From denial to acceptance: a turning point for design studio in architecture education by James Benedict Brown

The question for the coming autumn is resolutely not how can we recreate the architecture studio online. It is how we can liberate our discipline from the assumption that an ill-defined space, time, pedagogy and culture is the only way to teach design. It is an opportunity to re-construct architecture education in a more critical, inclusive and democratic way. (highlighting is mine)

Full article available here

Building a treehouse in Tzoumerka!

Full video available here

Last Easter, Yorgos (husband and studio partner) oversaw the construction of a treehouse in Tzoumerka. We have just received this wonderful video from BOULOUKI, the collective responsible for the workshop, and we are very proud and happy to share it with you all. Design-build workshops -once well planned- can become incredible tools for learning. Well done BOULOUKI and well done to all the students and craftsmen who participated.

​“Shelters” project combined two workshops in tandem in the neighboring mountain refuges of Tzoumerka, during 1-6 of May 2019. The first one titled “Rearranging the traditional wood-fired oven” was about constructing an oven in the mountain refuge of Melissourgoi, using local stone, bricks, clay, pumice stone, lime and salt, as building materials. In the mountain refuge of Pramanta, the workshop was about using timber as the main material in order to “Introduce a tree-house in Tzoumerka”. During both workshops, apart from the site work and hands-on experience guided by 4 experienced masons, the 20 participants had the opportunity to attend a series of lectures and presentations given by reputable professors and teams related to the field of construction and commons.

Date: 01/05/2019 – 07/05/2019 Sponsors: Dalkafoukis Oikos, Stergiou ABEE, Mpougias Stones, Mr Bill

Studio One

Image available here

(…) alternative teaching model called Studio One (Offered at University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Department of Architecture in the College of Environmental Design), which seeks to facilitate new dynamic links between architecture and other disciplines based on the interplay between fundamental research, design exploration, and practical application (…) At the core of this class is the study of biological structures and the development of bio-inspired construction principles for architectural design(…) he curriculum itself is designed to mediate between education and research. Aside from gaining basic knowledge within their own fields, the students also gain experience outside of their comfort zones by learning from other disciplines (…) In the first semester, students work individually or in small groups. In the second semester, the students join forces and build one project together as a team (…) the class is also supported by a wide network of academic research institutions as well as professionals inside and outside the building industry (…) With its partners, Studio One is contributing to a newly-formed, campus-wide teaching and research initiative called Design Innovation from Nature (…) the key idea behind biomimetics or bio-inspiration is not the imitation of natural forms and shapes but the transfer of functional principles to technological applications (…) To implement these biomimetic concepts, the students approached the work in the class from two directions as defined (…) The first, called “biology push”, relates to a bottom-up approach. The second is referred to as “technology pull” and describes a top-down process. While the term “biology push” describes a development that is initiated from basic knowledge in biology, “technology pull” refers to the aim of solving a certain technical problem in order to improve an already existing design solution or process.

Students worked on 4 separate case studies drawing from the study of natural forms: an Insect-Inspired Lightweight Facade; a Plant-Inspired Kinetic Facade Shading System and two research pavilions (2017, 2018)

Schleicher, S., Kontominas, G., Makker, T., Tatli, I. & Yavaribajestani, Y. (2019). Studio One: A New Teaching Model for Exploring Bio-Inspired Design and Fabrication. In Biomimetics (Basel) 4(2), 34. doi: 10.3390/biomimetics4020034

The Circular Economy Concept in Design Education

This is an experiment in the framework TU Delft led Horizon 2020 Project called REPAiR: two MSc courses were transformed to integrate aspects of different fields of expertise. Students were introduced to two resource flows that were previously identified as key flows by the local stakeholders: food waste, and construction and demolition waste and were expected to show a deep understanding of CE and its spatial implications

(…) incorporating the concept of CE in an integrative manner in urban design and planning courses is challenging because of its metabolic and complex nature (…) (1) the city is a complex, self-organizing system, where economy is an important factor, but not the dominant one; (2) the focus of CE approaches on the production side of the value chain and the under-representation of the need for sustainable consumption patterns as crucial aspect for the transition towards a CE; (3) the exclusion of land as a resource although it is one of the most valuable resources of regions; (4) the neglecting of infrastructure, both as a resource, but also as an instrument to steer circular policies; and (5) that the dominant approach ignores the importance of different scales for closing resource loops (…) overcoming these inadequacies requires the integration of expertise on resource flows and industrial processes.

