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Reiseuni Report | Making Of European Architecture Dialogue
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Reiseuni Report | Making Of European Architecture Dialogue

Vol:I Reiseuni • Pilot Project

[V:I_1 Six Points] [V:I_2 EAD + Masters Programme] [V:I_3 Alumni Reflections]

V:I_3. Reflections – Multifaceted Perspectives | Alumni
V:I_3.1 Adaptable by Design | Pille Noole + Ioannis Lykouras
V:I_3.2 Always on the Move – Reflections on 'Reiseuni' | Kaisa Lasner
V:I_3.3 Reflektor | Anne Gross
V:I_3.4 Forgetting, Playing, Moving, Bakpak | J. A. Pavón G. & J. de la Peña G.-M.
V:I_3.5 Bildungsreise 1803 | 2010 – The 'Grand Tour' in the 21st Century | Sebastian Seyfarth
V:I_3.6 Studio as Model, as Method of Teaching and Learning | Eduardo Magno

Which conclusions about European architecture schools, strategies and built culture do alumni develop, after experimenting with multiple professional challenges, diverse interdisciplinary methods, intercultural team work and group life within the workshop series of the Master' s Programme during intensive two years abroad? What have they learned about dealing with the differences of local contexts with diverse design strategies? And what about personal experiences about multifaceted cultural heritage, aesthetic preferences and unknown conventions? The observations of young professionals give an insight into the qualities of the international study programme.

An attempt has been made to sketch a profile of Architektur.Studium.Generale as a model for architectural education. A programme tailored to meet uprising demands of the contemporary architecture scene, such as mobility, adaptability and cultural exchange.

This view is supported by analysing some characteristics of the programme that contributed to this, based on the authors' personal experience and by comparing them to the initial constitutional intentions of the programme, as stated in the Reiseuni Charta. [1]

I. Team Players

The first characteristic of the European architectural programme that is analysed, is its emphasis on teamwork.

As stated in the Reiseuni Charter:

Today, ambitious architectural projects are generated in interdisciplinary working teams… As the team generalists, architects increasingly require… an understanding of group processes and communication dynamics, for success in their complex vocation. [1]

[Fig. 01] 8 workshops, 18 projects, 15 teams, 30 different people
[Fig. 01] 8 workshops, 18 projects, 15 teams, 30 different people

Within 2 years, 8 workshops were completed, with 18 projects, 15 of them in teams, with about 4 team members on average, including 30 different people from 9 different countries.

[Fig. 02] Group work dynamics
[Fig. 02] Group work dynamics

This experience had a strong effect on the working processes and the dynamics of the group. Working within a team meant less executing an individual's ideas and more convincing each other to lead to a synergy of ideas. To be able to cope with such conditions, everyone needed to be in a position to grasp the overall picture of every project at all times: not only to deepen an individual understanding of a certain part, but to be able to transmit this recognition to become the common knowledge of the group. This resulted in a design process based on understanding, debating and compromise.

II. The Cloud | Non-hierarchical Learning

The intensity gained by focusing exclusively on one complex assignment is the key to a hands-on, pragmatic educational experience. [1]

[Fig. 03] Focus on one task
[Fig. 03] Focus on one task

It was this focus mentioned in the Charta, a focus on one subject and one task, which allowed for all the other components of the learning process to be incredibly versatile and non-hierarchical.

The two year schedule of ASG [ASG has been the colloquial abbreviation, the Ed.] consisted of regular classes, lectures, consultations, critiques, self-critiques, artistic input, exhibitions, site visits, tours, etc., their position in the schedule varying depending on the responsible universities and sometimes even depending on real time changes connected to the dynamic and mobile character of the programme [Fig. 04]. The number of people involved in offering input to the group was also unusually high for this number of students, due to the involvement of so many institutions. In addition to this, informal input through the feedback among the people in the group was present at all times, enhanced by the living conditions.

[Fig. 04] Distribution of input throughout the 2 years
[Fig. 04] Distribution of input throughout the 2 years

This chaotic field of input resulted in a learning process, through which it was impossible for one to define who they were learning from or at what exact point. Nothing was formal or informal, relevant or irrelevant. This would have been impossible if it had not been for the singularity of the task at hand. The task was the only constant, a goal always in the back of the students' minds, binding together all the fragments of information and experience.

This experience trained everyone to be more open to all means of input, not to easily exclude or categorize and to see focus not as a narrowing but rather as a widening of perception.

III. Insider's View?

Diverse building cultures are studied on the location, assignments developed in different urban contexts and in exchange with local stakeholders. [1]

For the alumni of ASG, working on site has been connected with living on site, spending a lot of effort on getting accustomed to the way of life, even in terms irrelevant to the formal task. It became a routine of arriving, finding establishment, exploring and only then asking for instructions.

[Fig. 05] Expanding the knowledge of the city of Wroclaw
[Fig. 05] Expanding the knowledge of the city of Wroclaw

The pattern of this routine for the city of Wroclaw, one of the stops of the journey of ASG, is depicted in the following map [Fig. 05]. Four reference points are marked, the groups' place of residence [Fig. 05 #1], the old town square [Fig. 05 #2], the university [Fig. 05 #3], and the site of the workshop [Fig. 05 #4].

Thanks to the programme, cities were not experienced through the viewpoint of a tourist, but also not through that of a local and not entirely through that of a professional or researcher. It was still mostly a visitor's viewpoint, but with a subconsciously analytical and understanding mood, which reveals more than the eye meets, at the same time filtering other aspects of everyday life through the prism of the task at hand.

