Radical educators: ARCHIP

Regina Loukotová

Regina is the current Head of School and a co-Founder of ARCHIP, an architecture school based in Prague that emerged out of the desire to change the outdated system of architectural education in the Czech Republic by bringing to it new teaching methods aimed at students’ personal development. Regina is also active within the Czech Chamber of Architects and is a member of its Unit for Education.

Radical educators: ARCHIP

Who or what inspired you when you were at school?

I studied architecture in Prague shortly after the political and social changes in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989. We were very lucky that people who emigrated or had been driven out to the free part of the world at the time – some already in the first wave of emigration from the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic after the Communist coup in 1948, others after the Soviet occupation in 1968 – returned to teach us. If it had not been for them, I probably wouldn’t have been so inspired and motivated. There was so much our field had to recover from after 50 long years of devastation and central planning.

I was inspired by the independent and original style of Martin Roubík, architect living in Norway (co-founder of the Snøhetta studio), the depth and originality of Martin Kubelík’s thinking and the rigorousness and regionalism of Miroslav Šik. There were also Czech architects who joined the faculty in the first wave after November 1989 – people who work more or less on the local scene, like Alena Šrámková or the philosopher Oldřich Ševčík.

And, of course, great international figures of architecture – but I knew them rather from books and magazines. Personal experience with their work came gradually. I have always loved history of architecture and it has been – and always will be – the source of my inspiration. 

What are you trying to achieve and why?

My present career in education has to do – most likely – with my great disappointment at how provincial, hierarchical and narrow-minded education was here and, conversely, how creative, inspiring and respectful to others it was elsewhere. We are now more than 30 years away from the changes of 1989. Fortunately, education in our part of the world is rather different today – but not everything has changed. Almost on a daily basis I see and run up against examples of narrow and totalitarian thinking, albeit things are slowly getting better. I founded a school of architecture with my colleagues; our vision was – and still is – to show that learning can be a joy and a collaborative process between a student and a teacher. We wanted a school which is part of the European and world space and does not cultivate any parochial pretences to hide behind.

What lessons have you learnt?

I learned that I have to take care of most things myself; I learned to rely on myself and my people. I am lucky to have great co-workers and a great family and friends. In our part of the world, people often expect the state, or some institution, to serve up a solution. But it hardly ever does. It pays to invest your time and energy in what you like to do. In my view, one of the best things that can happen to you is to earn a living doing something you enjoy. And good education improves your starting position in life.

What’s next for you?

Apart from personal life and health, the most important thing for me now is to keep our school going. We have so many interesting projects up and running; it would be a great pity to have to abandon them. These unfortunate times are really tough on us; as a private institution, we depend on tuition fees 100 per cent as we get no funding or contributions from the state.

Although ideal in many ways for studying architecture, this country is not yet open enough to the outside world, which manifests also in its relatively restrictive policy in issuing student visas – which is a big problem for us. But this is still a minor gripe, given the circumstances we are in now. I am confident this will get better. The main thing is to keep going. And after this crisis blows over, I would like more time for my own work. I never completely left it and the combination of my own practice and education is what I imagine is my ideal professional journey.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be afraid of things. My generation grew up in the 1970s and ’80s; we were told to keep our voice down and to say one thing at home and something else in public. It was schizophrenic. I was afraid of so many things back then: I was afraid of a Third World War – we were haunted by images from Second World War films and the horrors of the imperialist world; I was afraid of teachers … This world disappeared after 1989 as if by magic. But I still sense ghosts of the old fear in me – of authorities, superiors, teachers. Although much less than before, but it is still there. But what really scares me is that this familiar fear is creeping back to post-Communist countries. When you see who is in power here, in Poland, in Hungary etc.