Challenges of integrating practices of circular economy in education were overcome by collaboration with researchers in a situated environment that allowed: “an enhanced problem definition, a substantial participation of societal partners in education and an enhanced valorisation of student work via partner institutes.” Supporting course elements were also integrated such as lectures; workshops and tutor preparation. An overall of 200 students participated in the courses whose work was later evaluated as to the integration of CE principles and resources flows.

One clear effect of the integration of the CE concept into teaching was that the students understood that they needed to address challenges from a systemic perspective rather early into the design process.

References: Wandl, Alexander, Verena Balz, Lei Qu, Cecilia Furlan, Gustavo Arciniegas and Ulf Hackauf. “The Circular Economy Concept in Design Education: Enhancing Understanding and Innovation by Means of Situated Learning.” Urban Planning 4, no. 3, (2019): 63-75. DOI: 10.17645/up.v4i3.2147, full article available here

Architecture and Silence, by Christos P. Kakalis

I am so delighted to have been part of this book my dear friend and collaborator Christos P. Kakalis has edited so beautifully. The chapter we co-authored (Chapter 7), discusses silence in architectural education. I hope you’ll like it as I am very proud of this work and the people who made this happen.Thank you Christos for trusting me with this!

From the Routledge official webpage

This book explores the role of silence in how we design, present and experience architecture. Grounded in phenomenological theory, the book builds on historical, theoretical and practical approaches to examine silence as a methodological tool of architectural research and unravel the experiential qualities of the design process.

Distinct from an entirely soundless experience, silence is proposed as a material condition organically incorporated into the built and natural landscape. Kakalis argues that, either human or atmospheric, silence is a condition of waiting for a sound to be born or a new spatio-temporal event to emerge. In silence, therefore, we are attentive and attuned to the atmosphere of a place. The book unpacks a series of stories of silence in religious topographies, urban landscapes, film and theatre productions and architectural education with contributed chapters and interviews with Jeff Malpas and Alberto Pérez-Gómez.

Aimed at postgraduate students, scholars and researchers in architectural theory, it shows how performative and atmospheric qualities of silence can build a new understanding of architectural experience.

Design-Build: Definitions and Criticisms

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Abdullah, 2011: separation of design and building could be the philosophical difference between thinkers (designers) and doers (builders)

Harriss & Widder, 2014: Design build projects exist between the two tectonic plates of learning in academia and practice

Vlahos, 2000: Conventional studio projects present a disconnect from the needs of people and places and the understanding of different cultures. The outcomes of the theoretical studio projects are strongly developed, controlled, formal solutions with little understanding of the architectural intervention in communities. Students engage predominantly with theoretical, fictional projects.

Nepveux, 2010: Being involved physically in building allows students to reconcile their drawings with real structures they can build, weld, wire and plumb

Delport, 2016: Design-build projects have as outcome a physical product made through a process that can vary greatly in scope, focus and intent. They bring in tacit knowledge to the curriculum. The object contributes to social change and improving the lives of others

Van der Wath, 2013: it is an oscillation between the abstract to the concrete that allows students to develop the intellectual agility to tackle the complexities of arch innovation and experimentation that they will use in prof. practice

Brown, 2014: Live Projects’ greatest opportunity is not that it is a place to reflect on one’s own learning but, that it is a place to share that learning and reflection with others (Engestrom: a collective activity system is driven by a deeply communal motive)


