Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) was pioneered in the 1980s by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva, two professors at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University (…) Its assumption is simple: Every human system has something that works right–things that give it life when it is vital, effective, and successful (..) AI begins by identifying this positive core and connecting to it in ways the heighten energy, sharpen vision, and inspire action for change (1)


AI is a fundamental shift in the overall perspective taken throughout the entire change process to ‘see’ the wholeness of the human system and to “inquire” into that system’s strengths, possibilities, and successes (2)


Positive Core: human systems grow in the direction of their persistent inquiries, and this propensity is strongest and most sustainable when the means and ends of inquiry are positively correlated (…) the future is consciously constructed upon the positive core strengths of the organization (…) Discovery: to identify and appreciate the best of “what is.” (…) Dream: to imagine and envision its future (…) Design: attention turns to creating the ideal organization in order to achieve its dream (…) Destiny:  delivers on the new images of the future and is sustained by nurturing a collective sense of purpose (…) Stakeholders are invited into an open-space planning and commitment session during this phase (3)



  1. The center for Appreciative Inquiry, available here 
  2. Stavros, J., Godwin, L., & Cooperrider, D., (2015). Appreciative Inquiry: Organization Development and the Strengths Revolution. In Practicing Organization Development: A guide to leading change and transformation (4th Edition), William Rothwell, Roland Sullivan, and Jacqueline Stavros (Eds). Wiley
  3. David Copperrider and Associates: What is Appreciative Inquiry?, full article available here

Image available here

Virtual Village ancestors and the concept of Design Correspondence


Three experiments on what became known as ‘design correspondence

01:1 991, The Samarkand competition gave an excuse for collaboration between two designers who lived far apart. The exchange involved correspondence via modem and included updated revisions of the project on a daily basis. Soon, they accumulated a large database that was hard to manage.

02: a joint workshop that lasted two weeks between 12 students of architecture who worked in a computerized design studio in Macintosh and UNIX environments connected by an Ethernet local are network. they were given joint areas later called “digital pin up boards” where they could edit and post notions about the common project. again there were difficulties in naming files, managing the resources etc.

03: 25 participants by two institutions far apart, Harvard University and the University of British Columbia. they utilized WAN. students were given the same problem, to design a pre-fabricated warehouse utilizing the technology of concrete tilt-up panels. the exercise lasted two weeks, week one participants downloaded reference material and developed designs for their elementary panel, week two they developed design models for the building. tutors acted as editors. final crit was realized via phone with speakers. review material was exchanged between universities so thatrecords were identical. the list of proposals was displayed on computer screens in both institutions simultaneously. this was the world’s first electronic jury.



Jerzy Wojtowicz, James N. Davidson and Takehiko Nagakura, 1995, Digital Pinup Board-The Story of the Virtual Village Project. In Virtual Design Studio (ed. Jerzy Wojtowicz), Hong Kong University Press, pp. 09-23

Image available here

ZARCH Publication now available!


I am very pleased to see our articlePedagogical approaches to embodied topography: a workshop that unravels the hidden and imaginary landscapes of Elaionas,‘ get published in ZARCH Journal and I am also very happy to share this with you. It is based on a collaborative project that began in 2015 with Prof. Nelly Marda and Christos Kakalis from the University of Newcastle along with the students of our postgraduate course in NTUA.

The article highlights the importance of mapping in urban design and uses the concept of embodied topography to describe how activating the human body through a series of sensory motor tasks can help individuals immerse themselves in the landscape to acquire a better understanding of the urban phenomena. This process is presented here as a tool of mapping and managing the complexity of the urban landscape as it enables the individuals to recover the more hidden or even imaginary aspects of the city and their own relation to it.

As this is an ongoing research I hope that there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss what we are doing with more people involved in this kind of research in urban design. So, feel free to comment and write back your own experiences on the matter.

