Sometimes, when we talk about learner independence, active learning or agency, we forget that this is not always for granted. Student consensus can not be considered a given. Trying out new things in a course (changing formats, layouts or mediums) produces changes that can be met with resistance and suspicion and it usually takes time until the cohort is convinced that what you are doing is actually working for them.
Student-Centered Learning and Student Buy-In article in Inside Higher Ed shows the results of curriculum change in a Biology course over a period of four years in relation to student satisfaction and acceptance. Pre- and post- course surveys show that student resistance decreased over the years and while grades did not change, the students’ perception of their gains has.
I remember that when we first introduced networked practices in an undergraduate design studio, students were terrified of the idea that their preliminary research and drawings would be published online for everyone to see. When talking about this, some expressed the fear that their ideas would loose their originality or that by the end of the semester everyone would converge to a single design idea/concept. Of course, none of this happened: in fact, it was quite revealing to see how diverse the research approaches and their respective representations actually were from a very early stage in the design process.
But there is also another interesting aspect in this article: the very fact that there was no single teacher but 13 of them. Now, I think this severely enhances the idea of a learning community. It’s not just about changing the format, it is about how you do it. By opening up the curriculum to more researchers and more teachers and by presenting the students with a course that is founded on a collaborative effort you ultimately denounce the idea of the expert and what comes along with that. And it is not by chance that grades have nothing to do with this. The very act of learning and being part of a learning community luckily can never fall into the hands of assessment.
1970’s: critical theory focused on labor (or the social)/ this theory did not transition well into neoliberalism
theory that involved Derrida, Heidegger, Deleuze, and Foucault tried to replace the theory that came out of modernist intellectual formations as the intellectual energy spent on mastering a difficult literature—mostly in translation—would enrich architectural discourse and trickle its way down into practice (…) It was hoped that architecture could be taken out of the deadening nexus of modernism and professionalism and be given a “thicker” disciplinary identity (…) The trouble was that the epistemology of delayed gratification could find its resonance in advanced history/theory work (i.e. PhD work), but not in the normative world of the studio (…) with the arrival of computation, “intellectually-oriented” classes became increasingly impossible to justify in the curriculum (…) Furthermore, and importantly, with the arrival of the globalized student population in American universities, it became increasingly unclear how this Eurocentric reading list dealing with issues from a pre-globalization era could related to the wide range of issues coming from the global realities.
the semiotic approach evaporated away. Like the intellectualist stand, it proved to be too difficult to teach
Theory, if we think of it at the level of phenomenology, promised to enliven the inner spirit of the designer (…) it promised a disguised spirituality residing not in humans alone but in materials, or even, more importantly, in joinery, in that proverbial tectonic
Theory tried to open up an awareness that history and its critical role in defining the “consciousness of the young student.” (…) Today, out of the around 120 or so architecture schools in the US, one half—if they teach history at all—still teach the old curriculum from pyramids onward
Theory—in whatever formation—could only barely deal with the problem of global warming (…) an alternative disciplinary horizon allied, correctly or not, with ethics, management theory, and building technology.
Theory—in whatever formation—failed to address the rise of nationalism in the post-colonial context (…) In a complex, global world, is it really a victory when Eurocentrism is replaced by nation-centrism?
Theory—in whatever formation—could not cope well in the expanded field of “historical architecture.” (…) no one knows how to teach architectural history, and there were few “theoretical” takes, especially since most of the effort at “theory” now tries to address issues in the contemporary world, a world often conveniently stripped of historical and cultural backgrounds. We have moved from modern architecture to environmental architecture, which serves to bring modern architecture towards its teleological end.
Theory—in whatever formation—passively, though in some cases actively promoted the emergence of Modernist Majoritarianism. Most schools of architecture came to emphasize the history of modernism as part of its core epistemological project (…) theory failed to critique the important institutional changes within the world of history/theory, the most important being the split between Modernism and Tradition, and now, more recently, Modernism and Pre-modernism
Theory—in whatever formation— failed to adequately address the digital until it was too late.
