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Of Great Architects and Their Education

March 16, 1986

Sam Hall Kaplan's March 2 column on Charles Moore's lecture at UCLA was a remarkable catalogue of misinformation.

It begins by getting the name of the school wrong; the lecture was at the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. It refers to Charles Moore as "late of UCLA." This will surprise many of his students and colleagues; Charles Moore continues to hold the position of adjunct professor at UCLA, and will teach two important courses here in spring.

It tendentiously asserts that Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier never attended architecture school. Paths of entry into the professions were very different 80 or 100 years ago (particularly for students from less privileged backgrounds). There were far fewer opportunities to obtain formal professional education than exist today, but these three, as young men, certainly took such opportunities where they could find them.

Wright studied at the University of Wisconsin, Mies at a local trade school, and Le Corbusier at the Art School in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

It suggests that academic institutions "resent the meddling" of practitioners. On the contrary, all serious schools of architecture that I know are places where active practitioners encounter rigorous scholars and critics, and the intellectual excitement of a good school derives precisely from this.

It sneers that "too much reality in the classroom tends to make the tenured faculty nervous."

I cannot speak for other institutions, but the faculty at UCLA founded Urban Innovations Group, and turned it into a very successful architectural and planning practice providing opportunities for many students to gain practical experience working on real projects, for the express purpose of bringing more "reality" into the classroom.

WILLIAM J. MITCHELL

Mitchell, a professor, is head of the UCLA architecture/urban design program.

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