Over the years, the policies adopted by the Department of Architecture have developed an educational environment that covers the entire spectrum of the architectural discipline: from the small-scale objects and exhibition design up to the large scale of landscape design, urban and regional planning; from visual arts and architectural composition to construction, rehabilitation and re-use of structures; but also from the history of art and architecture all the way to the latest developments of the domain. The breadth of this approach enriches the educational processes and allows for delving into specific topics that only a large school can provide.
The particular conditions that have prevailed in the prior period have not favored a rational discourse and set of reforms. However, in practice, it has been proved that the circumstances have been mature enough to implement effective ameliorating actions and modernizations towards a rationalization by maintaining the unified approach towards architectural design at different scales. A simultaneous improvement in the infrastructure and staffing are vitally important for the effective operation of the Department of Architecture and for that matter both constitute an ongoing pursuit of its administration and management.
Summing up the rich course of events that took place during the academic years 2013-14 and 2014-15, it is worth underlining the reorganization of the academic framework. This process began with a reform of the curriculum and was combined with an external evaluation of the department. The latter took place in February 2014, after a series of actions and preparation over several years. The evaluation of the department was preceded by a symposium where representatives from all the departments and schools of Architecture in Greece, foreign experts from European universities and professional organizations (TCG, AAT) were invited. The revised curriculum was first implemented in 2014-15 academic year, underwent minor improvements in the current year, while a critical evaluation and possible adjustments are still underway.
The new curriculum of the Department of Architecture is the result of an extensive effort made by a large group of the Department’s faculty. For its development, the academic knowledge and the long experience of the team members in issues of architectural education were reclaimed. After having assessed the structure of the former curriculum, the team proceeded with the investigation of a large number of approaches to architectural studies from Greece and abroad. Alongside, the current state of the art in the architect's profession, both nationally and internationally, was elaborated. As a result, the trends of modern reflection in architecture and the basic axes on which the experimentations of architectural innovation are moving, were recorded in order to be creatively implemented in the new curriculum of the Department.
The objective is to provide a comprehensive education in architecture and to encourage critical architectural thinking beyond the strict confines of professional training. A major characteristic of the curriculum regards the intersection of all the disciplines under the broader umbrella of the new integrated design studios. The fact that the curriculum addresses the full spectrum of the disciplines and scales that exploit architectural knowledge and practice nowadays, it enables the graduates to acquire all the necessary skills under the current institutional framework, for a successful professional or academic career within or beyond their country of origin.
A particularly important event has been the development and operation of two new postgraduate programs whose contents focus on “Environmental Architectural Design" and on "Advanced Design: Innovation and Interdisciplinary in Architectural Design" respectively. Both of these have been in operation since the begging of the current academic year. Special facilities and resources have been ensured and the first students have already been admitted. The expansion of postgraduate activities provides more graduate students to enrich their knowledge and to broaden their horizons. It is my conviction that otherwise we would be reinforcing the exodus of our best graduates to universities abroad without any encouragement for their return, especially during the current economic downturn.
The broader conditions triggered by the financial crisis have had a considerable impact on the Department of Architecture. This difficult situation has resulted in an educational inconvenience of an excessive number of students that has been succeeded by a drastic reduction of faculty members, laboratory staff and administrators, as well as deficiencies in necessary resources and funding. The faculty of the Department demand State support towards the fulfillment of both preexisting and future needs. Given the situation a restructuring of funding, the hiring of temporary staff, the resumption of all outstanding searches for faculty positions, the announcement of new necessary faculty hires and the provision of additional administrative staff and studio instructors that would alleviate the operational needs of the Department are considered imperative.
Against all odds, the administration of the Department is seeking for a systematic upgrade and improvement of the department’s resources and services. Accomplishments we are proud of include the excellent organization of the 3d digital design and manufacturing laboratory; the continuation of the operation as well as the expansion of the Architecture library; and the redesign of the Department’s spaces which was the case for lecture hall 105, and studio spaces 106 and 206; the conversion of the room 201 into a computer lab; the creation of seminar rooms on the 7th and 8th floor of the main building; and the regeneration of the spaces that house the two new postgraduate programs of the Department.