ZARCH: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Architecture and Urbanism, Num. 8, image available here

On the importance of social learning in architectural studies


  • Cuff, 1991/Nicol-Pilling, 2000: rich social dynamic and socialized learning in a learning setting form a central plank of the studio-based pedagogy for arch design. Although studio learning has historically utilized the cohort, peer interaction has further potential to alleviate the detrimental effects of power that can manifest themselves in tutor-student relationships.
  • Parnell, 2001: The social dimensions of the studio and the opportunity for collaboration and sharing act as stimulants to learning
  • Fisher, 1991: fraternity culture, it is the culture of the studio that acquires lasting significance for students
  • Costa-Kallick, 1991: critical friend_it enables a form of peer to peer dialogue that directly parallels the kinds of conversation that occur between students in the learning process
  • Dutton, 1991: peer to peer relationships are relatively free from the symptoms of power asymmetries
  • Schaffer, 2003: learning takes place through the internalization of social processes of evaluation and that the norms of the community become a framework for individual thinking and individual identity
  • Boud, 2001: peer learning promotes other facets of learning such as team working, the management of personal learning and judgment and the ability to critique both self and others
  • Anthony, 1991: informal dialogue and formalized learning offers the students the possibility to obtain multiple perspectives and opportunity for continuous discourse. The nature of the studio means that students are exposed to numerous, frequently conflicting perspectives which can present challenges, especially during the early stages of study.
  • Klebesadel-Kornetsky, 2009: critique, as a mode of offering structured and unstructured feedback is a mode that is shared by all the creative arts
  • Bruffee, 1999: constructive conversation as a means to harness peer interaction, socialization and critical dialogue
  • Piaget, 1985: co-operation as central to the development of reflection, discourse and critical abilities
  • Vygotsky, 1986: zone of proximal development term that described how social interaction constitutes a necessary component for full cognitive development to be achieved
  • Flavell, 1985-Stahl, 1992: cognitive and meta-cognitive processes of knowledge construction contradict the common assumption that knowledge is effectively conveyed from tutor to student in feedback processes. Student learning  was found to be conditioned by the individuals’ existing knowledge and understanding, against which new information is aligned creating either a deepening of knowledge or leading to previous knowledge being revised. 
  • Askew, 2000: power has a profound relationship to feedback, whether formative or summative
  • Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006: peer interaction occurs where student progress generates dialogue and criticism
  • Mezirow, 1997: there are instances when students actively seek the authority of the tutor and points where power can be constructively channelled to challenge and stretch students through shifting their frames of reference in ways that peer dialogue is unlikely to achieve
  • Rowntree, 1977: feedback is fundamental to effective learning



David McClean & Neasa Hourigan, 2013. Critical Dialogue in Architecture Studio: Peer
Interaction and Feedback. In Journal for Education in the Built Environment, 8:1, 35-57

Image of Macquarie University Social Learning Space / Bennett and Trimble is available here

Kester Rattenbury on the RMIT model


Leon van Schaik became head of Architecture of RMIT in 1986 (…) he found a city with a group of excellent architects, well-respected by their peers, with a strong body of work but little sense as to how to articulate what was particular about it – and with almost no international recognition (…) Van Schaik invited them to ‘surface the evidence about their already established mastery’: to find, articulate, test and improve the design propositions they were making by actually designing. The remarkable local architectural scene, in which van Schaik became active on many fronts, is thus partly an academic outcome of a brilliant ongoing academic design research endeavor(…) The RMIT model is an astonishing success. Around 15 years ago, van Schaik developed the Masters course into a PhD by Practice: a program which now has 150 students enrolled between academic hubs in Australia, South-East Asia and Europe – one of the biggest architecture PhD programs anywhere (…) Students on this program have to be established designers, with a proven track record and a body of recognized work within which they uncover and develop a doctoral thesis. They must articulate their particular way of working and identify their referents – the people, buildings and environmental experiences they are drawing on – to establish their equivalent of a methodology and literature search. They have to extract and analyse their own tactics – the way they draw things, work with clients, interact, whatever they do to generate a design: to identify the working thesis, if you like, in their work. (bold-italics are mine)



Kester Rattenbury, 2015. Revealing Secrets. In the Architectural Review ‘The education Issue’. Full article available here

More on RMIT’s program in Europe here

Architectural Education, Michaela Wozniak


The Beaux Arts period in Paris had four primary elements:

  • the Ecole: Ecole was the stiff, traditional study of classical painting and architecture, which culminated in the Grand Prix de Rome
  • the private ateliers: in the small independent ateliers students learned directly under a “master” with all the success of the students reflected directly back on the master
  • the Salon: The annual Paris Salon was the show in which the best works as chosen by a jury were displayed to the public
  • the café life: the Parisian life of cafes was the informal extension of the ateliers and the Ecole, in which people came together to discuss design

Wozniak suggests that the cafe life, thus the informal setting of studying has receded. She also claims that the rigid hierarchy and the division between professors as jurors and students creates a chasm between the two.

