Translated into the architectural context, these dialogues can be seen as the links between the old and the new, tradition and experiment, valuation and research, protection and invention. To push forward only one of both poles of work is to prevent the establishment of healthy, balanced, professional and human bases, i.e. conditions for a mature and creative education process, as well as for future comprehensive, fulfilling and successful work in practice.
Let us touch on some other topics to learn about the kind of world we send our young graduates into.
1. Our planet is dangerously out of balance
The global ecological crisis, a cause for concern, is the only true common denominator of all global crises that are directly concerned with space. It extends from the Arctic to the Antarctic (global warming), from Katrina to Fukushima, from European extreme floods to African mega-droughts, from crazy forest burning in the Amazon to 'fucking fracking' in Alaska, from devastating Syrian/Iraqi/Afghan wars to the rapid megacity growth in China etc. Without doubt, the crisis is a product of man’s insatiable greed, the human imperative of the necessary, permanent economic growth. Anyone, particularly any student of architecture, must be aware of the long-term causality of human interference.
2 How to tackle the insatiable hyper-urbanisation of our planet?
The acute problem in the world today, which is more or less the concern of the profession, is the overblown, rapid global (sub)urbanisation, spanning over all continents. Not only that it erases the differences between different natural and man-made contexts, but it also destroys the resource where all human activities take place, i.e. space. The quality of these present-day urban explosions, generated and driven by profit, is mostly low. Only sustainable spatial development can provide an alternative: paradigm of restricting the pathological, disperse urbanisation with quality, organic growth and upgrading of cities. These processes include reurbanisation, regeneration and revitalisation of the settlement heritage worldwide. Therefore, it is necessary to broaden the views, to teach open communication, and to cultivate an integrated approach in the study process. To teach how to develop space in a (more) harmonious way, without using up all Earth’s resources. Partial or particular knowledge can only be complementary knowledge feeding the whole, in the way that the individual courses can only be a good support to a comprehensive and integrated seminar or study work.
3 Can architecture and urbanism still help to solve the problems of the world?
What is the significance of a 'cute little house', a 'funky museum', or yet another 'generic settlement' on the planetary ship that seems to be sinking? Are all our efforts and the time dedicated to the isolated particles of the whole still worth all our considerable efforts? What is the correct relationship between 'knowing almost everything about almost nothing, and knowing almost nothing about almost everything'? Will we still orient our educational efforts towards escaping from real problems; leaning on more or less empty formalisms that not only cannot, but will not participate in solving the complex problems of the world? I believe that we can connect both: to creatively tackle the professional tasks as the small Demiurge, as it were, along with being critically aware that the Sword of Damocles of the perishing world is hanging above us! However, for such a relationship, the students need an invitation to an informed, critical, comprehensive, interdisciplinary, participatory team approach, which opens creativity and supports the individual’s confidence. An early start in the educational process is necessary; the school can build on the healthy general basis and offer state-of-the-art professional and intellectual completion or upgrading.
4 The phenomena of spatial planning and quality architecture in Slovenia are completely unrecognized
The society – from political decision-makers to different publics – is not aware of the great significance of architecture and spatial planning for quality of living, psychological and physical health of citizens, social cohesion and alienation of the society, stimulation and de-stimulation of human creativity. The difficult, almost 50-year old heritage of collective systemic oblivion, of self-build and illegal building, split with indifferent permissiveness and deregulation of transition was the basis of the blunt, 'atopic' mentality insensitive to the questions of the beautiful, public and creative space that it occupies. And yet, architects, urban designers, landscape architects and spatial planners are supposed to be the creative guardians and spatial designers, the sensitive conscience and awareness at the same time. The profession of an architect in Slovenian should be regulated, operating in the name, and for protection, of the general good, as is the case elsewhere in the developed Europe (except for maybe in Bulgaria and Albania ...). Ultimately, our real space is the only true vessel of living that we have on this planet (its virtual version can only be a better or worse medium or a surrogate): it is a universal good with which the society has to deal with carefully, rationally, and, of course, creatively! We should be aware of the contribution of quality town planning, spatial planning and architecture, and why in developed countries these disciplines are recognised as the long-term 'national interest', ranging from economy, energy to ecology. Between protection and (co)design of space there is, in fact, a range of creative possibilities, which can help the society to improve or worsen the conditions of a healthy, open, creative life!
5 How to teach architecture in these turbulent times?
»There is hope in honest error. None in the icy perfections of the mere stylist.« (Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Glasgow, 1901) The transitional conjuncture that supported bloated projects, which were not within the actual abilities of the society, is over; we should stimulate innovation in the profession, not so much in the sense of wasteful formalistic experiments, but as comprehensive, ecological, social, energy studies etc. Schools of architecture should reintroduce the broader, comprehensive, integrated comprehension of space, and reconnect with it; this is the basic dimension of quality, sustainable, contextual, regional architecture. It has become clear that cities should not go on expanding ad infinitum into natural areas, but should primarily upgrade their 'organic growth': therefore, more and more future work will involve renovating the existing stock: reurbanisation, revitalisation, regeneration, recycling etc. In Slovenia more attention should be given to these topics. Ultimately, the students are being prepared for independent work in the profession: it seems reasonable to open their understanding and sensitivity towards creative understanding, processes, and principles, rather than to produce the perfect end product (teaching architecture still servilely follows the demands of the globalised, generic market focused only on the structure, or even less than that, e.g. the design of its façade membrane). Along with the individual’s personal growth, a mature end product can be normally achieved only with professional maturity that comes at a later stage of work. This is why young people and professionals are raised in the sense of personal maturity and uprightness, not only in the academic and professional sense. In unpredictable and creatively turbulent times of crisis, the individual’s autonomy is one of the best companions to creative survival, since less and less jobs will be there waiting, while the profession, combined with responding to one’s 'inner calling' and the social situation, will be shaped by the young experts themselves!
6 The necessity to open up and connect architecture
If the professions concerned with space, particularly architecture, want once again to be recognised as relevant and, indeed, indispensable, we should, on the one hand, deepen our knowledge and research within our own creative field, and, on the other hand, open ourselves to cooperation with other, particularly related, professions. Hence, the study must enable and promote expansion and deepening of knowledge in cooperation with technical disciplines and science (from research in the building industry to experiments in cutting edge physics), as well as with art disciplines and human sciences. The related and often overlooked disciplines are architectural theory, history of architecture and arts, ethnology and anthropology, philosophy and psychology, sociology and ethics etc. Today, all these professions, wanting to transcend their field, are connected and complementary to each other; however, each has its own centre and mostly functions within it, while architecture due to its generalist nature, at least since Vitruvius onwards, connects and moves across all these fields. Of course, architecture in both the professional and human sense must not end up only in the service of politics, controversial capital and other particularistic interests, which is all too often the case.
The time of the crisis is the optimal time to check the baselines and mission of the profession, to establish the awareness about the necessity of in-depth knowledge in architecture and, indeed, the wisdom about it. Even though the primary mission of architecture is not production of isolated, merely 'beautiful' objects, but comprehensive, responsible and creative work in the field of architectural culture, a part of its significance is reflected through them: similarly to the way that any good and honest thought is inscribed in the spiritual space-time of humanity, each mature architectural activity brings to Earth another fragment of beauty and truth – may it be the smallest of houses –, which is yet another piece in the mosaic created for a better tomorrow of the planet.