Here at the AJ, we’ve never seen a crop of students so focused on community and sustainability, so aware of the challenges facing the world, and so determined to shape their own destinies and come up with their own solutions to the most testing issues of our times.
Student work shouldn’t stay in an academic bubble – and you get the feeling these practitioners won’t allow that to happen anyway. They’re too fired up for that.
Our Student Prize issue sends a powerful message to the wider profession: one that it should sit up and listen to. And then act on. As the AJ’s Fran Williams explains so well: ‘This cohort of students may well be anarchistic and wildly innovative, yet they remain largely realistic in their approaches. There seems to be a recognition that “luxury” projects are no longer of importance, and neither is teaching students how to design them. The emphasis, rather, is on changing our world for the better and finding new ways of practising that address the looming shadows of climate crisis.’
Essential reading, too, in this month’s packed special issue are the sobering findings of our latest race and diversity survey, run in collaboration with the brilliant Blueprint for All, the national educational charity committed to social inclusion.
The student experience often falls very short for those from diverse ethnic backgrounds just at the start of their careers, and painstaking reporting by Richard Waite and Anna Highfield highlights personal testimony, insight and ways ahead from those at the cutting edge.
The feature also puts a spotlight on alternative practice pioneers providing hard-hitting and inspirational, forward-looking perspectives. As Zean Mair-Macfarlane of Zean Macfarlane Architecture Studio states: ‘The old ways were fuelled by greed; the new ways are fuelled by growth. New practices should be inspired by the new wave of leaders.’
For all the grassroots organisations out there looking for solutions that aren’t always developer-led, for all the community land trusts and local authorities exploring change – indeed, for all those desperate to do things differently – you could make a strong start by listening to the changemakers we’ve profiled. The future’s right here.