Theory—in whatever formation— failed to deal with the humanitarian crisis of the twenty-first century and still struggles with issues of violence and trauma (…) e need to recognize that normative theoretical systems do exist, they are just not called history/theory.2 They go by other names such as preservation, digital architecture, modern architecture, sustainability, pre-modernism, etc (…) the very success of the last decades is now coming to haunt the system, creating immobile boundaries that mitigate against interdisciplinarity. Advanced scholars who now work in the domain of “history/theory” do indeed often bridge into the realm of political science, anthropology, colonial studies, philosophy, geography, and other disciplines in the humanities. But whereas these other fields have made strong and important inroads into developing critical positions, architecture as an educational platform has in the last decades moved in the opposite direction, cleaning out its curriculum from disciplinary entanglements, placing the entire weight of that operation on the narrow ledge of “history/theory.” (…) To make matters worse, many elite schools decided to follow the neoliberal model of labor by tenuring only a few people and farming out the rest of its curriculum to hired guns who had little vested interest in—and no power to—transform the curriculum
Excerpts from: The School of Architectural Scandals, written by Mark Jarzombek, full article available here
Scenius, or Communal Genius_Scenius is like genius, only embedded in a scene rather than in genes. Brian Eno suggested the word to convey the extreme creativity that groups, places or “scenes” can occasionally generate. His actual definition is: “Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius.”
Individuals immersed in a productive scenius will blossom and produce their best work. When buoyed by scenius, you act like genius. Your like-minded peers, and the entire environment inspire you.
The geography of scenius is nurtured by several factors:
Mutual appreciation:Risky moves are applauded by the group, subtlety is appreciated, and friendly competition goads the shy. Scenius can be thought of as the best of peer pressure.
Rapid exchange of tools and techniques: As soon as something is invented, it is flaunted and then shared. Ideas flow quickly because they are flowing inside a common language and sensibility.
Network effects of success: When a record is broken, a hit happens, or breakthrough erupts, the success is claimed by the entire scene. This empowers the scene to further success.
Local tolerance for the novelties: The local “outside” does not push back too hard against the transgressions of the scene. The renegades and mavericks are protected by this buffer zone.
Scenius can erupt almost anywhere, and at different scales: in a corner of a company, in a neighborhood, or in an entire region.
2008, Wired Magazine, full article available here/ Image available here
In the 1970s, idealistic young activists created a wave of experimental schools – no compulsory lessons, no timetables, no rules (…) “no headmaster, nor hierarchy nor recognise any central authority, but be controlled by the parents, children and teachers together”, the Times Educational Supplement reported in December 1970 (…) There were trade unionists, parents, community activists. It became a destination for idealistic university students. The school had to move frequently to find affordable spaces big enough for the growing numbers (…) There would be no timetable, no compulsory lessons, no uniform, no hierarchy. Teachers would be called by their first names. The children would make up the rules and decide what they wanted to learn. There’d be no fees, fixed hours, term times or holidays. They were to be schools without walls – and open whenever the community wanted them. Many of them quickly folded – with some communities not receptive to the idea of educational anarchy. But a few put down solid roots.
“Free schools” mushroomed in the UK in the 1970s, but few survive. State school heads who tried to implement A.S. Neill’s ideas – notably at Risinghill in London –were smartly removed. Half Summerhill’s 68 pupils are from overseas, many from east Asian countries where some parents find the schooling too rigid.
Tom de Castella, The anarchic experimental schools of the 1970s, BBC News Magazine, 21 October 2014
Peter Wilby, Summerhill school: these days surprisingly strict, The Guardian, 27 May 2013
The model derives from observing that two key driving forces shape the operation, management and organization of every architecture firm: first, its choice of technology (particular project operating system or process employed by the firm), and second, the collective values of the principals of the firm (Values refers to the personal goals and motivation of the principals in charge of the firm).
In regard to technology:
In general: Brains (expertise) firms: they offer the smartest kid on the block/ In architecture:Strong-idea, organized to deliver singular expertise or innovation on unique projects.
In general: Gray-hair (experience) firms: they customize ideas, but rarely are positioned at the cutting edge/ In architecture: Strong-service organized to deliver experience and reliability, especially on complex assignments
In general: Procedure (execution) firms: they offer a prompt start, quick disposition and low cost/ In architecture: Strong-delivery, organized to provide highly efficient service on similar or more-routine assignments, often to clients who seek more of a product than a service
In regard to values:
Practice, as defined by Webster, is “the carrying on or exercise of a profession or occupation as a way of life.” Business, on the other hand, is defined as a “commercial or mercantile activity customarily engaged in asa means of livelihood.”
Practice-centered professionals typically have as their major goal the opportunity to serve others and produce examples of the discipline they represent. Their bottom line is qualitative: How do we feel about what we are doing? How did the job come out?
Business-centered professionals more likely have as their personal objective a quantitative bottom line, which is more focused on the tangible rewards of their efforts: How did we do?
Weld Coxe, Hon. AIA; Nina F. Hartung; Hugh, H. Hochberg; Brian J. Lewis, UDavid H. MaisterU,, Robert F. Mattox, FAIA; and Peter A. Piven, FAIA, 1986. Charting Your Course: Master strategies for organizing and managing architecturefirms. In Architectural Technology, (May/June 1986), pp. 52-58. Retrieved here
Arrow Factory founders Pauline Yao, Rania Ho and Wang Wei standing in their space, mid-bricking, August 2017.