This experience led to the inevitable comparison to what locals would think about the same issues that the group was investigating and maybe more importantly how their proposals for dealing with these issues would differ from the ones that the group would come up with. Is the insider's view the most appropriate for dealing with a challenge? Is the experience-based approach leading closer to a more "authorized" viewpoint?

Not necessarily. In fact, it would become more and more apparent that there is no such thing as a more authorized viewpoint. Visitors and locals can have equally limited or biased views on matters of the city depending on their backgrounds and interests. The guideline question seems to be not who we are but whom we are designing for.

IV. Conclusions

So, how can the effects of these characteristics be summed up? If ASG were to be viewed as a model for architectural education, what would be the profile of the architect that comes from it?

Three capabilities we would like to point out: Firstly, someone who is able to represent his/her ideas in any group to become the common knowledge of the group; secondly, someone who has been trained to absorb all types of input to channel it for a specific purpose; and finally, someone who is looking for all the stakeholders in the process in order to have an understanding of the context that is as wide as possible.

All in all, such a profile seems to relate very closely to the term generalist that was first mentioned from the Charta.

Juhani Pallasmaa beautifully describes the forgotten importance of peripheral vision in his book "The Eyes of the Skin".

A forest context, and richly moulded architectural space, provide ample stimuli for peripheral vision, and these settings centre us in the very space. The preconscious perceptual realm, which is experienced outside the sphere of focused vision, seems to be just as important existentially as the focused image. [2]

Traditionally, good architecture schools could be seen as the focused vision of architectural education – Masterfulness, attention to detail, strong understandable gestures. The focus of ASG is not in the same field. It is not trying to produce architecture masters, at least not by design. But it is offering an equivalently strong model for an alternative view. ASG could be seen as the peripheral vision of architectural education.

V. Epilogue: more Empathetic Architecture

Roman Krznaric characterizes the 20th century as the era of introspection, in which to discover who we are, we needed to look inside ourselves, a viewpoint which he criticizes for leading to a rather self-centred life prototype. He argues that our century should become the era of outrospection, where knowing ourselves would require first of all understanding the others and where empathy would be a fundamental value. [3]

The two year journey of ASG was a highly outrospective one. While travelling and discovering does not necessarily mean understanding or developing empathetic bonds, it is definitely a big step towards a less distanced viewpoint. In this aspect, ASG could be considered as an attempt to inject architectural education with a more empathetic component. Architects transmit their personal standpoint towards the situations they encounter. Even when attempting to be problem solvers or to represent interests, personal expression and decisions that come from within are always a strong component of their output. Hopefully, the experience of ASG was a step closer towards equilibrium between this inner world of the mind and the world outside.

[Ioannis Lykouras, Pille Noole, Patras-Tallinn, August 2014]

Endnotes

[1] Dagmar Jäger, Reiseuni Charta, 2008, signed by members of the Reiseuni_lab, Nov. 2010

[2] Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, West Sussex, England, 2005

[3] Roman Krznaric: RSA Animate - The Power of Outrospection, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG46IwVfSu8 (2013)

Ioannis Lykouras
Ioannis Lykouras

Ioannis Lykouras

Ioannis Lykouras is an alumnus of the first class of the MSc in Architecture programme Architektur. Studium. Generale. He was born in Pyrgos, Greece and grew up in Patras. He holds a Diploma in Civil Engineering from the University of Patras and is a licenced member of the Technical Chamber of Greece. Together with his fellow students in A.S.G, Üllar Ambos, Kaisa Lasner and Pille Noole, he is a founding member of the architecture office LÜNK arhitektid in Tallinn, Estonia.

Pille Noole
Pille Noole

Pille Noole

Pille Noole was brought up in Saku, a small town in Estonia and studied architecture at the Tallinn University of Applied Sciences, from which she attained a Diploma of Applied Architecture. She joined the first class of A.S.G the same year and now holds an MSc in Architecture. With three other students of the postgraduate programme, Üllar Ambos, Kaisa Lasner and Ioannis Lykouras, she is a founding member of the architecture office LÜNK arhitektid in Tallinn, Estonia.

 

Synopsis, reflections and conclusions after two intense years of travelling around Europe, designing architecture, experiencing cultural differences, learning from different positions, facing challenges, experimenting with interdisciplinary approaches, exchanging knowledge, improving skills, exploring new places and meeting people. Retrospect and prospect between the experimental international Master's Programme and the next step as an architect.

After finishing my architectural studies in Tallinn and working in architectural offices, I continued my journey in an international Master's Programme Architektur.Studium.Generale [ASG] or the so-called 'Reiseuni'. The name 'Reiseuni' excellently summarizes the essence and the main value of the study programme - learning through travelling.

As pioneers of this experimental study method, we experienced all its advantages and challenges. Its most important peculiarity was mobility, which confronted us with different approaches to architecture and various design methods, as well as that the programme experience developed our ability to work in teams, to be critical and to question. Being constantly on the move required an ability to adapt fast and take the maximum out of everything at the given time. Somebody from our group put it very well: "We were having like shots of architecture"- efficient and fast.

Learning through travelling is very important in our field, especially in the light of changed environmental and economic conditions, which have transformed our cities and societies. Therefore, the range of questions and problems architects have to face nowadays has to be broadened. Coming from a small country and being faced merely with local architectural positions and issues, I highly value the experience of ASG, which widened my perspective on architecture and way of looking at things through different contexts, positions and questions raised.

I. Architectural and Urban Challenges

My architectural education has a great impact on the way I see architecture. So how do I see this intercultural education after two years have passed since my graduation? Albert Einstein has said, "Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." Therefore, what is it that I remember from ASG - what kind of education did I receive and what did I gain from it?

