How to teach architecture | Exchange minor

Starting September 2019, I spent five months in the beautiful city of Budapest, the capital of East-European Hungary. Besides enjoying the architecture, parks and bars of the city and making new friends, I had some obligations as I was in the city to study architecture at Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) for my minor. I was following five different courses at the time, which all had some similarities with the curriculum I knew from TU Delft. Nevertheless, I realised there is a distinct difference between the approaches to architecture from the two universities. Of course, I concluded this based on my personal experiences, which are affected by the teachers and the courses I chose.

In Delft I was taught to start with a design concept. From the analysis of the context, history, client etc. you will always start with forming a concept that describes your design and that you can refer to during the process. Subsequently your teacher should check if your design stays in line with your concept. And they do, I have heard the following questions countless times: Why did you make this design choice? Can you relate it to your concept? Does this design fulfil the requirements and goals that you set in the beginning?

The design courses in Budapest were taught in a different way. The teachers were very aware of the context and the historical value of surrounding buildings (which makes sense in a city like that). The (technical) requirements, like the number of apartments and the connection to adjoining buildings, were also taken very seriously. In my opinion this made it necessary to start making design decisions very early in the process. I made sure my design group had a concept to start with, because this is what I am used to. But I noticed that other groups did not work like this and were designing without purpose or reasoning.

So the instructed design process from Delft is clearly different from the one in Budapest and I believe this also influences the design results and the way these are assessed by teachers. The concept-focused teaching of Delft creates space for innovative and creative ideas, hence the designs of my fellow students usually vary a lot. The assessment of the designs in Delft is mainly about the concept too, as the teachers examine whether the designs match with the students’ concepts.

Again, I experienced this aspect of the design course differently in Budapest as well. In general the final designs were more elaborate than the ones in Delft. Which makes sense, because the actual designing starts earlier in the process. Accordingly, the teachers expect more detailed designs and primarily ask  questions about technical and practical aspects.

In essence the Delft approach towards architecture is quite conceptual and Budapest looks at design in a more practical way. As a result, designs from TU Delft are more innovative and out there. But would they be as realistic to build as designs from BME? I suppose you could say that an architect should learn from both approaches. After all, how can you expect an innovative concept to take off, if it has no chance to be actually realised?