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ACSA International Summit Statement

May 24, 2018
Between June 12-15, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture will host its International Architecture Education Summit in Madrid, composed of the third Deans of the Americas and Europe meeting and ACSA's biannual International Conference. I began my term as President-Elect during our last International Conference, Cross-Americas, hosted by the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. I joined in part to expand ACSA's international footprint and relevance and am excited about working with a very diverse Board.

Since its founding in 1912, ACSA has evolved into an association that includes all the architecture schools in the United States and Canada. A century later, 23 international affiliate members from 14 countries are also part of ACSA's academic community. During our various conferences, I have enjoyed the privilege of meeting some of their representatives from countries such as Mexico, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Bolivia, Japan, Guatemala, Argentina, and Saudi Arabia. Their presence has undoubtedly enriched our discourse and debates, and paved the way for future collaborations and encounters. As a matter of fact, in addition to the Madrid conferences, later this year we will also travel to Quebec City for the Administrators Conference.

Less than eight months ago, ACSA participated in the International Union of Architects Congress in South Korea, as thousands of architects met in Seoul to discuss our discipline's contemporary challenges. In the process, past American Institute of Architects president Thomas Vonier was elected as their new UIA president. Throughout that week, the North Korean regime tested a nuclear device and fired a ballistic missile, filling the air with an uncomfortable sense of anxiety and apprehension. Back then, I would have never guessed that before the end of my term, the two Koreas would exchange a peaceful handshake across the 38th parallel of the DMZ. The world is changing at an incredibly rapid pace, often despite our best intentions in academia, and it is essential that we also transcend borders and barriers. Indeed, such were the topics that we debated during the Fall Conference in Marfa and at the Administrators Conference in Albuquerque, where we were visited by the president of the European Association for Architectural Education (EAAE), Oya Atalay, who will also join us in Madrid.

Understanding the importance of international engagement, we dedicated the ACSA Leadership Committee's efforts to its discussion, speculating about potential avenues of collaboration and delineating a feasible path that will create further value to our member schools. The other collateral organizations have also forged connections outside North America. The American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) just hosted a conference in Dubai; the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) is part of the Canberra Accord, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary as a group of substantially equivalent accrediting bodies; the American Institute of Architects (AIA) currently operates several chapters around the world; and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) has internationally located testing centers.

As we delve into the evident merits of international partnerships, it will also become obvious that the academic and professional playing fields are not level. A student from Latin America, Europe, or Asia may finish his or her degree in a tuition-free school, receiving immediate licensure upon graduation, and finding a plethora of design competitions to jump start a career. The same student in the United States may have to finish two degrees, incur excessive student loan debts, complete 3,740 hours of internship, and pass a series of exams while paying their dues (and their student loans) in the corporate world. Regardless of which method is more appropriate or efficient, it is imperative that we stimulate and encourage a productive dialogue between two systems of practice and pedagogy.

As the co-chairs of the Deans Summit eloquently write in their overview, "the practice of architecture and design is, more than ever, global. As competition increases in both developed and developing nations, American firms aggressively market abroad; foreign architects compete successfully for prestigious commissions within the United States, and the creation of regional entities such as the European Union has removed long-standing barriers to practice in large multi-national regions. Global modes of practice force designers to confront the tension between cosmopolitan trends that transcend national boundaries and identities; and the need to recognize local contexts with differing cultural norms, environmental challenges, and issues of contrasting equity between rich and poor nations."

And in the spirit of the International Conference's title "New Instrumentalities," ACSA invites the academic community to discuss, debate, and propose alternative strategies to better appreciate the continuum between local and global modes of pedagogy and practice, as we seek to identify positive contributions in response to the numerous challenges posed by an exceedingly urban society.

I look forward to saluting you personally in Madrid and continuing this important conversation.

-- Francisco Javier Rodríguez Suárez, AIA, DPACSA
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