Looking back to the series of all passed workshops, the range of topics and problems we dealt with has been wide. Under each given topic, we developed very different approaches and focused on various aspects. All the workshops have been accompanied by site-specific and/or interest-based research. The field of knowledge and experience gained has been very broad – including issues not only about architecture and urban planning, but also about different cultures, people and places. Moreover, it is not only the input from the lectures, critics and tours – it is also due to working within the synergy of the group and learning from each other.

For this reason, the problems and topics we had to face were from one extreme to the other. To begin with, the sites we were analysing and intervening on were in different contexts – historical, industrial, natural, touristic etc. The tasks were with different, often opposite emphasis. Considering the geographically wide span of our journey, we had to deal with opposite climatic conditions – cooling and reducing heat gain in some places while heating and reducing the heat loss in others. Apart from climate, also the demographic problems were different. In nowadays Europe, decreasing population and abundance of empty buildings is an imperative problem. During the Master's Programme we were dealing with the problem of shrinking cities in Cottbus, Tyrol and Costa del Sol, while inversely, one of the most relevant issues in Tel Aviv is the fast growing population and lack of space.

[Fig. 01]
[Fig. 01] Master's Thesis at Sevilla

Another important issue in the light of globalization and increased mobility is tourism, which has changed our lifestyles and has become a global phenomenon. Controversially, while being an antidote of industrialized world, it has become an industry itself, in fact, the largest one in the world. Therefore, it is crucial for many national and local economies. Alongside with its benefits, tourism constitutes a great danger for local culture and environment, being the enemy of authenticity and cultural identity. Therefore, architects and urban planners have to face the consequences of growing pressure of tourism and its seasonality, at the same time not forgetting its importance.

While thinking of future cities and building a better society, we are confronted with finding the balance between utopia and tradition, high-tech and low-tech – whether it is better to reconsider and reinvent everything or learn from history. When building into an existing context, we face the dilemma of conservation versus destruction. We need to preserve the authenticity and identity of certain buildings and heritage. First, it is important to identify these values worth conserving, because often it is the most expensive option. In the context of shrinking cities, it is necessary to discuss the necessity and feasibility of conservation and reconstruction of such buildings. In terms of memory and sustainability, it might be relevant to consider destruction as an option for buildings of that kind.

As an intermediary option or compromise between conservation and destruction, we discussed the question of restructuring during the workshops. There is a thin line between conservation and transformation, as doing nothing does not preserve the building in its current state and it will keep decaying. Intervention, however, means transformation. Concerning historical context and pre-existing structures, different approaches to transformation were conferred during the Master's Programme – aesthetical, functional, spatial and programmatic. Transformation, as often the most expedient option, can be an intervention, addition, subtraction or extraction.

There were more topics, which repeatedly emerged throughout the workshops, oftentimes in opposite contexts. Additionally, I would point out sustainability. Sustainability is gaining more and more importance in the context of increasing ecological problems and economic crises. Rather than alternative topics to discuss, sustainability is becoming a necessity, being included in the regulations. Nevertheless, the problem, which might oftentimes be overlooked, is social sustainability. In the expansion of human knowledge and technological development, we cannot forget the most important thing - face-to-face communication. The architecture of our time should be the facilitator to reduce social alienation and stratification by creating places for meeting-up and interaction and thus enhance the sense of community.

Therefore, I can conclude that these topics are most relevant and crucial in nowadays Europe and need further research and discussion. However, all of these issues in mind, we may raise a question - what is the role of architects and architecture in all of this? Architecture and urban planning are only components of a larger scene. Are not we, as architects, setting ourselves a task, which we are unable to fulfil? Even if architects could be able to comprehend the context fully, architecture can never solve all the problems. However, we should keep investigating the limits of our profession in order to create architecture, which could function as a connection device, facilitator, enhancer and a catalyst in our cities and society.

II. Intercultural Experience

During and after the Master's Programme, the question that I have been most frequently asked is, "What is your favourite country or workshop of ASG?" It is a simple question, which is impossible for me to answer. The whole experience was so multifaceted that it cannot be generalized. In order to evaluate the workshops, I need to determine criteria. In my mind, there is a complex combination of opinions and impressions about the country, the city, the school, the workshop, the professors, the methodology, the lectures, the team I worked with, the project, the living conditions, leisure time activities, personal life and relations. There is no workshop, where all of the aspects were positive or negative. There are always some criteria, which can be highlighted about each of them - strong points or weaknesses. Thus, I do not know, which was my favourite workshop or architecture school, but what I do know is that there is something to learn from each of them.

So to describe my education from ASG, I picked some criteria or keywords, which describe each of the workshops best in my mind and analyse these aspects in the light of how they have influenced me.

[Fig. 02]
[Fig. 02] WS0 Architectours

Before the workshops, we had a six weeks preparation in Cottbus, so-called Propaedeuticum ["Design Methods 1"], which included lectures and different tasks and most importantly started the ArchitecTours tradition, which was a very important part of the programme – a way to see and experience most relevant sites of the city and to gain lots of input from different tour guides.

[Fig. 03]
[Fig. 03] WS 01 Cottbus

Cottbus workshop allowed us to analyse the topics of dealing with memory and to find an aesthetic approach by transforming of buildings - programmes through artistic and scientific research and design strategies. Therefore, not only the design methods were interdisciplinary, but also the research.

