12 Architecture Reforms to Recreate Innovative, Smart Construction

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Robison Wells
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In a new book about architecture education, Draw in Order to See: A cognitive history of architectural design, author Mark Hewitt takes the stance that architecture education is in need of reform, resulting in structures that are inefficient, unimaginative, and don’t properly suit form or function. In the book he lays out twelve reforms that he says architecture schools should implement—some of which are being taught here and there, but none of which are mandated by national National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) standards. These twelve reforms are:

1. Go back to the hand-drawn sketch as the fundamental medium and tool for creating architecture.

2. Make every effort to see new places and to visit outstanding buildings, landscapes, and urban ensembles as often as possible.

3. Make architectural history a requirement in all design programs and avoid the pitfall of presenting only modern architecture.

4. Require students to engage with building users as soon as possible in their studio experiences.

5. Maintain regular contact with tradespeople, artisans, and makers of building components and materials.

6. Balance linguistic and theoretical dialogue with purely visual and haptic means of presenting architectural ideas.

7. Integrate analog and digital tools in the design studio, as Pixar does in its film production.

8. Avoid all forms of virtual representations of designed environments until the presentation stage of design.

9. Employ digital drafting platforms as adjuncts to hand drawing, using these tools the same way architects used hardline drawings during the 19th and 20th centuries: as means of accurately conveying construction plans, sections, elevations, and details.

10. In the academy, employ research professors in areas of bona fide applicability to the task of building.

11. Teach basic drawing with constant reference to the most recent research in cognitive science and visual perception.

12. Emphasize the collaborative nature of design as a discipline, and foster collaboration in the studio curriculum rather than emphasizing individual “innovation” as a criterion for architecture.

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