Wozniak exalts the teaching methodology of Sekou Cooke who requires that the students peer to peer one another even from the first year of their studies. Cooke gives the students a template of reaction: “What works is ____. What does not work is ____. And what could be done differently is ____.” This collaborative process according to the author, revives the informal “cafe life” setting and allows students to appreciate one another and learn form each other just like they will do in their professional life as architects.



Wozniak, M., 2016,  How to Improve Architectural Education: Learning (and Unlearning) From the Beaux Arts Method, published in Archdaily, full article available here 

More information on the Beaux Arts available here 

Image available here

FSA or Free School of Architecture


Last September, Peter Zellner issued an article entitled “Architectural education is broken—here’s how to fix it” where he stated his opposition toward the prevailing model of architectural education. According to Zellner, “the schools of architecture that modeled new and innovative forms of teaching in the 70’s and the 80’s ” are now responsible for a series of wrongdoings and for “having robbed several generations of students of their voices and their right to grow potent individual practices“. Zellner then discusses a post-studio/ post-digital model along five imperatives:

  • engaged debate, critique and conversation
  • individual genius should be challenged
  • awkward experimentation and slow growth
  • teachers and students following shared paths not parallel ones
  • intelligent challenges shouldbe celebrated

Just a week later Zellner, following the advice of his supporters, announced the launching of a “tuition and salary free” school seeking to “explore the edges of architectural education which he calls Free School of Architecture.” In his interview to Diana Budds, he protests against the high fees of tertiary education and the incredible amount of debt students have to take up.

In his interview to Antonio Pacheco, Zellner announced that “12 students will join 10 teachers in June and July of 2017 for 6 weeks” and that “12 courses will be taught of which I will teach two classes, to open and close the year. The remaining 10 will be taught in 30, 60, and 120 minute blocks by the FSA’s 10 teachers.”

The curriculum will be divided into five course bundles, says Nicholas Korody quoting Zellner: architectural history and theory; design and aesthetic theory; practical and vocational topics; philosophy; and general studies. Zellner hopes that, while these groupings may seem “fairly traditional or generic”, the professors will expand these topics to encompass broader concerns, such as the socio-economics of education, diversity, and political outreach.

The program is essentially aimed at a postgraduates, so a minimum requirement for entry is one professional degree, probably an undergraduate, and students can be enrolled in a master’s program. The expectation is really discourse first. There’s no project required, no submissions, no grading, and there’s no assessment per se. At the end of our initial six-week summer school, students will be able to make a defense and that can be in the form of a challenge to something they’re learned, or a critique, or ideally a kind of practicum statement in which they outline their academic or professional ambitions or outline what they plan to do with their lives as creatives.

Zellner’s statements have already been subject to criticism by Todd Gannon. I personally think it is too soon to tell. Zellner must get a fair chance to try out what he claims should change. Experimenting in small workshops seems ideal in his case and let’s hope that by this time next year there will be a lot more to talk about.

Image available here

Student Motivation


Notes from Vincent Tinto’s Inside Higher Ed article: “From Retention to Persistence

Self-Efficacy: a person’s belief in their ability to succeed at a particular task or in a specific situation, many students begin college confident in their ability to succeed, more than a few do not, in particular those whose past experiences lead them to question their ability to succeed in college as well as those who experience stereotype threats that label them as less likely to succeed, those confident in their ability to succeed can encounter challenges that serve to weaken their sense of self-efficacy

Sense of Belonging: students have to come to see themselves as a member of a community of other students, faculty and staff who value their membership — that they matter and belong, as a commitment that serves to bind the individual to the group or community even when challenges arise,  all students must be able to see the institution as welcoming and supportive -that the culture is one of inclusion. [In the academic realm, that can take the form of cohort programs and learning communities. Within classrooms, it can mean using pedagogies like cooperative and problem-based learning that require students to learn together as equal partners. In the social realm, institutions can take steps to provide for a diversity of social groups and organizations that allow all students to find at least one smaller community of students with whom they share a common bond]

Perceived Value of the Curriculum:  students need to perceive the material to be learned is of sufficient quality and relevance to warrant their time and effort, knowledge should be contextualized with student profiles, contemporary realities and pedagogies.