Considering the level of the education provided, one could argue that the Department of Architecture creates an educational context that provides diligent students with all the competences necessary for excellence in scientific and design training as well as wider education, judging by the level of the most recent research topics and doctoral dissertations adhered to the Department. This enhances a critical attitude towards the constantly changing parameters of the design disciplines that are called to harmoniously combine art and construction.
The culture of creativity is displayed with a remarkable timelessness as the main component of the architect’s education. In particular, I contend that, within the contemporary context, the department studies should be oriented towards a multidisciplinary approach that would facilitate collaborations with specialized areas of knowledge that foster architectural design. The encouragement of critical thinking constitutes a prerequisite for all necessary adaptations to future conditions. Higher education should not only respond to the increasing demands that result from rapidly changing conditions, but also contribute to the research and education in shaping these conditions. On the other hand, a continuous feedback between the Department and the community is of major importance. In this context, we seek to cooperate with institutions, such as TCG / SCM, AAT and the Chamber of Architects, the local authorities, ministries and other public bodies.
As part of a policy for a bolder presence, the initiative of open lectures at the department has been recently expanded through the invitation of distinguished professors and researchers from both abroad and Greece. Additionally, a series of new initiatives include honorary lectures for retiring colleagues and invitations to young scientists to present their work. During the past two years, the Department has held a total of 30 lectures and a special time outside courses have been available to both students and the general public.
Other significant activities were instituted, such as exhibitions of design theses biannually and presentations of doctoral dissertations (PhD Colloquium), which were first held in 2015 with great success. In parallel, workshops with special topics were held and resulted in two publications.
The department’s involvement in student competitions harnessed great results: 5 awards and distinctions, among which a first prize at the 14th International Triennial of Architecture (Interarch 2015) in Sofia. Similar awards were given to two doctoral dissertations by our postgraduate programs.
In the context of an intended extroversion, international collaborations on pedagogical issues, workshops and exhibitions were either launched or continued. Those include partnerships with; the Faculty of Architecture of the University in Basilicata in Matera; the university Lusofona (Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias) in Lisbon; the AGORA network in Jerusalem and Marseille organized by the ESADMM (L' Ecole Supérieure d ' Art & de Design Marseille); the University of Belgrade; the Architecture Biennale of Venice; the UIA; the Moscow Architecture Institute (MARKHI); the universities ITU, Kocaeli and Bahcesehir in Turkey; Yale University in the USA; and the Architectural Association (AA) in London.
However, a lot remains to be changed in the Department's mode of operation. The current, difficult conditions did not and should not result in introversion. Instead, they should expand the opportunities available to students, so that they can survive in fluid and unpredictable situations. In my view, the rebirth of the architectural culture and creativity will have as a driving force the pursuit of sustainability in all its conception and implementation scales of our everyday space.
All of the above could simply not have been implemented without the often-tedious work of valuable collaborators. I would like to thank all those who have contributed with their work and ideas to this process, either through actions or constructive criticism, as well as all the administrative and technical staff. Despite the hardship experienced, which often derives from intensive involvement in the regular and postgraduate programs, they have demonstrated their enthusiasm and support to the Department’s activities, the representation of AUTh to bodies and committees, along with the development of their research and scientific interests. Finally, all secretarial staff and studio instructors support the Department daily through their presence and implementation of a very complex day-to-day routine.
In particular, special thanks are due to:
- Colleague Μ. Voyatzaki for editing and for looking after the electronic version of the Study Guide.
- Colleagues A. Tellios and Ch. Christodoulou for compiling the timetable.
- Colleagues from the Curriculum Committee who worked on the preparation and implementation of the new curriculum: S. Vergopoulos, M. Voyatzaki, L. Yoka, A. Kalfopoulos, M. Skaltsa, C. Spyridonidis, A. Tellios, B. Tentokali, D. Frangos and Ch. Christodoulou.
- Colleagues C. Spyridonidis and C. Conenna for courses recognitions pertaining the ERASMUS and SOCRATES exchange programs.
- The Secretary of the Department Paraskevi Nitsiou, secretary of the office of student affairs A. Papadopoulou, as well as Dora Iordanidou who has taken over all the tasks directly to the Department's Head. All three of them, while working with patience and consistency handle the everyday and more specific and unforeseen issues that emerge throughout the year.
I wish everyone - and especially to the students - a great and productive year.
The Head of the Department
Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning