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Architect Teacher Trainer in Mongolia; Working for Small Change

Following a year working with the Mongolian Construction Technology College in a Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) project, I was asked to report on any 'significant change' which may have occurred during the year. I have written extensively elsewhere about the year, but in this article for arch-peace, I describe some of the small changes which I think occurred.

As possibly the first architect teacher trainer volunteer in Mongolia (or anywhere), I was consulted independently by the Mongolian Construction Ministry, the Mongolian Wheelchair Citizens (МТИХ), and in the neighbourhood of my workplace, by World Vision (Bayankhoshuu sub-branch), and the Gender Centre for Sustainable Development in the 8th Khoroo. Each led to useful outcomes even if my suggestions involved intervening less, or differently. But the two live architectural projects we undertook collaboratively in the college, in Sanzai and Yarmag, provided the most concrete opportunities for training architect teachers. The live project work can potentially have a long term impact with the existing teachers there - named Bolormaa, Tsenguune, Ariunaa, and Hashbayar - and two newly graduated students who will become teachers, Lhagva and Gursed. We also began training the next generation, students Delger-Dalai, Tumen-Od, Tumen-Gerel and Uyanga.

The former group developed an better understanding about accessible and energy-efficient construction, and about principles of Project Management, like time management and team planning, which are culturally quite unfamiliar. Most importantly and specifically for the architecture discipline, we worked with processes of Site Analysis and Architectural Project Planning, on how to organise client meetings and briefings, and how to research and write architectural programme briefs for projects.

Looking back, I have some confidence that with support from the college, these established teachers, Bolormaa, Tsenguune, Ariunaa, and Hashbayar will be able to continue the training we commenced over the past year; including; research for teaching, languages for internationalisation, Staff and Student CV clinics, and using internet based tools (flickr, blogging, google earth, wikipedia), all applied to architectural and construction education.

Two teachers, Bolormaa and Tsengel-Oyun, met colleagues Suvdmaa (English teacher) and Bolortsetseg (Architect teacher) from the neighbouring Technical and Technology College (TTC), for the first time, and assisted in some training. All together, we comparatively mapped the architecture degree curricula respectively of the two previously unacquainted colleges, MCTC and TTC. I believe that the exercise will develop staff ownership of architecture degree curricula in Ulaanbaatar, curricula which will need major recasting in the coming years. The latter college, TTC, has recently applied to work with VSO, and I strongly encouraged these people to continue to work together on professional development, and in future to extend their knowledge to develop the Mongolian Association of Architects.

New teachers have now been recruited to expand MCTC and these will need guidance and encouragement in their professional development from trained teachers. I recommended staff continue to work with VSO and that new consultants or volunteers should continue the professional development work for which the college and teachers should have ownership and be proud.

The college began this year building a new five storey classroom building in the 21st district, with students labouring as practical trainees. Work is currently suspended due to winter, which is usually -20 to -30 celcius, making outdoor work difficult. The directors and architects consulted me with the architectural drawings, and agreed in January - among other suggested design and safety improvements - to make the basement and first (ground) levels wheelchair/barrow accessible by ramps. Access to construction and architectural education will not only be physically improved in this case, but also a process has begun for more participative and inclusive building design and college management.

New: featured AARCHITECTURE journal no. 7 (collect free from AA School reception)


nomadologist said...

NB the title makes reference to Prof Nabeel Hamdi's book "Small Change: About the art of practice and the limits of planning in cities" (my copy is inscribed, "don't forget to wash your hands, Greg")

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