Halfway through the first decade of the 21st century,
expectation of the future and historical nostalgia
co-exist. This tacit uncertainty is compounded
by the painfully explicit fact that, in both architectural
practice and education, theory and experimental
application are awash in confusion.
Nevertheless we have never been so clear
about identifying the problem architecture poses in
relation to the environment - and the problem
architectural education faces in addressing the
social and economic realities of everyday life.
In the architectural design studio, students typically
grope around in an ideological fog, if not a
complete vacuum. This is not to say students
should or must espouse any "ideology", as it were;
however, in the absence of a clear, well-considered,
well-articulated intent, students almost invariably
pursue superficial effects by default, however
fashionable or extraordinary.
Perhaps this is because, in reality, everybody
seems to quietly know that nobody could realistically
hope to even design a truly complete bathroom,
let alone a complete building! Yet, for some
strange reason, the tradition of promoting the illusory,
egocentric dream of a creating an image-driven,
monumental architecture to innocent fledgling
architects hasn't changed since Renaissance
times. Fortunately, a group of architectural educators
decided to make a modest change, and this
issue of OHI reviews some of their efforts.
What are the indicators of a problematic architectural
studio? Kelbaugh cites seven aspects to
reflect his concerns. Architecture and its process of
creation are perceived as individualistic, subjective,
and often inaccessible "art"; or, as the creation
of new and extremely special objects, as one-off
buildings; or, as media graphics - all of which
serve special-interest groups apparently unconcerned
with the profligate consumption of energy
and resources needed to realize these private
dreams. To reverse the tradition, he suggests that
urbanism and sustainability are the most promising
and synergistic sponsors of good architecture
today. Habraken believes current architectural studio
education has failed to bring students to consider
three basic questions architecture must
address: (1) how values are shared in a built environment,
(2) how change and performance make
the environment live; and (3) how the distribution
of design responsibilities can make architecture
blossom. He criticizes the traditional pattern of studio
teaching in which a group of students is unwillingly
dragged into the idiosyncratic, if not selfindulgent,
world of the studio "master" who asks
obtuse questions only he can answer to his satisfaction.
Habraken even suggests architectural education,
if it is to be true, should come from outside
of the architectural studio.
How shall we reform the architectural studio?
And, once reformed, how will students react? How
will they perform in it? What are the consequences
at each year of architectural program?
Starting from the first year, Jia assesses a studio
programme in which the basic questions of built
environment - the value of constraints, transformation
and distribution of responsibility - were systematically
introduced. He analyzes the students'
reactions and performance in line with students'
learning styles found using Kolb's Learning Style
Inventory (LSI). He suggests that by enhancing
diversity of learning styles the studio may become
a platform in which students may learn from each
other more effectively.
Herr & Howe introduced a second-year program
which required groups of students to negotiate
the design of individual projects and community
areas within a given generic structural frame to
create a Vertical Village. Kendall's paper offers
some examples of both Open Building studio projects
and "warm-up" exercises given in the thirdyear
studio setting. Here, students honestly
embrace constraints or rules within which a real
design creativity can be appreciated from "the real
Although there are no final projects here - these
are to be made by others later - these warm-ups
are significant. They challenge current studio tradition
by validating the notion that different parts of
the same building are actually designed by different
architects. For example, one studio can be
conducted by different tutors from different levels
of experience, and at different project phases.
Finally, Martin-Chavez brought his final-year
students into a real-life urban relocation initiative
in Mexico City which resulted with an Open
Building methodology. Based on their investigation
of traditional housing typologies, and the casestudy
families living in their chosen focus area, they
designed a support structure which can accommodate
immediate relocation needs as well as other
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