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Toward a knowledge based architectural pedagogy and practice : the design studio under the microscope!

Salama, Ashraf M (2001) Toward a knowledge based architectural pedagogy and practice : the design studio under the microscope! In: The 32nd Annual Conference of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA): Old World - New Ideas, 2001-07-03 - 2001-07-06.

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Abstract

Architectural education, as other kinds of educational disciplines, conveys, conserves, and transmits the values of its profession and society at large. Since architecture is created in a field of tension between reason,emotion, and intuition, design education in architecture is the manifestation of the ability to conceptualise, co-ordinate and execute the idea of building rooted in the tradition of humanism. Although considerable differences in the process of educating future architects around the world do exist, there is one striking similarity;the overriding primacy given to the studio as the main forum for creative exploration, interaction and assimilation. The design studio is the melting pot of different types of knowledge thereby occupying the core of the education of architects. It is the kiln where future architects are moulded. It is the primary space where budding professionals explore their creative skills. Thus, the attitudes imbibed in the studio are those that young graduates take to the profession. In essence, it is the testing ground for all other types of knowledge gained to make purposeful and meaningful built environments. It is no longer a debatable issue that while architects are able to manage individual buildings well enough, the overall built environment is increasingly mismanaged.This paper is culled from a wide spectrum of issues I have explored throughout my research, investigation and teaching over the last decade. The objective is to introduce futuristic polemics for architectural pedagogy and practice by examining the role of the design studio in shaping the future of the profession. It bases its argument on the importance of internalising relevant social and ethical approaches to the design studio that elucidate the role of the architect in society and that form a basis for future professional judgement.It envisions the present value system imbibed in design studio as inappropriate to the professional milieu,which in turn results in the reduction of the effectiveness of the profession in society.The paper investigates the paradigm shifts in architecture as educational and professional discipline, and introduces five architect role models that are analysed in terms of attitudes and characteristics, then reflected and compared with these shifts. Three basic changes exemplify the paradigm shifts. These are 1) things vs.relations between things, 2) isolating economy and ecology vs. integrating them and 3) mechanistic pedagogy vs. systemic pedagogy. The role models contrasted with these shifts are the egoist, the pragmatist, the technical assistance giver, the advocate, and the facilitator.The current architectural/design studio pedagogy (conventional approach) has been assessed by employing two basic strategies, a content analysis of the available theoretical literature, and a literature review of the results of the surveys conducted over the last two decades. The results of this assessment are decomposed into content, process, and teaching style. The assessment of the conventional approach reveals very alarming negative tendencies and shortcomings. In response to this situation several revolutionary concepts have been developed by several educators who attempt to respond to the new demands placed in the profession by society and to the changing role of the architect.They are analysed and contrasted with the conventional approach, which is a direct inheritance from educational systems not equipped to face contemporary developments.The models are presented as studio-teaching methods committed to identifying the studio objectives,problems and processes, as important factors for making the process of decision making clear and transparent. This in turn can enhance students' abilities in controlling the quality of their designs, allowing them to questions environmental needs and constraints.They are also committed to incorporating knowledge with its application in solving particular environmental design problems, with emphasis placed on setting pedagogical objectives and utilising teaching techniques that help develop critical and contingent thinking abilities.The parallelism of the emergence of these revolutionary concepts as teaching models and the emergence of new architect role models asserts that some corresponding changes in design studio teaching practices are in high demand. In order to result in change, it is essential that these models be adopted, redefined, and adapted to specific norms defined by cultural, environmental,and social needs, rather than new models being developed, in similitude to reinventing the wheel.The paper ends by two frameworks, each of which represents a set of assumptions. On the one hand, the first model places emphasis on the impact of the current design studio on future architects, portraying different influences of studio culture on students, practitioners and the overall environment of the profession.On the other hand, the second introduces ways in which the knowledge base of the studio can be expanded toward a better future professional practice.