The Unit System
‘I don't think the problem of architectural education is to teach people to be almost proto-professional operators, because that's for them to work out as they go out into life. The problem is to actually produce witty people who've got lots of conversations echoing in their ears when they leave. They've heard a lot of conversations; they've seen a lot; they've met people who are on their way up into the world.’
Alvin Boyarsky, quoted in Irene Sunwoo's ‘Pedagogy’s Progress: Alvin Boyarsky’s International Institute of Design’, Grey Room, (34)(2009):53.
Many of the world’s top schools of architecture owe a collective debt to the innovations in teaching and learning first introduced by Alvin Boyarsky, Head of School at the Architectural Association in the 1970s. His most important contribution to architectural education was the ‘unit system’, an approach which is now global in its reach. Broadly speaking, instead of the traditional, year-based horizontal hierarchy in which students progress through a series of modules/years until graduation, Boyarsky envisioned a holistic ‘learning’ environment (as opposed to a ‘teaching’ environment), in which student life in both the undergraduate (2nd & 3rd year) and postgraduate (4th & 5th year) is organised around year-long design studios or ‘units’.