[Fig. 04]
[Fig. 04] WS 02 Tallinn

Tallinn workshop focused on sustainability. Firstly, there was an intense discussion on what sustainability means after all and what is sustainable. The second important issue was site-specificity of sustainable development, because environmental problems and issues of sustainability are different according to the location. Therefore, different plots all over the world were chosen and the variety of problems was analysed. Our project in Tallinn derived from the question – what is sustainable – low-tech or high-tech? Should we use lots of resources and energy to produce high-tech materials, which are not biodegradable, to build houses, which consume less energy, or should we use traditional materials and simple solutions for building and saving energy?

[Fig. 05]
[Fig. 05] WS 03 Lisbon

What I liked about Lisbon workshop were master classes and case study analyses. Case study is a useful tool that I started using since then to find inspiration for my projects. When other workshops widened our perspective and pushed us to think out of the box, then in a way, Lisbon workshop put us back to the box – which means it was limiting and restricting us in a good way. It taught us to question ourselves, to dispose everything you created [image-including yourself] and go back to the beginning, to restart, to reconsider and to be critical. I still have this white box in the back of my head, reminding me from time to time: "this is not architecture", "white", "less is more"...

[Fig. 06]
[Fig. 06] WS 04 Wroclaw

The key term for Wroclaw workshop was scenarios. Scenario development for the area of Wroclaw Industrial Park included analysis of the performance of the site and the influence on the entire city. In the process of developing and choosing the right scenario for the plot, it was important to know how to sell your idea and how to make it feasible. A relevant part was the analysing of scenarios – what happens, if everything goes according to the plan, if everything goes different or if nothing changes. Additionally, a very important experience of this workshop was analysing other people's work as well as collating your own ideas. This was very helpful for learning how to give constructive critics to colleagues.

[Fig. 07]
[Fig. 07] WS 05 Innsbruck

In Innsbruck workshop, we were designing a sustainable, self-sufficient and innovative future city in the mountains. Whatever the vision was, it was crucial to have a story behind your concept. Therefore, inspiration was drawn from bi­ology, art, science fiction etc. By this narrative, it was better to analyse the assets and weak points of the project.

[Fig. 08]
[Fig. 08] WS 06 Sevilla

In Sevilla workshop, we approached the coastal territory with two small exercises – an installation, which gave us the opportunity to interpret the concept through interdisciplinary tools and a dérive, which gave new notions of the site and ideas for the project. In addition, the topic of Sevilla workshop is very important – destruction and overdevelopment of coastal areas and loss of identity due to their interpretation as solely sun and beach destinations. This is a problem concerning not only Spain, but also coastal areas across Europe. I found this topic very interesting and worth investigating. Therefore, I made my Master's thesis on the same topic - consolidating the fragmented coastal areas and creating spatial continuity on the example of Costa del Sol.

[Fig. 09]
[Fig. 09] WS 07 Tel Aviv – Architectour Jerusalem

What describes Tel Aviv workshop is, firstly, the fact that of all the countries, Israel was the most exotic one for me with very interesting ArchiTours. Secondly, the complexity of the site (concept diagram of the site) of Tel Aviv workshop, which is like a bleeding wound in the central and exclusive location of the city, reflected the points at issue in the city of Tel Aviv and in Israel. Therefore, historical, political and social problems were important to research and analyse to approach the site.

[Fig. 10]
[Fig. 10] WS 08 Berlin

Berlin workshop gave us an opportunity to approach urban and architectural questions from a very different angle - by investigations of the relationship between body, sound, moving image and space. In that workshop, we had an excellent group with a very good synergy. Nevertheless, we also had to face many differences, but with our differences, we complemented each other. Adding Ioannis to this group, with whom we all had worked with in previous workshops, we got a team for our future – Üllar, Pille, Ioannis and me made competitions after the Master and were successful. Moreover, we plan to continue this fruitful teamwork in the future as well.

III. Meaning and Context

We were able to aggregate all these elements to a common denominator – design context. 'Design context' could refer to everything that surrounds the process of planning, inventing and devising architecture – to the circumstances in which we work and the setting, which determines the meaning of our creation. Our works throughout the workshops are determined by the context. As a word could have very different meanings in different contexts, the environment in which we design, gives different implication to our creation. After the Master, I am not only influenced by the given context of the project, but also by connotations of all the design contexts of Reiseuni.

Nevertheless, the intercultural experience is no bed of roses. Being constantly on the move and out of our comfort zones, away from our homes, friends and families, working hard with tight schedules and harsh critics, pushed us to our limits. It is not surprising that conflicts arose, considering the fact that we were 19 strong personalities from eight different countries working and living together in confined conditions. In spite of all, I think that the pain and gain of cultural differences made us better people and architects.

In some countries and architecture schools, there were strongly established positions, whereas in others it was more open and tolerant. I feel as if some of the students were stuck in their dogmas and were a bit narrow-minded about new approaches in the beginning. They were stuck in their own style and they did not take full advantage of the given input. Analysing my own background, I think my previous education was rather an open and tolerant one, even too tolerant I would say. In my opinion, it is the general problem of Estonian architecture – it is very chaotic, without its own identity. Therefore, it was easy for me to profit more from different approaches and formulate my own position. I began to develop my own style and more solid preferences, thanks to the juxtaposition of outermost perspectives. For sure, there are going to be a lot more things influencing my perception, approach and position towards architecture in the future, but what I believe is that Reiseuni has given me a lot of influence in a good direction.

