Worries over technical skills of young architecture graduates
The lack of technical design exposure, competency expected from architecture graduates and those on internship have become a source of concern to industry players.
Deficiency in quality practical rigour, visual culture work, architecture drawing and designs is fast becoming the order of the day, mostly during internship in most architectural firms.
Essentially, expertise in drawings and other forms of visual representations are important for developing spatial reasoning and capacity to visualise the un-built in three basic dimensions of building, which are, functionality, aesthetic and durability especially in architectural design which is in fact, the first step in building production process.
It is also believed to be a potent tool for developing individual drawing ideas competency and communicating ideas to colleagues and interdisciplinary collaborators. Architecture is one of the oldest professions in the world and in Nigeria, practitioners are highly respected in the built industry due to the quality of building designs they produce.
A school of thought believed that one defense for the perceived lack of technical depth in architecture education is that there is simply too much material to learn it all comprehensively, and that some technical knowledge is best gained through exposure and practice.
The Guardian gathered that most students are not exposed to enough architectural rigours and drawings to develop their freehand skills rather; they are more in tune to work on the construction sites when they are not builders. A school of thought alleges that some young architects are more passionate about becoming a contractor for survival purposes.
Speaking on the challenge in architecture profession, former President, Nigerian Institute of Architects, (NIA), Tonye Oliver Braide explained that if there is low engagement of the architects in the construction process, they can’t bring in people on industrial training with them to get into the site and under study the detailing.
According to him, another major cause of the challenge in the profession has to do with preference for importation among Nigerians wherein people run to Turkey, China and others, to bring in design catalogue for clients who wholeheartedly embrace it rather that utilising the expertise of the architects and their detailing in designs.
“Those people come and show clients catalogue and at the end of the day, the architects who has suffered to put some of the details in designs are set side. That is where the value chain is broken and it has an effect down the line because when the architects have finished their work and the details are utilized on site, and the components used, the student will see on site those details and how they are producing good result.”
He said manufacturing has reduced extensively in Nigeria unlike in the 80’s and 90’s when there were a lot of plants that manufacture components for construction. The firms he said used to produce shop drawings and working details for the components which were the tools used in training.
“When you are preparing a detail of a window for instance, you will get one of the specification from the construction industry and understand it. Nigeria is a country where you have so many people fabricating everything and all you need is to install driver, screw and some even have 90 degree angle and some don’t.
People now have to develop designs and don’t have to draw in those details, which are very strenuous in the past and thought you on how to draw something and how it will be fixed.
“In those days every architecture students have to visit an industrial site before building site where you will be shown how the components are being made and now understand how they will be fixed in form of technical knowledge. Some clients look at design intellectual but they don’t believe in intellectual property and so if you want to present a design to them.
“The client will likely pay more money to the guy who is going to do marble because he practically see that by giving the money and his building is going up and don’t appreciate the content of design to make the space live-able and enjoyable. The architects don’t get appropriate reward for his efforts.
He also lamented that, “If you send student architects to a contractor on site generally, they look at him as an intruder. He has more knowledge, they might feel that he has come to show that he has more knowledge and as a result of that, so many things are not shown to him. That is where that break has occurred over the years.
“By the time an architect’s studying abroad has had the right exposure in the industry, he would have been exposed to the preparation of shop drawings and by preparing it, you now understand the details where you bring the theory and practice into an interface and come out with a better product.”
On preference for draughtsmen in the profession, he said, “It is your output and not the name you answer that matters, if somebody is technically a draughtsman, he is ready to draught everything to great details. Every architects should be at a start up point a very good draughtsman before he can be a good architects unless is an architect who just want to understand the theory but if you are looking at the production of a building design, you must understand the basic principles of draughting. Many architects are a bit impatient on trying to train believing that there are so many things they have learnt in school.
“Some of the IT solutions using computers, are good and fast but they take you to the answer without taking you through the process and so some of the young chaps can just drag something from solution and paste it somewhere, it looks good and comes out ok but what is the workability of the solution put in front and so it becomes a problem.”
Former president, Association of Consulting Architects of Nigeria (ACAN), Mr. Kitoyi Ibare-Akinsan said exhibiting mastery in the profession boils down to the individual students who must ensure that they get a lot of on the job experience. He said contrary to some criticisms, to be a good architect, an individual has to be a builder and know everything that a builder does, otherwise the person is not a complete architect.
According to him, young professionals in architecture must have a lot of site experience as more exposure is needed on building site, by working with contractors to see how concrete are poured, how to tie reinforcement, pipe-work and others, stressing that no textbook really teaches such adequately.
“In any case if you don’t, when you go for professional examination interview, the student might not do very well. That was the reason for industrial training; it is during industrial training and opportunity to work in an office and contractor’s site that students gain some professional experience. Working on construction site is very important for young architects and students for exposure”.
Another architect, Omotosho David said it all depends on where the individual observe their internship explaining that some architectural firms are well exposed and handle so many projects than others.
He said, “Some architecture firms balance the design competency and ability to transform the drawings on site, some don’t. If an individual is fortunate enough to get any of the well exposed firms, then he or she will have a wide range of experience. Anybody can design because some are gifted, but when you get to the field, you might meet different thing entirely.
“Basically, there should be balance between the office work and the field too. After doing designs, students should have the opportunity of going to the field because it’s when you get to the field that you can test your ability and how much you have learnt.”
He stated that the advantage of the internship is that, most time the situation is different from what was learnt in the classroom as individual study about how to take dimension from the classroom, “but when you get to the site, most things will just change,” he added.
David said: “It is when you get to the site that you will really know whether to position your building south, east or west. There is a school thought that feels that polytechnic graduates should be draughtsmen, there are those that didn’t go to the four walls of classroom, registered and recognized and could take up designs too. The only advantage you have over them is that you understand the basic concept of design more than them but architecture is overtime about practice, and exposure. You might be good artistically but is the design functional.”