Image available here 

New Jersey Institute of Technology


Sample work presented by by Prof. Darius Sollohub on how online learning may penetrate the allied architectural courses. Sollohub considers studio instruction to be not just the key to architectural education but also a model of instruction for all courses as it is collaborative and based on problem solving. Allied courses have been traditionaly taught in larger halls with many students present, a condition he claims makes learning impossible. On the other hand, the high cost of a 15-17 student group as in a studio course cannot be financially sustained just for lecturing puproses.

What Prof. Sollohub proposes is a drastic change in the allied courses instruction to fill the needs of the millennial learners as he calls the generation born between 1982-2005. He considers these students to be:

  • collaborative, practical, results-oriented experiential learners (mostly studio)
  • digital natives and gamers natural multitaskers, (gamification still not a trend in architecture)
  • impatient, flexibility/convenience focused seek balanced lives (no loyalty left in this generation firm members say)

What he devised is a hybrid course of Structures with online lecturing and in-class group work and  quizzes. His online interface is still very primal -a mixture of a video of him speaking and a power point presentation running in parallel-. I have always been against quizzes and I would much rather prefer an in-class discussion instead of an exam-like treatment for acquiring knowledge. In any case, just like he claims in the beggining, architectural schools have failed so far to adapt to online learning, so any effort made toward that end is always welcome. The real challenge is however, the design studio itself, as it is a far more complex educational practice and therefore, a lot more resistant to change.

Image available here

AJ Survey shows high percentages of mental health problems among students of architecture


What Richard Waite and Ella Braidwood reported for AJ’s annual survey is pretty disconserting: results show that 26% of British students of architecture have faced or are currently facing mental health issues. These are attributed to stress caused by:

  • student debt and its consequent necessity to get paid jobs (…) almost two-fifths (38 per cent) of respondents said they would have accumulated a debt of £30,000-50,000 by the end of their course (…) 58 per cent of students based in London said their debt would be £40,000 or above (…) nearly two-fifths (38 per cent) reported that they don’t expect to pay off their student loan – an increase from 31 per cent the year before
  • no pay or little money for paid work (…) around a third (31 per cent) of students in the survey said they had been asked to work for free by practices. On top of this, some with a salary claimed they were often not paid to work overtime.
  • confronting the needs practical training or practice (…) A significant number of respondents felt architecture education was too long (61 per cent) and did not equip them for practice (35 per cent) (…) nearly two-fifths (38 per cent) said construction, technology and business teaching within architecture training was either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ (…) RIBA criteria requiring at least 50 per cent of the course to be on design may not leave enough in the curriculum for everything else
  • long working hours, exams and coursework deadlines (…) many students claimed the expectation of working long hours contributed to their mental illness. A culture of working into the night, the survey confirms, remains endemic in architecture schools (…) Just over nine in ten (91 per cent) students reported working through the night for their studies at some point – and almost one in three (29 per cent) said they did it on a regular basis.


Such results were meant to cause some turbulence for the academia. Bob Sheil, director of The Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, told Dezeen that architectural education and accreditation needed “new models” and he pointed towards the qualification system. He addressed the matters raised by propagating the need for the creation of new programs that can embed the rapid changes occurring in the profession and make the most of student talents.

The high cost of student loans or the low wages are matters only tha state can resolve. But what I find interesting in this survey, is that one of the main stress generators comes from within the academia’s unwritten rules or hidden curricula as mentioned in a previous post. As a student claims in the AJ article: ‘A culture of suffering for your art is promoted within education’. Let’s admit we have all been caught victims in this vicious propaganda. This is why I think more attention should be given to class work and the time spent in class. For if there is enough time for students to work during class time there are at least two major gains: first there is less to be done at home and second they get more help while they are there in class both from their peers as well as from the teachers. Not to mention the confidence of having advanced or completed something at the end of the day.



