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A conversation between Edwina Brisbane & Camilla Tierney on their experiences in education within the architecture industry.

23 Jan 2022

To celebrate the International Day of Education two of our team members, Camilla and Edwina, came together to discuss the importance of education in architecture. Edwina Brisbane & Camilla Tierney are both architects who place value in continuous learning and sharing their knowledge by tutoring in Melbourne Universities.

‘What value do you place on tutoring? Why do you do it?’

Edwina: ‘A variety of people with different backgrounds and interests contribute to our society and it follows that many attitudes and desires should construct it. Architecture students, while young, have unique perspectives and life experiences that propel their thinking. To be a conduit to assist students to use their experiences and find a way of working and expressing themselves to arrive at a spatial outcome is a great pleasure.

Another reason I teach is to pass on the wisdom and knowledge that has been shared with me by wonderful mentors and teachers over the years’

What lessons have you learnt along the way by working with students?

Camilla: ‘ It is an interesting question, as what we both teach is very different. I teach professional practice, which is very much black and white - there is a correct approach and it is so new to them you can’t assume they understand. Taking the time to explain new concepts and issues is really important. Sharing your own mistakes along the way, to enable them to make their own. Whereas, design is about their ideas and you are teaching them about the process rather than the outcome, where you teach critical inquiry, reflection, and then rigor of continual refinement.’

Edwina: ‘Thats one of the best things about practicing as an architect, both types of thinking are necessary’

Camilla reflects ‘When I was in Year 8, we all had to do graphics. Halfway through the term, we had to produce a perspective drawing and a prize was given to the best one. To everyone’s surprise, I had won (everyone was cheering for a male counterpart). It wasn’t why I wanted to become an architect, but doing that subject definitely led me to where I am today: finally finding something I was passionate about and good at. Did you have a similar experience in your education, that pushed you forward?’

Edwina: ‘I had a great teacher at uni who had the patience to just let me find my feet while asking great questions that would prompt me to think for days. His commitment to foster independence and confidence in the way I approach design as long as it is thought through was the best lesson I learnt .’

‘The spaces we design can have an impact on learning, what’s your experience teaching in education spaces?‘

Camilla: ‘I’ve found spaces for teaching that are too determined in how that should be used, can become disruptive to the flow a class. If a space is designed well, then people don’t always see the benefits. When it is designed poorly, people notice and complain. When good design works, it is almost invisible, as it doesn’t disrupt the user’s lives. This extends to all spaces we learn and teach in.’

‘Looking to the future, what do you think is missing in architectural education? What could improve?’

Edwina: ‘There are two thoughts that spring to mind, the inclusion of country and the way students work. Increasingly, Students and Academics are bringing discussions of Country into projects. These were conversations that were not had 10 years ago when I was a student. This is a wonderful student led desire for knowledge, respect, and connection. Exciting to see how this evolves education and our profession. Onto my other thought, best industry practice toward diversity, respect, and work-life balance could be a cue for studying architecture. Students often feel the need to work long hours and toe the line - this is an antiquated model or work and so it follows, could be an antiquated model of study. I am keen to hear your thoughts on how education could improve too….?’

Camilla: ‘We’ve already seen algorithms being used in design, albeit in a very limited capacity. But fail to see how a computer can have a true understanding of space, context, and site. They are human qualities, and therefore there will always be a need for architecture. We always need to keep learning, and adapting, and understanding how the cities are changing, and to be able to respond’

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Testimonials for Camilla

“Big thanks for the semester, you were a great tutor and very very helpful. I was really grateful for the late nights you put in taking the time to go round to everyone and your feedback was always very clear and constructive.” Liam

“I would like to thank you for your time and effort in teaching us. Thank you for being very kind and patient with us. I really enjoyed your classes over the past 12 weeks and I have learnt a lot from you.” Cynthia

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