Charming, funny and compulsively watchable, Architecture School is a rare bird: a TV series that makes intelligence exciting.
The rough sketch of Architecture School is intriguing enough: Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, the Sundance Channel program follows students at Tulane University as they try to design an innovative, affordable three-bedroom home, then build it. But here, as in the profession itself, execution is everything, and luckily, this series rarely steps wrong. Watching drawings become models and models become structures (with modifications along the way due to regulations, materials and the collaborative process) is a kick. You’re seeing dreams made real.
There’s a competition-series aspect, with individual students hoping theirs is the design that’s chosen, but the program rarely stoops to amp up melodrama with dishonest editing. Architecture School is about students getting real-world experience, and learning that abstract decisions have concrete consequences—that people have to live in those blueprints. The students respect one another and their main adviser, Byron Mouton, a mentor with zero tolerance for ass-kissing or buzzwords. (When a student tells Mouton that the house should have “clear circulation and functionality,” he replies, “That’s like saying, ‘My concept is, the building has a roof.’ ”) One of Mouton’s exhortations to his young charges doubles as an implicit challenge to any network executive who thinks a show revolving around schematics and permits can’t be riveting: “Why are you being so cautious?”