Erdman, 2002: hands-on built projects in attempting to close the gap between designing and building replace the reflective process of design with the active process of building (-) they resist theorizing and critical discourse (-)

Chiles & Till, 2004: balance between practice and education encourages students to position themselves politically (+) prevarication is also not possible as the luxury of long-term studio development is removed (+)

Christenson & Srivastava, 2005: Focus on completion within a specific time frame overrides the value of process

Foot, 2012: where the completion and the focus on the end product are taken out of the equation, the notion of reflection, open-endedness and non linearity allows students to discover a variety of possible solutions


Hermie Elizabeth Delport, 2016, Towards Design-Build Architectural Education and Practice: Exploring Lessons from Educational Design-Build Projects, PhD Thesis, Prof Johannes Cronjé, Faculty of Informatics and Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Modernism is dead, long live modernism

I read through the 13 points made by Patrick Schumacher on architectural education. It never seizes to amaze me when nowadays people choose to address a wide public audience in a manifesto-like way. It’s quite alarming that the very structure of the text alludes to the “five points of architecture” by Le Corbusier; an autocratic system of principles that lead to an “hegemonic paradigm,” as Schumacher chooses to call it. I just cannot seem to bring my self to identify with this degree of certainty especially when we all agree to be living in such an uncertain and fluid, post-fordist world. And isn’t it ironic that now of all times, someone should claim to have found a uniform/canonic/normative way of doing architecture?

Schumacher condemns the “anachronistic” way we teach architecture today, and he allocates this anachronism to continuous experimentation. But experimentation in general isn’t the enemy here, is it? After all parametricism is a product of experimentation itself. Perhaps experimentation on form specifically, is anachronistic. Because arch schools have indeed promoted and appraised originality of form for years thus producing practitioners whose only interest lay in impressive yet un-realizable design solutions. And yes, that is perhaps what created this unevenness between academy and practice; the persistence of the value of form. But isn’t this also one of the shortcomings of the extended use of parametricism in some schools and design practices?

So are we really supposed to fully converge to an educational paradigm that has has already cost us part of this void? How about trying to overcome the anachronism by striking to its very core; relieve the students from the burden of originality of form towards an understanding of architecture as in “what it means to be fully human” as Pete Buchanan has eloquently put it.

I can see many schools today struggling to bridge this gap; design build studios, live projects, hands-on workshops and practice-led research studios in sensitive social neighborhoods appear at all continents in an unprecedented rhythm. Isn’t this a way to get over the lack of practical skills or social awareness and relevance that are so much needed to an architect? I have also encountered numerous paradigms (many of which I’ve described in this very blog) of newly formed arch schools that experiment with getting students to work in world renowned practices and actively participate in ongoing projects to gain experience and insights of how arch is actually being produced: talk with clients, organizations; even travel around the world.

And then there is also another issue; if we are to converge, are we seriously supposed to share curriculum between different countries, people, political regimes, economies, cultures? This is where I read convergence and I hear compliance. Because if we are indeed experiencing life as in the continuous process of becoming, are we to think that we all need to reach the same place? Isn’t the beauty of diversity what makes this world so interesting? Isn’t it its complexity that motivates us as how to better understand it?

To introduce a shared paradigm undermines the very meaning of learning especially today when education is becoming all the more open, and people can freely learn from each other. Restricting education to a single core defies the personality of the learners, their peers contribution to their learning and their relation to the rest of the world. Why not set some principles, give them all we can and let them decide who they ultimately choose to be.

