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Many architects work in regional and urban areas in small practices and our graduates often work in this context. In this unit local practitioners are engaged as sessional tutors each year, to provide consultation on the significant project-based learning within the unit. The unit is aimed at enhancing graduate skills by emulating the professional office practice of coordinated team-based project knowledge development.
The enthusiastic practitioners in 2010 were two Geelong-based architects running small practices, one of whom is a Deakin graduate. Given the sessional funding for the unit, the architects are each employed for two sessions of four hours. The approximately 120 students are divided into 20 groups of 6, spaced over 4 hours of studio-based tutorial. This effectively allows 10 minutes per group with each consultant. Consultants only work with groups that have questions; they don't generate the work for the students. This means that the students need to prepare for the sessions.
The two consultation sessions are placed strategically within the assignment program to occur each side of a group project folder submission that promotes early debate and decision-making in the group research environment. Issues such as tectonic quality, construction materials, technology and detail resolution form the main areas of design development and documentation. The consultants give feedback on various construction techniques including; timber and steel post and beam, precast concrete, haybale and rammed earth. This supports group assignment activity for initial project knowledge development that ultimately leads to individual project submissions. The students find the interaction with real practitioners a valuable exercise and regular comments appear in the SETU evaluation of the unit in this regard such as this one from 2009:
'The actual projects where very good in providing an understanding of the real world and the way design and actual structure design are integrated.' (sic)
The main outcome is realistic and thorough content in individual assignment work through the strategic group research and valued consultation with practitioners to confirm local construction technique.
Another intention is more even distribution of work effort and time management, essential for the students in their future professional activity. Bringing the consultations forward in the program and tying it to an interim assessment task makes this objective clear to the students and, to some extent, mitigates the last minute rush to complete the individual assignment.
Further information can be obtained from James Coulson, Associate Head of School (Development), School of Architecture and Building, on extension 78318 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.