No computers, thanks, this is architecture: Glenn Murcutt’s top of the class

Dream team: Architects Ken Maher, Richard Johnson and Glenn Murcutt. Photo: Anthony Johnson If nothing else, Glenn Murcutt wants his architecture students to have passion. ”You can’t teach passion – you draw it out, [but] they have to get that fire in the belly,” Mr Murcutt said.
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And he is a tough master. Mr Murcutt, known as one of Australia’s finest architects, bans the use of computers in his studio class and insists his undergraduate students hand-draw their designs.

His students are allowed near a screen only at the end of the semester. ”I say to my students that every compromise they make represents the quality of their next client,” Mr Murcutt said.

”Students in my studio cannot use the computer for the thinking process. Drawing is a critical aspect of thinking.”

For the first time this year, Mr Murcutt’s architecture students at the University of NSW also have the opportunity to be taught by two more of the country’s most respected and accomplished architects.

Richard Johnson has designed some of Australia’s standout public buildings, such as the Museum of Sydney and the Natural Portrait Gallery, while Ken Maher’s high-profile projects include the restoration of Luna Park, the Olympic Park Railway Station at Homebush and the National Institute of Dramatic Arts at Kensington.

Mr Johnson and Mr Maher will teach a component of the masters program, which all architecture students must do. Mr Murcutt chose to teach third-year students because they ”know a little about architecture but not too much”, while Mr Johnson said teaching made good architects better.

”We all have time pressures but we teach because it is important, [and] we teach because we really enjoy it,” Mr Johnson said.

Yvonne Chan, a masters student, said she chose to study at the university purely because she had the opportunity to be taught by Mr Murcutt, while another student, Jessica Gottlieb, changed degrees to be in his studio class.

”He is just amazing and it is just a huge value to be taught by people of his calibre,” Ms Gottlieb said.

”I started doing interior architecture but when I found out that Glenn was doing a studio, I changed [degrees].”

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