Thoughts on Architectural Pedagogy, Draft 02, Paragraphs 8, 9, 10, 11

The curriculum I developed and executed for a graduate-level architectural representation course at Georgia Institute of Technology encapsulates the manner in which all of these concerns and investigations coalesce into a holistic pedagogy. A series of exercises echoing the stages of design and realization from modern practice, each exploited a different technical skill and representational mode. The exercises transformed one another, often physically, until the original condition, a series of postcard-sized impressionistic graphite texture maps of found objects, was bound inextricably to retouched perspective drawings of a compressed mylar sculpture. The representational modes were strained to make the leaps and translate information according to the value system initiate by the found objects. The tools were allowed to fail. Information was allowed to be lost. Yet, when seen together, the exercises resonated with each other; they had a vague familiarity that need not have been reconcilable.

It is critical to recognize how similar the goals of the academy and practice are, yet how different the physical targets are. Though a building is rarely the final product of a design studio, the modes of exploration and communication are nearly identical to those that comprise the lead up to a built work. I don’t believe mimicking the model of practice is beneficial to all the concerns discussed above. However, a pedagogy modeled as a functional analog to practice is valuable. That is, the studio curriculum and culture operates ‘like’ a practice but in that it differs must ‘look’ different in order to achieve similar goals. Plainly, the academy is freed to make architecture without building buildings. To this end, the student should test their aplomb at the immersive and rhetorical repercussions of value judgments not always through scaled representations, which are extensions of the tools of orthography, but through full scale installations, not cutaway fragments of a separate whole, but irreducible synecdochic instances of architecture that share the values of the whole. Or in a slightly more removed approach, the use of thickened or developed schemata and poesy evoke without controlling. Drawings are still of crucial importance – this is still how we talk to one another – but they should be exploited as tools toward more immediate ends. In training to make architectural decisions, these unfolding tableau can be as loose, as tenuous, and as vague as the haze of the building-captured experience, yet just as precise, as multifoliate, and as complex as its greater offspring would be. Full building designs would necessarily still be integral to this pedagogy. Yet the modes of approaching them and conveying them to the end users on the jury need to be reconceptualized as part of the functional analog to practice. A student might convey an entire architectural proposal with real space, real aromas, textures, and weather by simply taking his or her critics on a walk through a park in autumn and leading them down a peculiarly lit and damp hallway in the basement of a parking structure.

These approaches do not eliminate the tools which architects must wield, but challenge both student and critic to recognize their shortcomings. Additionally, gravitation away from the fetish of the orthogonal representation serves a further purpose in the present climate of the profession. By preparing the student for the pitfalls associated with the immediacy of digital form making, facility of photo-real digital imaging, and complex intelligent objects, they have more contemporaneous ground on which to stand as the value system associated with the primacy of orthogonal representation is subverted.

The roles of the architect and the architectural educator are similar. They have the common interest of empowering the individual to shape, control, digest, and make apparent the personal values of their experiences. While it is proven to us daily in bleak warrens of government buildings, hollow stucco tombs of retail warehouses, and the homes of our friends and families, making a building work is easy. Making a building function is simple. Making a building reflect and inflame the desires and imagination of a culture is the challenge.

Critical Response:

« | »