PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
At The Boston Architectural College, known as the BAC, teaching the diverse student body about good design and the latest in building technology is a means to improve and stimulate society as a whole. “Design is precisely about identifying problems, imagining better worlds and formulating efficient solutions that make better alternatives not only possible, but easily attainable,” says college Provost Dr Diana Ramirez-Jasso. “This is the kind of ambition that permeates all of the programmes at the BAC.”
The BAC’s master’s and bachelor programmes are at the cutting edge of design practice and theory. The college’s four schools – architecture, interior architecture, landscape architecture and design studies – offer an opportunity to study a wide range of issues, including design for human health, digital design and historic preservation. In addition to being taught by full-time faculty members, students learn from adjunct instructors who are working professionals. “They keep the link to the professional setting alive and productive,” says Dr Ramirez-Jasso. Many college programmes offer some sort of work placement. Crucially, however, BAC students are often on placement for most, or the entire length, of their degrees. This delivers a two-way learning process in which ideas explored in the classroom are tested and challenged against the realities of practical work. A student’s progress is assessed through portfolio review, with work in and out of the classroom considered in parallel.
“Our students’ ability to integrate academic theory and practice work helps them mature as thinkers,” says Dr Ramirez- Jasso. But it’s a two-way process, and while students gain experience from working alongside professionals, they also bring innovative thinking from the classroom into the professional sphere. “The practical requirement of our programmes is not only about preparing a student for the profession; it’s also about preparing the profession itself,” she adds. “Our students can prime it with the new ideas and challenges that they bring to traditional ways of working. This can positively impact what these firms do.”
Since its founding in 1889, the BAC has honoured the legacy of its founders, professional architects who had received formal education in the field. They understood that architecture requires an understanding of humanity: its history and sense of community. In sharing their expertise with those who hadn’t had their advantages, they established values of inclusiveness that pervade the BAC to this day.
“We measure professional progression,” says Dr Ramirez- Jasso, “but we also add soft skills like collaboration and entrepreneurship. We celebrate the evidence we find that a student’s work is reflective of the values and commitments to social and environmental stewardship that are an integral part of the BAC curriculum.”
A further legacy of its foundation is the BAC’s commitment to diversity. “Students from many backgrounds who wouldn’t have had the chance to study elsewhere do so here,” says Dr Ramirez- Jasso. “When we admit students, desire and grit are more important than SATs. Firms value the diversity of the BAC’s student population, which ensures the fertilisation of their work with new ideas and new perspectives.”
With a diverse and inclusive student population, an employment rate on graduation that can be as high as 97 per cent, and a challenging study programme, the BAC is producing graduates with academic skills that are rooted in a broader awareness of the positive social impact of architecture and design. “Design is about intention,” says Dr Ramirez-Jasso, “and education in design is about opening minds to the importance of responsible decision-making as we shape the environments around us.”