IV. Interdisciplinarity

ASG was intended to be an interdisciplinary programme combining students from different fields. However, the group turned out not being so interdisciplinary – it consisted mostly of architects. We had two people with other backgrounds – an engineer, who turned out to be more of an architect than most of us in the group; and a sociologist, who preferred working on his own rather than exchanging knowledge with group of architects. So there we were - group of architects - instead of students from different disciplines profiting from each other's specific knowledge. We were rather people with similar knowledge trying to differ from each other or stand out through taking different directions within the same field. Thus, we can still say that our education was interdisciplinary, because we were diversifying our approaches through taking references from other disciplines, researching different fields of interest, trying to combine various subjects in architecture. The rich results of our work derived from testing the limits of architecture.

While the programme was not that interdisciplinary in terms of students, it was without doubt interdisciplinary in terms of professors, lecturers, input and critics. The lecturers and professors included architects, urban planners, artists, historians and others. In addition to the lectures about the country, the city and the site, we got input and inspiration from other fields and sources – films, art, photography, design, politics etc. Large variety of new ideas, concepts and solutions resulted from combination of different nationalities, cultural backgrounds, personalities, experiences, design methods, tools, skills, opinions, positions and interdisciplinary input.

V. Personal Experience and Future

I personally feel that I learned a lot during the Master's Programme. Our group was more uneven and on different levels in the beginning. I think we all pushed ourselves forward and developed due to the friendly professional competition within the group. At all events, I evolved due to the need for self-certification and the wish not to be overshadowed by the others.

To point out some of the strengths of the programme, I have to say that architectural education on the move has advanced my ability to research, discover new contexts and work out concepts in a short time. Furthermore, I feel that Reiseuni complimented my previous education, which was mainly technical and pragmatic. The Master's Programme improved my presentation skills – not only the ability to express myself, but also the visual quality of projects, drawings, presentations and posters. Since the workshops were quite short, we did not delve too much into technical details, but instead focused on combining strong concept with visual quality.

Moreover, Reiseuni promoted my ability to be critical, to question, to think beyond the boundaries and out of the box. The experience has expanded my worldview in terms of limits of architecture within Europe. Above all, after the end of the Master's Programme, I consider the gained self-confidence, eagerness and passion for architecture the most important values.

Now, with the international Master's Certificate, my professional aims are to use and develop all the gained knowledge in practice. I want to give my contribution to the development of Estonian architecture with the international experience and of course, continue collaboration with my great Reiseuni team.

[Kaisa Lasner, Tallinn, December 2014]

Dipl.-Ing. Kaisa Lasner M.Sc

Kaisa Lasner
[Fig. 11] Kaisa-Lasner 2014-12-03

Born and raised in Estonia, obtained her first diploma in architecture in Tallinn University of Applied Sciences. Having worked in architectural offices for two years during the studies, continued practicing architecture for a year before complementing her education in the international Master's Programme Architektur.Studium.Generale. After the master has been participating in design competitions with a team from ASG, where they have succeeded to win a I prize in designing a beach area in Pirita and a II prize in designing a church in Mustamäe and Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn. Currently working as an architect in ConArte OÜ, where her latest projects are Sports Hall in Jüri and State Gymnasium in Kärdla.

 

REFLEKTOR displays the unique Master's Programme 'Architektur.Studium.Generale' – a travelling group of students within a European Architecture Dialogue. Like a mirror, it mind-maps the content of a two-year educational experience and reveals teaching methods of ten different universities giving six-week-tasks. Listed are both years: class-01 and class-02 from 2010 to 2013.

Through interactive expansion and collapse of a giant tree diagram – created by FreeMind software – workshop compositions and schedules become comparable regardless of their chronological order. When all is said and done, a selection of the student's results can be found at the end of each workshop.

Additionally, personal reflexions show individual response to influences that the experience of places and of workshops left behind – an incredible comprehension that made students as well as professors benefit from the heterogeneous, rich and diverse university landscape and architectural culture of Europe.

Idea

[Fig. 01] Reflektor Start
[Fig. 01] Reflektor Start

The beginning of REFLEKTOR can be constituted at the end of the Master's Programme in 2012. It was scheduled reflection time [workshop Design Methods, Reflection 2]. Students were writing and summarising what they experienced and what they wanted to tie up with in their thesis.

It was a good point to breathe, rethink and review all the material that has been produced over the past one and a half years.

As for me, a simple mind-mapping process of personal significance started where appropriate keywords were found for workshops and results. A variety of architectural and multidisciplinary aspects formed the content of two years. This 'container' was then used to compare workshops and to understand – and to finally make a decision.

The idea was born to fill the container with universal information but leading to the same – compare workshops and understand, an explanatory tool not only for me but also for you.

Now REFLEKTOR displays the unique Master's Programme 'Architektur.Studium.Generale' – a travelling group of students within a European Architecture Dialogue. Like a digital mirror it mind-maps the content of a two-year educational experience and reveals teaching methods of ten different universities giving six-week-tasks. Listed are both years: class-01 and class-02 from 2010 to 2013.

Manual

[Fig. 02] Reflektor – Fork of Üllar Ambos
[Fig. 02_1-5] Reflektor – Fork of Üllar Ambos, Class-01

  1. REFLEKTOR consists of a digital mind-map based on FreeMind software. A mind-map, also considered a spider-gram, is a diagram used to visually organise information by 'using lines and circles for organising information so that it is easier to use or remember'.
  1. 2.   Technically: Before using REFLEKTOR, please make sure Flash is enabled on your electronic device and browser. By clicking on the link, a new tab window opens and you will see the origin of the tree diagram with its main branches. On top of the window you will find navigation buttons that help you zooming, searching for key words or even let you change the background-colour. Simply navigate with your track pad or mouse and start using it.
  2. 3.   Through interactive expansion and collapse of the tree structure, workshop compositions and schedules become visible and can be compared regardless of their chronological order. Main components of the tree structure as follows: University name, workshop Nº and title, main workshop structure, type of submission, selection of student's results. Results were all arranged on a coherent presentation format of 1x1 m posters* that has been introduced at the beginning of the Master's Programme. Its purpose – to subsequently summarise and reflect upon the design and work process of each workshop.

