Will the University of Minnesota’s New Architecture Program Lower the Average Age of Architects?

Forecasting “The Future of Architecture” in Vice Magazine this week, critic Eddie Blake pointed out the well-known fact that architects “like a trans-dimensional alien race, live at a different rate,” at which 40 is considered young, and professionals contemplate retirement when they enter triple digits (if Oscar Niemeyer‘s career is anything to live by). So, Blake asks, will architecture and all those affected by it (everyone) ever free itself from the grip of the “geriatric mind”?

One obstacle to such an aspiration is the structure of architectural education. In the United States, students of architecture take an average of 14.5 years after high school of studying and interning before qualifying for licensing exams. So, assuming you didn’t take a “frivolous” detour and backpack through Europe, save sea turtles, work on a farm, or study art history at a liberal arts college, you’ll officially be an architect at age 32, if you’re lucky. A new program at the University of Minnesota, however, seeks to change all that.

According to Dezeen, the university’s new Masters of Science in Architecture – Research Practices (MS-RP) program will attempt to streamline the path to taking the architecture licensing exam by incorporating typically post-graduate requisites into their curriculum. The School of Architecture has seized upon the opportunity to work with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards‘ (NCARB) new regulation that allows students to begin accruing necessary Intern Development Program (IDP) hours — typically earned outside of school — as soon as they begin studying architecture.

Students will have the opportunity to work on research projects for firms (and receive compensation for their work) while taking regular architecture school classes. If all goes according to plan, students will have attained the necessary IDP hours to qualify for licensing exams once they complete the MS-RP course, which would be approximately 7-8 years after graduating high school. If this model takes hold, the future of architecture just might feature a lot more 20- and 30-somethings. Scary, indeed, but also exciting.

Photo: Tamara Yurovsky, via Archinect.

- Kelly Chan