This essay responds to the British architecture schools’ “Open Letter to the Architectural Community: A Call for Curriculum Change.” Since educating architects is a global problem, the analysis presented here is aimed at an international audience.

We are at a pivotal point in recognizing the relationship between the built and natural environments and human health and well-being. Architects are increasingly called upon to be more than narrow technical specialists or mere “creative” suppliers of exotic, art-led designs. They must instead become leaders and collaborators within problem-solving teams focusing on the problems of people and of society as a whole. To this end, architects need to understand the most relevant findings of science and evidence-based applications to policy and practice.

Therefore, architecture students need to know recent findings in cognition, neuroscience, and psychology on how structures affect our physiological and psychological health.

Beauty (i.e. pleasure) is a neurological response we instinctually, physically, and subliminally yearn for to support our health and well-being. Students should learn to assess the likely effects of forms on users—how architecture affects experience and perception—by applying scientific methods of evidence and experiment.

Buildings also must fundamentally contribute to the public realm, and architects need to understand the social, environmental, and economic dimensions of that imperative. Architecture should re-focus on the requirements of the public realm, and of its (public) users.

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The authors of this proposal—a concerned group of architects, educators, researchers, and policy advocates—came together to write a series of articles on architectural education for ArchNewsNow (reprinted in Architexturez). Some of the authors are members of the ESRG—Environmental Structure Research Group and have co-authored “A New Pattern Language for Growing Regions”. Others are featured in the forthcoming PBS documentary film “Built Beautiful”. We are liaising with a group of senior architects in India to reform education there. This is imperative because of the immense damage that the present insensitive industrial approach to building is causing to the developing world. 

  • Nikos A. Salingaros, University of Texas at San Antonio; 
  • Mathias Agbo, Jr., architect, Abuja, Nigeria; Nicholas Boys Smith, Create Streets, London, UK; 
  • Duo Dickinson, architect, Madison, Connecticut; 
  • Paul F. Downton, Ecopolis Architects, South Australia; 
  • Michael W. Mehaffy, Sustasis Foundation, Portland, Oregon and Centre for the Future of Places, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden; 
  • Yodan Rofè, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer, Israel;
  • Catherine Ryan Balagtas, Terrapin Bright Green, New York, New York;
  • Ann Sussman, The Genetics of Design, Concord, Massachusetts; and 
  • A. Vernon Woodworth, Fitzemeyer and Tocci Associates, Woburn, Massachusetts.