* The posters show their original titles from the online archive where the student works have been collected and managed during the travel. It contains exact submission-date, workshop-number and names of the team members.

Prospect

Additionally, personal reflexions show individual response to influences that places and workshops left behind. The idea is to gradually feed and complete the mind-map with contributors of the Master's, me as part of an internal evaluation process to be seen from outside.

[Anne Groß, Berlin, September 2014]

 

Introduction

[Fig. 01]
[Fig. 01] Palestine wall

We understand our learning in three concepts: landscapes, time and distances. We can actually, as a first approach, measure the Master's experiences in distances. We did 45.000 km by plane, 11.000 km by train, 5.000 km by bus, 2.500 km by motorbike and 200 km by bike.

[Fig. 02]
[Fig. 02] Our bikes

Obviously when we travel, we remember places, buildings, landscapes but we mainly remember the people who we met and situations we experienced with them. These two years were also a story about people and friendship.

We are Players

Our attitude to this Master's Programme was from the beginning, to understand it as an opportunity for free expression and mental experimentation. The Master's Programme was the perfect setting to implement a working method based on a systematic freedom of the creative process.

[Fig. 03]
[Fig. 03] Cottbus Workshop – 99 ways of deconstruction

Gambling is a form of learning practiced by many mammals to test the skills to survive into adulthood.

We can play alone or with others. When you play with other people the result is much more complex and fun. Dialogue and conversation are key parts of this process.

Fig. 04]
[Fig. 04] Les Joueurs de cartes

Johann Huizinga, in his essay on the social function of the game tells of "homo ludens" as the evolution of "homo faber": A man who builds his life on the game as a tool for social change and as a creative method.

The author describes as follows:

"Because, after all, we are not as reasonable as he had imagined, we considered it appropriate to add to the first definition of our species, Homo sapiens, Homo faber. Now, the second expression is even less adequate to define than the first, since Faber can designate any animal. And what is true of the act of making, it is also about the game: many animals play. By contrast, the expression Homo ludens, 'the man who plays', in my opinion reflects a function as essential as to manufacture and therefore deserves a place alongside the term Homo faber".

Play involves improvisation, involves following rules, involves mixing things. Somehow, we understand interdisciplinary strategies as a way to play more, a method where the introduction of new approaches provides important concepts in the generation of the project strategy.

"A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that result in a quantifiable outcome." (Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman)

A game is how we understand creativity and in the end, architecture.

[Fig. 05]
[Fig. 05] Tel-Aviv Workshop – Microtower City

We are Nomads

Pierre Dupont is the protagonist of the prologue of the book of "non-places" of Marc Augé. It introduces us to a man travelling by plane and asks the question:

"These days, surely, it was in these crowded places where thousand of individual itineraries converged for a moment, unaware of one another, that there survived something of the uncertain charm of the waste lands, the yards and the building sites, the station platforms and waiting rooms where travellers break step, of all the chances meeting places where fugitive feeling occur of the possibility of continuing adventure, the feeling that all there is to do is to 'see what happens'".

[Fig. 06]
[Fig. 06] First trip to Cottbus

In the past two years we have been to over 16 countries and travelled thousands of miles. We do not know how many hours we have spent in airports, subways, buses, etc... In a way we felt like Pierre Dupont.

This master has been an experience where life is based more on the trip and we learned along the way. A reflection of the new society based increasingly on individual mobility.

Interestingly, in our personal experience "non-places" and "places" have mixed creating a new concept of "nomad place". The trip has become a corridor between the cities in which we lived. Living in a city six weeks is enough time for me to feel at home and to consider it a "nomad place".

[Fig. 07] Coal mines in Cottbus, photo by Sebastian Seyfarth
[Fig. 07] Coal mines in Cottbus, photo by Sebastian Seyfarth

We start then to consider architecture as a bridge that connects points in the space and time.

We – Forgetting the End. Conclusions

"No matter how many times I repeat myself that such coincidences happen more often than we realize, as we all moves one after the other by the same paths traced for us by our origins and our hopes. My rational mind is unable to take me out the ghosts of repetition that haunt me with increasing frequency. Rarely have company but it seems as if he had heard the same views expressed by the same people here and there, in the same way, with same words, with the same expressions and gestures... Maybe there is phenomenon of duplication phenomenon, still unexplained, some kind of anticipation of the end, a venture vacuum, like a gramophone repeating repetitively the same sequence of notes, it has less to do with a breakdown of the machine but with an irreparable error in its programming."

[W. G. Sebald, 'The Rings of Saturn']

For us, Sebald tries to describe a homogeneous landscape, orphan of creative processes and experimental positions. It is homogeneous in a dimension that it feels like something that repeats once and again. The globalization of "tools" involves a globalization of the "results", the repetition of "products" here and there. But the solution probably does not appear in the change of the "game pieces" but in its rules.

[Fig. 08]
[Fig. 08] Forget

Extrapolating Sebald's text, it is not difficult to see that nowadays architecture ranges inside and outside of schools as a process of repetition – repetition of tools, repetition of the ways in which they are implemented and, in many cases, repetitions of the final result of the architectures.

