Archi.ru: When will the new school open?
Evgeny Ass: The work of the administration is already underway, so in this sense the school is open. The public presentation will take place on April 10, and this will be the first sign of the birth of our school. Then another presentation will take place within the framework of Arch-Moscow, and from that moment we will start accepting applications, on the basis of which we will select students. Well, and the final stage of opening a school should probably be considered the first day of classes, that is, the first of October.
Archi.ru: What will MARSH be like?
Е. А.: This is a master's degree, in other words, a two-year study for those who already have a bachelor's degree.
Nikita Tokarev: Our school is integrated into the European education system. It is interesting that in other areas of Russian education these processes have been going on for a long time. For example, you won't surprise anyone with an MBA. And in the architectural field, there was nothing like it before. We are sure that it is time to change this situation.
Е. А.: The fact of singling out our school as a post-graduate structure is very important in itself. Usually, students who have received a bachelor's degree, by inertia, continue to study in those institutions in which they received it. But not all of them have the energy and proper motivation to be specialists. It also happens the other way around: an educational institution no longer fully corresponds to their aspirations and ambitions, however, having completed their studies before the end of the sixth year, people willingly and unwillingly receive a diploma, as if having forced it out. So those who, after the fourth year, consider it important, interesting and valuable to get an education in another university, now they can come to study with us. And in this sense, we believe that our school is designed for a completely specific type of students - more motivated, more independent and responsible.
If we talk about the content, then we are guided by the courses that exist in the world, in particular, in Europe. We focus on a fairly wide range of copyright programs and plan to involve leading Russian and, in the future, foreign teachers as well. In general, we are quite far from the education model that has traditionally been used in Russia. In particular, our educational design will be based on a modular system. This is an important innovation for the entire Russian architecture education.
NT: We took the post-graduate architecture program at London Metropolitan University (LMU) as a basis, but immediately realized that it was impossible and unnecessary to copy it thoroughly. Leaving the formal signs - the set of subjects, the duration of the course - we adapted the program to our realities. This is the essence of the experiment undertaken: this is not a complete copy, but co-creativity, to which the university willingly goes and watches with interest what happens.
Archi.ru: Why was this educational institution involved?
Е. А.: We tried to establish contact with many institutions, both Russian and foreign. But, as they say, in all great events there is an element of chance. Our meeting with the wonderful Robert Mull, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at LMU, can be considered a happy coincidence. He arrived in Moscow with students, and we, having found out about this, made an appointment for him. The idea of creating a school immediately captured him, and he easily agreed to contribute to its implementation. It should be noted that I have been watching LMU for a long time. Two brilliant, internationally renowned architects, Florian Bagl, head of the Architecture Research Unit, and Raoul Bunschoten, a distinguished conceptual architect and artist, teach there. And if before I watched their activities from the side, now we are in the same team.
NT: It is also important to say about the second partnership: our school is within the educational cluster, which is being formed in ArtPlay on the basis of the British Higher School of Art and Design. The cluster will also include a film school and a music school. From our point of view, this is an important circumstance - the placement of architecture in the context of contemporary visual culture and contemporary media. We provide for students with the opportunity to use the resources provided by the cluster in the learning process. If a person wants to do photography - he can go to a photo studio, he wants to do modeling - there are also means for this. If, say, you need to shoot a video clip for a project, we will help the student find the necessary equipment and a teacher.
Archi.ru: How long ago was the idea of creating a school born and how long did it take to implement it?
N. T.: Evgeny Ass's idea was born a long time ago. And only 4 months have passed since the beginning of the dense work. The meeting with Robert Mull took place in November 2011. We met Alexander Avramov, the head of the British School of Design, a little earlier, in October.
Е. А.: In general, the idea arose 25 years ago, when the Workshop for Experimental Educational Design (MEUP) appeared within the framework of the Moscow Architectural Institute. This was an attempt to create, albeit within the structure of the Moscow Architectural Institute, an institution focused on modern and relevant methods. Then, when the idea of the workshop required going beyond the limits of the Moscow Architectural Institute, I began to think about creating a new educational institution and had been talking about this since the late 1990s. And it was possible to realize this only very recently.
Archi.ru: You mentioned MEUP. Can MARSH be considered the successor of the workshop?
Е. А.: I have always been interested in experiments and searches within the architectural and educational processes. At the time of its creation, the workshop was very revolutionary and innovative, but of course it is far from the models that we are developing today. Then the talk was about how to change the MArchI program, adapting it to new realities, how to change the structure of education, paying special attention to visual culture and artistic practice. Over time, the studio developed, we had many new ideas, in fact, we reached new levels of understanding of architectural education, and so we approached the creation of a new architectural school.
The workshop was a local experiment inside the large and rather inertial machine of the institute. What we are doing today is not a completely successive product, it is a new product, but it could not have taken place without that huge experience (more than 20 years!) That the workshop gave.