ACSA-EAAE Conference Presentation

Re conceptualizing the role of tutors in research-based pedagogy: the tutor(s) as the curriculum

The paper presents the efforts made to experiment with the pedagogical framework and the operational model of a postgraduate urban design studio based on the reconceptualization of the role of tutors. In the model examined here, the curriculum was devised as an open and evolving network of the tutors’ resources and affiliated researchers from within or outside the setting of the academy. This mosaic consisted of different individual research and design practices that are problem-focused and context-specific, communicated directly to students by the very people responsible for their conception and development. Learners were required to investigate the instrumentality of these practices according to their own personal pursuits; to make their own networks of connections, and were even encouraged to create their own personal schemata of design research. In fact, the second major shift of the rethink lay in recognizing learner autonomy and diversity, thus establishing a new operational framework for the two to prosper. An amalgam of interconnected learning spaces provided the conditions necessary for all these networks to co-exist and interact. The paper describes the different aspects of the tutors’ involvement and contributions in the design and implementation of this model, as they assumed a number of roles, but most importantly, as they became learners themselves.

MYOM: Make your own Masters

This is something I bumped into today and I am really, really impressed. This woman has indeed re-conceptualized design education in such a simple and subtle way that makes me wonder, why didn’t anyone think of this before. Genius, bravo!

Stacie Woolsey approached four practising designers she admired: Thomas Thwaites, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Seetal Solanki and a contact at Room Y, the innovation arm of UK department store John Lewis. She asked each of them to set her design briefs to complete in her own time – an idea she describes as “freelance learning” – and completed all four briefs over 18 months of self-directed study (…) Woolsey didn’t feel that she could burden the designers with every question, so she started approaching industry professionals with different skills and asked them to be mentors, for project-specific help. She built her own network of peers – one of the benefits of attending an established institution – by approaching people her age across a variety of fields and asking them to follow her progress and be her first port of call. She hosted meetings as a way to set deadlines and present her projects (…) Rather than try to get her course of study accredited, which “felt a bit irrelevant” and would be “almost cheating on the idea a little bit”, Woolsey searched for a means to “validate it in a different way”. Instead, each of the designers who set briefs are writing a statement to say how well they think she answered it – more like a reference than a grade.

Dezeen: Stacie Woolsey creates her own masters course as “viable alternative” to design education

The designer is exhibiting the results in a “degree show” she named Make Your Own Masters, which opens this week at Somerset House in London.

Thesis Full Text Freely Available on NDC Site

This thesis draws from current learning theories and pedagogical approaches to determine whether architectural education can benefit from online learning practices. The author examines the latest developments in the understanding of knowledge creation and how adopting new learning tools and practices impacts the learners, with particular focus in architectural studies.

How has the learning process evolved and what are the tools available for the production of knowledge? What is the profile of today’s learners? Has the role of teachers been affected? What happens when technology allows individuals to establish an online presence and seek the resources and information they need on their own and/or interact with other individuals? Could this development produce alternative educational models for architectural studies? And if so, what might these be? And what would be the consequences for those involved in the process?

Theoretical research covers three main areas; the first uncovers the complex landscape of the predominant learning theories -and to a certain degree-, the latest key shifts in the epistemology of knowledge. The second examines contemporary pedagogical approaches and monitors the changes in the perception of what constitutes a curriculum. The third area investigates traditional architectural education formats and how these have evolved over the years with the use of ICT technology. Finally, considering that the applied research involved mainly design studio courses, the theoretical research also monitors the changing nature of the relation between design and research.

Applied research was originally tested on a postgraduate urban research course. In the following years, however, it expanded to five urban design studios implemented both at postgraduate and undergraduate programs. Six different case studies are presented in total. The thesis describes the design of two basic course models based on blended and networked learning principles and their two subsequent variations introduced in the following years with the addition of new learning environments and networking tools.

A large part of the applied research examines the data retrieved from learning analytics and the systematic monitoring of the courses that describe the quantity and quality of learner attendance; the different taxonomies of interactivity between those involved in the learning process; the changes in the curriculum; the formal and informal activities that were developed; the multiple learning spaces the models accommodated and also the process of making meaning in this new setting.

The last section of the thesis presents the overall benefits of blended and networked learning in architectural education and how thinking in terms of open pedagogy can facilitate the design of design courses, culminating in the description of a new type of design course, hereby called Cooperative Studio.

Full text is available (in Greek). Click here