To the same degree as with boredom, the automatism as method involves the death of architecture. At least it is death as a creative act and as a scientific challenge.

In many ways it is probable that we take so much time listening to the beginning and end of the architecture that is now ours. As Sebald says, this has more to do with the dynamics of the machine itself.

During the past two years of our lives and careers we learned, or at least so we have understood, a process of unlearning the end of things.

[Fig. 09,10,11,12]
[Fig. 09, 10, 11, 12]

There is a direct relationship between the ability to control the results of an experiment and the probability of unexpected results. In contrary to what happens in disciplines such as biology, architecture draws from these facts as small-uncontrolled reactions that are linked to the process of creating architecture.

[Fig. 13,14]
[Fig. 13, 14] Stasi Building in Cottbus

Our experience in the master offered the perfect place to experience new forms of thought that opened the door to the "no control" landscape, a fantastic period of time where we learned to forget the end – the end result of our architecture and the end result of our own creativity. We learned not to make the processes known to never know our destination paths.

[Fig. 15]
[Fig. 15, 15a]

Bakpak

We are players, we are nomads, we are BakPak. Since the creation of BakPak Architects two years ago, we have understood its birth as an inevitable consequence, as a necessary structure that would support the new approaches generated in the past years.

[Fig. 16] Team
[Fig. 16] Team

In a more theoretical sense we implemented the " BakPak-method " based on the above principles (homo ludens) and in a strategic sense we created an international network that gives us the ability to work around the world and keep advancing in our global understanding of architecture (nomads).

[Fig. 17] Bosque Pesquero
[Fig. 17] Bosque Pesquero

[Jose A, Pavón González, Jose de la Peña Goméz-Millán, Sevilla, August 2014]

Literature

  • De Bono, Edward: Lateral Thinking: creativity step by step. 1970
  • Sebald, Winfred Georg: Die Ringe des Saturn. Eine englische Wallfahrt. 1995, eng. 1998
  • Gordon, William J.J.: Synectics: The Development of Creative Capacity. 1961
  • Huizinga, Johann: Homo Lumens: A study of the play-element in culture. 1955
  • Augé, Marc: Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity. 2009

Vita

Jose A. Pavón González

Fig. Jose1]
[Fig. Jose1] Jose A. Pavón González

Born in Huelva (Spain) in 1983. He studied architecture in Seville and Valencia and completed his studies in September 2008. In that year he received a grant to work in the international studio EMBT (Barcelona). From 2009 to 2010 he is The City Architect of Jabugo, where he has been developing public space projects. He founded his office PIPO in 2010. He took part in the ASG Master's Programme from 2010 to 2012. He is research assistant in the department of history and architectural composition at the University of Seville from 2011 to 2012. In 2013 he founded the office of architecture BAKPAK.

Jose de la Peña Goméz-Millán

[Fig. Jose2]
[Fig. Jose2] Jose de la Peña Goméz-Millán

Born in Seville (Spain) in 1984. He studied architecture in Seville and completed his studies in September 2010. Before finishing his studies, he has been working in the office of Ignacio de la Peña Architects and Guillermo Vazquez Consuegra Architects in Seville. He founded his own office Sala de Tierra in 2010. From 2010 to 2012, he took part in the ASG Master's Programme. From 2011 to 2012, he has been research assistant in the department of history and architectural composition at the University of Sevill and now acts as Assistant professor in the University of Seville. In 2013 he founded BAKPAK architects.

 

Introduction

This article is a personal reflection on my architectural education – a university travel-experience. I develop a comparison between the 'Grand Tour' [1] and a contemporary journey in our fast moving globalized network. As for a representational person from each of the generations I am going to choose Karl Friedrich Schinkel and me. The focus lays on facts and narrations of both their journeys, trying to find contrasts in processes, adventures or even in small habits. What are the differences in 200 years of educational traveling? Are there individual advantages the other generations never had or have no access to anymore?

[1] The Grand Tour was the traditional trip of Europe and served as an educational rite of passage. The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary.

Facts from the Journey

[Fig. 01: Schinkel's Portrait]
[Fig. 01] Schinkel's Portrait

[Fig. 02: Sebastian's Portrait]
[Fig. 02] Sebastian's Portrait

Schinkel was born in 1781. At the age of 22 he started his first Italian journey. In 2010, at the age of 25, I did my educational journey approximately 200 years later. Both journeys have the same basic idea of learning through traveling – learning from landscape, people and culture within a timeframe of 2 years. Schinkel took conventional means of transportation, like a carriage or a boat, with which he was traveling over 6.000 km. In an almost continuous line he passed through Prussia [2] , Habsburg [3] , Italy and France. In contrast: I visited 12 countries and passed over 30.000 km.

[2] Prussia - mainly today parts of Germany and Poland

[3] Habsburg - mainly today parts of Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary

Major differences and similarities

Both of us were not traveling alone during that time. His friend Johann Gottfried Steinmeyer and an assistance-traveling group including guides accompanied Schinkel. For the period of traveling towards a next destination they connected to overcome the challenges, which lied ahead on their journey. Once reaching a city and moving into the accommodated place, the group used to split up into smaller groups or members even started on their own to explore the new surroundings.

My fellow students and me used to have a different group composition. In total we were a group of 19 students including my beloved partner Anne Groß and me. When moving towards a next workshop location, mostly each of the members started their individual travel. Some took the opportunity and visited another city, friends or remote relatives and some simply went home to pic up some forgotten odds and ends. Others even went directly towards the new location to spend as much time as possible to become immersed in the culture, adventure and daily routine. Once everybody from the group arrived we attended local observation, excursions and lectures all together.