Waite, R., Braidwood, E., July 2016, ‘Mental health problems exposed by AJ Student Survey 2016’, AJ, available here

Dezeen Magazine, Aug. 2016, ‘Bartlett head calls for new models of education to protect future UK architects’

For more interesting reading visit University of Toronto Mental Health Report 2013-2014

Design Studio Hidden Curriculum by Thomas Dutton


It refers to those unstated values, attitudes, and norms which stem tacitly from the social relations of the school and classroom as well as the content of the course (…) It does not refer to content per se but to the content ideology amd the practices that structure student and teacher experiences (…) a vehicle through which critical analysis reveals the dialectical relationship between knowledge, culture, social relations, and forms of power within society and within the process of schooling (…) In sum, the notion of the hidden curriculum constitutes one ofthe “most important conceptual tools” with which to analyze and critique educational institutions in terms of the knowledge forms that are produced, and the ongoing social practices that are formed to disseminate such knowledge.

The Hidden Curriculum & Studio Knowledge: to talk about knowledge is to talk about power. Dominant and subordinate forms of knowledge. (i.e the voices for a social architecture are weak, what prevails is an aesthetic concern) (…) This points to the pressures and practices of prominent institutions that bear on the profession to influence its direction. As these institutions necessitate physical manifestation they seek forms and languages through which their power will be communicated and legitimized.

The Hidden Curriculum & Social Relations: the structure of the studio mirrors the structure of most contemporary workplaces (…) hierarchy obviates the presence of dialog (…) Usually structured in vertical relations, teachers tend to speak in ways (often unconsciously) that legitimize their power and students orient their speech and work to that which is approved (…) competition tends to promote the belief that ideas are unique, to be nurtured individually, closely guarded, and heavily protected against stealing (…) students think they must work alone, or with those who see the world similarly to ensure the “purity” of ideas. Design in this view is legitimized as a self-indulgent activity, negating cooperation and compromise as possible vehicles for good design



Dutton, Th., 1987, ‘Design and Studio Pedagogy’, in Journal of Architectural Education (1984-), Vol. 41, No. 1. (Autumn, 1987), pp. 16-25.

Image available here

The Rural Studio


RURAL STUDIO, 1993, Auburn University, School of Architecture. Samuel Mockbee and D. K. Ruth cofounded the program (..) The Rural Studio emerged in the midst of a period when critiques of the symbiosis between modernist architectural production and footloose international capital had led to a rejuvenation of interest in vernacular architecture (…) In his writings and teachings, Mockbee outlined his vision of a participatory architecture engaged in its form and practice with locality and people, with strategies built on an implicit rejection of prevailing models of ‘‘American architecture [that] had retreated from social and civic engagement to a preoccupation with matters of style’.

The work of the Rural Studio reveals the contingent, dependent, and constrained position of architectural production in those contexts where crises generated by other
parts of social formations (be they economic, environmental, or political) are negotiated by architects.



Paul Jones & Kenton Card (2011) Constructing “Social Architecture”: The Politics of Representing Practice, Architectural Theory Review, 16:3, 228-244, DOI: 10.1080/13264826.2011.621543

Image (above) and following text is retrieved from the School’s site:

Rural Studio is an undergraduate program of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University.

Rural Studio is an off-campus design-build program of Auburn University. The program, established in 1993 by D.K. Ruth and Samuel Mockbee, gives architecture students a more hands-on educational experience while assisting an underserved population in West Alabama’s Black Belt region. In its initial years, the Studio became known for establishing an ethos of recycling, reusing and remaking. In 2001, after the passing of Samuel Mockbee, Andrew Freear succeeded him as director. Since that time, Rural Studio has expanded the scope and complexity of its projects, focusing largely on community-oriented work.

The Rural Studio philosophy suggests that everyone, both rich and poor, deserves the benefit of good design. To fulfill this ethic, the Studio has evolved towards more community-oriented projects. Projects have become multi-year, multi-phase efforts traveling across three counties. The students work within the community to define solutions, fundraise, design and, ultimately, build remarkable projects. The Studio continually questions what should be built, rather than what can be built, both for the performance and operation of the projects. To date, Rural Studio has built more than 170 projects and educated more than 800 “Citizen Architects.”