Teaching the Theory of Architecture

Recently I have been involved in a number of discussions with teachers from architecture schools in Pakistan regarding the teaching of theory. I would like to share a few experiences and ideas.

  1. I taught design regularly at the Department of Architecture and Planning (DAP) at the Dawood College from 1979 to 1992. During that period I realised that the designs produced by the students suffered because they did not know theory and that was because they did not want to read or could not read English. Even when they did read material on theory, it made no difference to their designs. So I decided to make them experience architecture and its various elements. I would divide the class into groups of three or four and give them elements to study and to experience. In the process they looked at commercial kitchens, hotel lobbies, cinema ambiance, courtyards, sun-breakers, colour, texture, scale and a whole range of other elements. Each group made a presentation of its findings to the whole class. These exercises resulted in a marked improvement in the design quality and awareness levels of the students and a matrix of sorts emerged as a result. In addition, some excellent and critical documentation on those elements was developed. The matrix is attached as Appendix – 1 and can be added to. However, one needs a teacher who has the knowledge to make this happen.
  2. In September 1999, Professor Nabil Hamdi of Oxford Brooks University and myself taught briefly at the Department of Architecture at Trondhiem University in Norway and advised masters and PhD students on their dissertations and thesis. In one of his lectures Nabil presented a matrix on “Planning Paradigms in Over and Under-developed Countries”. He identified three paradigms (Modernism, Post-modernism and Sustainability). Although theory was not Nabil’s purpose in developing this matrix, I have always felt that this matrix, if developed further, is ideal teaching material for theory. As such, I expanded the matrix into four paradigms and added a number of elements to it. The expanded matrix is attached as Appendix 2. Architects working in my office (some of them teachers) have helped in identifying events, architects and buildings (no books as yet) that form part of the matrix. Two more paradigms can still be added: these are Community Based Architecture and Conservation.
  3. In Appendix 1, the column on architectural designs is borrowed from Architecture 2002 and Beyond by Charles Jenks. In his book he has given an interesting diagram. I am reproducing that as Appendix 3.

I feel that by teaching with the help of the above three appendices (and a history of civilisation of which architecture is a part) one can make the students experience the various elements and paradigms (through visiting, studying and documenting elements in existing buildings) that shape architecture. A small workshop on the above methodology may be useful.

I am taking this opportunity of attaching some thoughts on “Urban Design Related Issues” as Appendix 4. Your feedback would he helpful.

Download the full Seminar Paper: Teaching the Theory of Architecture [PDF, 262KB]

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