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Studio Culture Policy

Architecture, both the profession and our academic department, is a community. All architectural educators share a common interest in providing quality education that prepares students for leadership roles in the architecture profession. As students, you expect to have the best education possible. Our studio culture plays a vital role in this.

Policy Statement

AIAS Toward an Evolution of Studio Culture (AIAS, National, 2008)

Architecture, both the profession and our academic department, is a community. All architectural educators share a common interest in providing an education that prepares students for leadership roles in the architecture profession. All architecture students share the desire to have the best education possible. The culture and atmosphere within the studio play a vital role in the quality of architectural education. Our community of educators, scholars, students, and professionals brings us in frequent contact with others sharing similar interests. Such a shared culture does not, however, suggest conformity. The success of our educational community depends on the ability of everyone in it to speak freely, to take risks, to dissent from the majority opinion, and to seek new and untested ways of doing things.

It is the intention of the Department of Architecture at Penn State to provide and promote an atmosphere that fosters respect and cooperation among the members of our community. A healthy studio culture cannot be created by the faculty alone. It requires the full participation of our students. The academic setting is structured to encourage different viewpoints, various methods of teaching and inquiry, and the dissemination of knowledge by traditional and non-traditional methods. Each member of an academic community is unique, having a variety of different experiences, educational and family backgrounds, as well as aspirations.

In the architecture program at Penn State, “studio” is our short-hand term for a series of courses, but it is also a physical place which is founded on an educational ideal. That ideal is the belief that the studio setting places our students in a situation where they are able to learn at least as much from each other as they will learn from the faculty. We are fortunate that the studio spaces in the Stuckeman Building have been carefully designed to maximize the interconnectedness of students in all studio levels, and in both the Architecture and Landscape Architecture majors. To benefit from the Stuckeman Building and the proximity to other students it encourages, students must commit to working in the studio environment. We encourage all Architecture students to take full advantage of the educational environment in the Stuckeman Building, and whenever possible to complete their Architecture course assignments within the physical limits of our educational community.

We strongly encourage our students to respect the ideas of their colleagues and classmates. This includes respect not only for others without discrimination as to race, color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, but respect for different ideas, philosophies, and methods. We strongly encourage our faculty to respect the ideas and individual goals of our students, understanding that a diversity of ideas and goals among the student body is a great asset. Universities exist to promote new knowledge, not hinder it. Individual actions that are disrespectful of others cannot be tolerated in our community. Freedom of expression must be carefully balanced with freedom from intimidation or ridicule.

We do not pretend the choices members of a community must make to productively coexist are easy ones. At times, the desire to express oneself and the need to treat the opinions of others respectfully may come in conflict. In these instances, the highest standards of ethical professional behavior must be our guides. Obviously we are going to have differences of opinion; in any community there will always be individuals whose company we do not enjoy. For the greater good of our community, it is necessary to refrain from publicly discussing individuals in a negative manner. It is also necessary to separate, as much as possible, disagreements over ideas from our opinions of the people with whom we disagree. This is equally true for faculty and students.

In order to help maintain a level of professionalism within the studio, students should not expect one faculty member to provide a "sympathetic ear" to any student complaints about another instructor. If a student has a specific problem in a course, she or he should speak to the instructor who teaches it. Of course, it is always appropriate to seek advice from your advisor before doing so. Keep in mind that an instructor cannot react to criticisms unless they are aware of them. Therefore, the first step for any student who disagrees with an instructor’s teaching methods is to communicate this to the instructor. If the result of these discussions is not satisfactory, students should meet with the Department Head.

Respect for property, both individual and institutional, is fundamental to our studio culture. Architecture students at Penn State are well known for their positive work ethic. Students must always respect the products of their classmates’ work, since it is the work of an architect that distinguishes him or her. As the designers of buildings and environments, it is also incumbent upon all of us to show respect the facilities we occupy. If we do not respect the places in which we live and work, We set a poor example for those around us.

At Penn State, we believe that “architecture” is a verb as well as a noun. Architecture is an unfolding process that enriches our lives. Architecture exists as much in the things we do as in the objects we make. In the lives of architects, as in their works, great attention must be paid to proportionality. In order to enjoy the fruits of architecture, we—the faculty and the students in the Department—must lead lives that are well proportioned.

In order to promote a healthy working environment, it is important that everyone’s time be respected. Students have a right to expect that faculty will be on time and prepared to teach, and will acknowledge and respect students’ non-studio time commitments. Likewise, students have the responsibility to be in studio on time for class, prepared to work, understanding the commitment of time and energy that faculty have made to prepare and present course material.

An intensive study of the liberal arts and sciences is fundamental for producing architects who are well-rounded critical thinkers. Architecture students should manage their time such that they devote sufficient attention to these subject areas, as well as to recreational and cultural activities. Students who are exhausted, who suffer from poor nutrition, lack of sleep, inadequate physical activity, or who seldom interact with family and friends, cannot fully participate in and contribute to a healthy academic community.

Architectural education employs a variety of means to review the ideas and work of students and these periods of assessment are an essential element of the culture of the studio. Reviews are both an opportunity to facilitate discussion of greater issues as well as an occasion to consider differing viewpoints and possibilities. For formal reviews, students and faculty are expected to arrive on time and stay engaged as active participants throughout the review process. In advance of the reviews, faculty are responsible for informing invited guests and reviewers about the project intentions and background, as well the expectation that the review will reflect the Department’s commitment to a culture of respect, engagement, and professionalism. Students are expected to be prepared to discuss their work, as well as to participate in the discussions of their peers’ work.

We expect everyone in the Department of Architecture to promote and enforce a safe, efficient place of work. The harassment of others has no place in our community. Harassment is not limited to overt actions, but also includes creating situations that interfere with another’s performance, or the fostering of an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Please be aware that the memorabilia, photographs, and posters you display on your desk and around your workspace may be offensive others. At the same time, members of any community must practice tolerance. Not everything that one finds offensive is intended to offend.

Please work together to promote a positive spirit of unity without conformity; of cooperation balanced with respect for individual expression. Although founded on an unshakable commitment to architectural excellence, our community of scholars is a living and breathing entity. Each member of our community contributes something to our studio and institutional culture. As people come and go, as ideas find favor and then fall out of fashion, our culture must adapt. With your help, we can continually reinvigorate our scholarly community of architects and would-be architects, creating an environment and a school of which all can be proud.