proposition to situations, when architecture is seen as a solution for example Brasilia, is when it all starts to fall apart, nobody can produce a solution. But students should be engaged in social, economical, political positions, because I think architecture covers everything, even in its built form. Architects should take a more active role we should not be seen only as artists and designers.

Content

What are the most important fields of investigation your school is addressing in its curriculums (Undergraduate and Postgraduate)?

I think the exploration and innovation is very important in all aspects. The course is very much based on art and art thinking. And critical thinking is also very important. Each studio has a very different focus, focus on research, focus on innovative thinking or focus on critical thinking. All the projects, especially in the Master’s course are underpinned by history and theory. Those courses are very much intertwined with the design of spaces and buildings. There is also sustainability and structure and other things. But I think the critical thinking part pulls all the innovation and research. Each of the studio has its own agenda in terms of references, types of drawings and techniques. There is this range of difference, which is very important. But at the end it is not the technique or the skill that is important but the thinking. All the students have to attend history and theory courses. The other courses are differing between the units. But all the courses feed into the project. The difference to other universities is that at the Bartlett we teach viewer things but very deep. The culture of the university changes accordingly to the space and the time.

Output

Can you describe your school’s typical output (at diploma/ Master level)? What images come to mind?  And how do you intend to differentiate yourself from other institutions?

The Bartlett is seen as a school that does only pretty drawings. But that pretty drawing is just the final output of one year of design. Each of the project in the fourth and fifth year deals with a list of topics and themes such as: Concept, design development, construction drawings, sustainability strategy, fire regulation, contract and schedule. And all this is documented in a portfolio. The final drawing will show all the themes in a piece of poetry. This portfolio is also a way to learn editing and presenting your idea graphically and in terms of layout.

Space

How do you imagine the ideal environment and space for architectural education to be?

The current space in the temporary building is quite a lot of space compared to our old building. But it is in the middle of nowhere although it is very central. But the students and tutors make the most of it. The open floorplan of this building is very bad to work in because of the noise, people are chatting all the time.

Type of School

Does the tuition fee have an influence on the quality of education provided and how does it affect students’ motivation levels?

The Bartlett is a Government School. So we have to be validated and answer back to government spending. It is compulsory that staff return research otherwise the government will not give the funding. The funding of the school comes from two sources, one is from student fees and one from staff research. And it is almost fifty-fifty. All students, even local ones, have to pay fees. They range from 6’000 to 9’000£ per year. International students have to pay more because they do not pay taxes in the UK. The fees for overseas students are about 23’000£ per year.

It is a problem, they get student loans because the fees are high, and that makes them look for a job, they need a job quickly, and so they go into big offices. I think there is more support system in Europe and Asia.

Size

How many students do you admit in your programme(s) (Bachelor, Master, Postgraduate)?

We have about 100 students per year in the bachelor program and in master program about 120 students per year. About 40 percent of the students in part two have already done part one at the Bartlett, the other 60 percent come from Universities outside the UK. Most of the students will end up doing architecture in big offices.

Aim of architecture school

What should an architect know when he/she graduates today?

Being an architect is an ongoing process, there is no limit of what you should know, as long as you are aware of the amount of knowledge that is still yet to know, there is no end to it. Being curious is what makes one a good architect. An architect has to be able to absorb but also to edit in the head. And Architecture has to come from the heart.

Assessment

How does the assessment look like?

For the fourth year the assessment is chaired by the design director and the year coordinator and other studio staff will sit around. The student is not present. The studio tutor has to present the project. For the fifth year it is marked internally within the studio, it is marked by the school and the student will present one to one to an external examiner. If the marks are too wide apart they have to be discussed. But this does not happen many times. With this grading process the marks are not inflated by the school. The students get written feedback from the professor every term, which is three times a year.

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Interview with CJ Lim at the Bartlett

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