Introduction by Livia Alexander
Art and artists today are identified as a key instrument in urban development and community planning (…) Artists are being invited to engage in the most unexpected corporate settings, recognized as critical, outside-the-box thinkers as business entrepreneurs are enlisting their services to propel innovation and growth. Government officials and departments are deploying artists to address pressing problems of public policy and governance. These developing practices frequently take the form of artists working in newly formed residencies situated in communities, business places, government offices and a wide range of other settings (…) Are there ways for art programs to build the communities, and wealth for the people already living in them?
The article sets out to respond via five examples:
Community-Based Artist Residencies in China, by Kira Simon Kennedy
The African Artists’ Foundation, by Azu Nwagbogu
The Sharing Economy that Keeps Brooklyn Artists Going, by Livia Alexande
Social Drawing as a Model for Community-First Engagement, by Francesca Fiore &
Amsterdam: Counting our Precarious Blessings?, by Nat Muller
Complicated mechanisms can be designed, predicted, and controlled. Jet engines, artificial hearts, and your calculator are complicated in this sense. Complex systems, by contrast, can’t be so precisely engineered. They are hard to fully control. Human immunology is complex in this sense. The World Wide Web is complex. A rain forest is complex (…) Networks take any complicated thing, say a Tesla Model S with all of its predictable moving parts, and places them in an indecipherable maze of interacting connections (in this case a network comprised of self-improving computer code). It’s in connection where surprising interactions can occur, and that’s what creates uncertainty.
Joshua Cooper Ramo, The seventh sense, article by Aaron Frank retrieved here
I am very pleased to see our article ‘Pedagogical 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
Last week many of the A10 new European architecture correspondents met in Amsterdam. It was our first meeting since the cooperative’s official establishment and naturally there was a lot to talk about. Interestingly enough, despite our diverse backgrounds we’ve discovered that we have a lot in common and that we share a common perspective on where we want to go with this publication in the near future. It was a real pleasure for me to be part of this process and I look forward to materializing our intentions.
In the meantime, we’ve already completed the first phase of the EU Survey on the culture of architectural competitions in collaboration with Architectuur Lokaal and a first volume of the work in progress is now available. The conference held on the 28th and the 29th of September for the EU Survey was a great opportunity for us to discuss our findings and elaborate on many concepts related to the architectural competitions’ tradition and practices. Many thanks to Walter Menteth and Cillie Jansen for showing us fulkrum.eu. Special mention to Antigone Katsakou and her book entitled ‘The Competition Grid: Experimenting With and Within Architecture Competitions,’ (soon to be published by RIBA) as well as to Jonas Andersson and Magnus Ronn for their book ‘Architectural Competitions-Histories and Practice,’ available here. Special mention also goes to Angel Borrego Cubero and his film “The Competition” which was screened during day II.
Other new undertakings will soon be announced as well. I’ll keep you posted.
Aggregation – access to a wide variety of resources to read, watch, or play, along with a newsletter called The Daily, which highlighted some of this content;
Remixing – after reading, watching, or listening to some content, it was possible to keep track of that somewhere (i.e., by creating a blog, setting up an account with Delicious and creating a new entry, taking part in a Moodle discussion, or using any service on the Internet);
Repurposing – participants were encouraged to create something of their own; in these MOOCs, the facilitators suggested and described tools that participants could use to create their own content, and it was envisaged that with practice, participants would become accomplished creators and critics of ideas and knowledge; and
Feed Forward – participants were encouraged to share their work with other people in the course and with the world at large.
Kop, R., Fournier, H., Man, JSF, 2011. A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online Courses. In IRRODL, Vol 12, no 7, 201, full article available here
In spatial terms, the plan becomes flexible with moving partition walls and soft flooring where students walk wearing socks instead of shoes. The footprints of the plans are usually elongated to separate the noisier parts of the school , plus special acoustics are being applied for the same cause. Refurbishment includes sofas, rocking chairs and big cushions instead of traditional desks and chairs.
In teaching and learning terms, there is a greater autonomy in what is learned for both teachers and students, there are no divisions between ages and a there is a great variety of learning situations where children get paired despite age difference. Class time is dedicated to real life problems and their relation to mathematics or physics instead of abstract manifestations to favor cross curricular connections (phenomenon based learning).
Feargus O’ Sullivan, 2017. Why Finland Is Embracing Open-Plan School Design. In www.citylab.com, article available here
Madeline Will, 2016. Finland’s Education Minister Discusses New National Curriculum and PISA Scores. In Education Week, article available here
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