NT: Now the workshop will become one of the design studios inside MARSH. Since we will work at the school not only as leaders, but also as teachers, then, of course, something from the workshop course will be reflected in the program of our studio.
Archi.ru: How will the selection of students be carried out?
Е. А.: Having a bachelor's degree is a formal sign to be considered as an applicant. Next, you need to provide a portfolio. And based on the results of portfolio selection, we will invite people for an interview. There are no restrictions on nationality and citizenship. Everyone can learn on general terms.
In Europe, the practice is used when a student receives a bachelor's degree in one area, and applies for a master's degree in another. Unfortunately, we cannot go for it yet. We are not sure that it is possible to make an architect from another specialist in two years. But architecture itself today is divided into several specialties: volumetric design, urban planning, environmental design, reconstruction and restoration - and we are ready to accept bachelors of all these specialties. Upon completion of our master's program, students will receive a post-graduate diploma in architecture.
NT: The wider the direction, the easier it is for graduates to find work. If we set a narrower framework, then there will be fewer job opportunities. It is important for us to acquaint students with as wide a range of tasks as possible.
Е. А.: We assume that our course will include all areas of architectural activity. In particular, there will be a course on urban studies, landscape architecture, management, etc. In other words, we will provide all the necessary knowledge to work in various areas of architecture.
Archi.ru: Is it possible to say that in comparison with MARCHI students of MARSH will have broader knowledge?
Е. А.: The main difference is an in-depth analytical approach. Our students will have to seriously and thoroughly investigate the reality around them. We consider this immersion in reality fundamental to the approach we take and which we hope will be ingrained in our school.
NT: About half of the time allotted for the design course will be devoted to analytical work, the second half - to design work. This proportion is set by the English program, and we consider this approach to be correct. In addition, we provide a large theory and history course, which also includes the ideological and philosophical premises of architecture and is designed to give students a clear understanding that architecture should be motivated. Special attention will be paid to the issue of integrating the efforts of different specialists into project activities. By the way, in the Russian architectural education at the moment there is no analogue of the integrated design study course, designed to take into account the contribution to the project of each of the specialists involved, be it a designer, sociologist, transport worker, climatologist, etc. Students in their diaries should record what these people brought to the project, and thereby justify their architectural decisions.
Archi.ru: How strong will the workload of students be?
Е. А.: The workload will be quite large, but here it should be noted right away that the fundamental feature of our school is a very high degree of independence of students, this is an appeal to the consciousness and desire of students to learn. I have always held the view that architecture cannot be taught, but you can learn. And we are promoting this idea in our school.
NT: The semesters at our school will last 15 weeks. Thus, the training period will be from October to May. The average workload will be 6 academic hours per day. There will be 4 such “contact” days when the student receives knowledge directly from the teacher. One day remains free, but it is assumed that this will not be an additional day off, but time for independent work.
Е. А.: Moreover, this work should be reflected in the reporting documentation, that is, in the diaries that students will hand over to us at the end of each semester. An increase in independence will also be facilitated by the fact that we will not form stable study groups for the entire course, as is customary in Russian universities. Instead, study studios are formed around a certain teacher for a period of one semester or a year in the case of a graduation project. Students have the opportunity to choose a teacher, but they do not have the right to stay with him at the beginning of a new semester.
NT: Thus, students will be able to get acquainted with different methods and approaches to architecture, with new personalities. In the future, we want other courses to provide an opportunity to choose, but this is already an organizational task, it cannot be solved immediately. However, in the future, there should be more courses for students' choice.
Archi.ru: What opportunities will you give the MARSH diploma?
Е. А.: It will be a diploma recognized all over the world. Accordingly, it will enable students to start professional careers anywhere in the world. But the capabilities of an architect depend not only on a diploma, but also on his personal abilities and capabilities. And in terms of personal opportunities, we hope that our graduates will be diligent students and will have all the necessary skills to start a career by the time they graduate.
NT: Many foreign firms that work in Russia are very interested in employees who would have a Western diploma of the appropriate level of education and at the same time speak Russian and be immersed in the Russian context. KCAP, OMA and other companies, if not fighting for such employees, at least willingly accept them.
I think that a European diploma will be in demand in Russia as well. After joining the WTO, the competition between our and foreign architects will only intensify. This means that our colleagues here will have to look for employees who could work at the appropriate level and withstand this competition.
Archi.ru: What should be financially prepared for those who are going to enter your school?
Е. А.: Education is paid with us. We are counting on private sponsorship influences, but they will most likely be targeted - for the library, equipment, etc. - and grants for high performing students. In general, all expenses will be covered by the money coming to us from students. The cost is still being discussed, but in any case it is unlikely to be much higher than the cost of contract training at Moscow Architectural Institute.