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Antti Ahlava, head of the department of architecture at Finland’s Aalto University in Helsinki, sees radical change for architects

3 min read

The world’s best universities in the fields of architecture, design and art are often characterised by a strong tradition in the education of art, which is integrated with design, commerce and technology.

Their success is more and more based on a close integration of research, teaching and artistic activity, as well as co-operation with industry and business to maintain a grip on reality. Because of the importance of interplay, multi-disciplinary research and cross-disciplinary artistic activities could create a foundation for a future university. Education becomes supported by cross-disciplinary, user-centred and practice-based research and artistic work.

A multi-disciplinary approach create a foundation for the development of social and cultural innovation

Such a future university will respond to a change in innovative thinking where human and user-centred attitudes are emphasised along with a technological approach. A multi-disciplinary approach creates a foundation for the development of social and cultural innovation, as well as for production-related, financial and structural solutions required for sustainable development. The former mythological cultural background of design education will be turned into a pursuit for more calculable machinery for international academic and commercial success.

As art, architecture is part of the reorganisation or merging of the production of the built environment and media. As design, it is part of the communicative change and demands for social innovation in society. Consequently, there are changes in the roles of so-called creative professions:

From product and service towards user experience and the user-centric

From the role of design professionals, at the last stages of a project, towards designers having a strong role in the idea and concept stages of projects

From specialising towards a multi-disciplinary culture and scale management

From a dialogue within professionals towards communication that has an effect on society with inter-field discourse

From process management towards value-based leadership.

We are also encouraged to implement changes in our modes of action:

From training professionals for technical roles towards deep academic thinking and development

From graduates to work in the domestic market towards graduates to take on international tasks

From local instructors towards instructors from abroad

From study and instruction towards learning experience

From visibility as a primary goal towards changing the world and society

From independent projects towards co-operation

From independent work towards energising and inspiring communal discussion

The future of our profession requires new areas of competence included in curriculums, such as:


Wellbeing (humanitarian help)


Project management and development

Architects’ changing role and the development of society require us to create new kinds of products, and to utilise new methods in attaining multi-professional design, integrated research and teaching. I assume, students will also become active in the development of their own environment.


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