Cartography from the journey

[Fig. 03: Schinkel's Map]
[Fig. 03] Schinkel's Map

[Fig. 04: Sebastian's Map]
[Fig. 04] Sebastian's Map

When comparing the itinerary of Karl Friedrich Schinkel with my own, one can recognize different patterns of travel behaviour. Schinkel approaches his journey on a continuous linear path, where he went from destination to destination. Berlin is his starting and final destination. My own travel-route engrosses a wider span of Europe. The connection lines on the map are crossing each other in a zigzag shape pattern and therefore create a much undistinguishable order with less chronological readability. Berlin has also been my start and final destination during this 2-year journey, but in comparison to Schinkel I had passed it for several times. The actual travel distance between 2 spots does no longer have a major affect on the duration. Two hours of reading a book or listening to some inspirational music is enough to bring you almost across Europe. Schinkel and his group had to spent a 5-day trip for the transfer between Vienna and Trieste. By taking much more time for each individual transfer they had the chance to visit plenty of places along the route on the flip side: Cities, villages and farms but also all layers of nature that came across their way. However, the idea of small field trips or 'Architectours' has been applied to both of the journeys. While being stationed in a bigger settlement for some days, the group was exploring the nearby environment during small day trips.

A Story from the Journey

A painting, drawing or a simple sketch can be seen as a tool to understand and reflect on what we are perceiving and experiencing. Schinkel as well as myself have used this tool of perception, whereas I will select one drawing from each to display an example of the individual approach to a part of the travel.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel's journey

[Fig. 05: View from the cape of the Adriatic Sea towards Trieste and its harbour]
[Fig. 05] View from the cape of the Adriatic Sea towards Trieste and its harbour

The journey is the reward

This drawing shows a view from the cape of the Adriatic Sea towards Trieste and its harbours.

A journey consists of a starting point and a destination point. A longer journey however is divided into several checkpoints or more sub-starting and sub-destination points. On Schinkel's trip from Prague towards Trieste at the Adriatic Sea he had to pass the mountain range of the eastern Alps. During this part of the journey he and his group had to fight against major temperature differences. They had been equipped with plenty of clothes, cloaks and furs and had to spend numerous amounts of energy and time to overcome that passage. After passing through, they arrived at a different climate and a different culture. Landscape changed as tangible evidence for the act of traveling. Rocky, frigid and meagre environment alternated to fertile and multifarious green vegetation. Landscape as a constant companion who was inevitably embracing him every moment of his journey with all its richness and variety. Temperature, smell and sounds changed in a soft transition along Schinkel's approach and prepared him for the new environment.

The moment of arrival

After several days of travel, Schinkel and his group finally could see small indications of the actual travel destination. Reaching a top of a hillside revealed a view of a wide ocean surface. Hundreds of feet downwards he overlooked the city of Trieste. The ocean, the city, its periphery, local farmers and their country houses are all in this one picture – a moment of peacefulness and satisfaction, which lasted for some hours. Now he could take his time, they had finally arrived!

Schinkel pulled out his drawing equipment and started sketching the environment but also the whole situation – a moment of arrival after a long, moody but also positively enchanting journey through the idiosyncrasies of nature. He had been in that spot and in that moment and drew his perception until dusk. They continued to the city and arrived when it already laid in the darkness of the night.

Sebastian Seyfarth's journey

[Fig. 06: Unfinished construction ruin of a planned resort in the area of Manilva and Sabinillas]
[Fig. 06] Unfinished construction ruin of a planned resort in the area of Manilva and Sabinillas

This drawing shows the unfinished construction ruin of a planned resort in the area of Manilva and Sabinillas. In 2012 I found by coincident a 3-year-old picture of this place during a web research on the southern cost of Spain. This image persuaded me to take a plane to Malaga and examine the situation at a closer look. From Malaga airport I hitchhiked over 100 km with 4 different people along the Costa del Sol to step-by-step approach the city of Manilva. On that journey from Malaga, I recognized more of the same abandoned construction ruin typology as in my reference.

>>>Vol:III_11.2: Sketchbook Sebastian Seyfarth

When finally arrived in Manilva, I was able to stay at somebody's home; a possibility, I found in just the same way, as I found this picture: during a web research. On the next day we explored the nearby surroundings together. Continuing further on my own, I passed along a market where I bought some strawberries. I went along the coast for a while, when I realized that moving in parallel to the coast is difficult due to the hardly passable highway infrastructure and the many gated communities. Finally, I got to see the site from my reference picture. Approaching the place from far I got into neighbouring buildings to take a glance from a higher outer perspective. From there, it looked surprisingly similar to that 3-year-old picture.

Did nothing change on that ephemeral situation?

On a closer approach I saw the flora, which was growing across the place like an inhabitant of the ruins. Now the nature is conquering the concrete, which had been once the actual intruder. Once inside, I perceived it in reality for the first time, with all the senses of smelling and touching. I took a stroll along a muddy path, which meant to be a street on some never achieved moment. To all sides I was encircled with never finished ruins. A construction site surrounded by cranes which gave the impression of a still growing urban fabric. However, the cranes had been idle for some years and the construction fields abandoned. Even construction debris littered the site, such as ten thousands of bricks still wrapped and unused. The buildings are nothing more than skeletons, ruins, concrete slaps as floors and columns to support these floors. At the end of this presumed street I took a couple of pictures with my camera. On the next thought, I decided to sit down, ate a couple of strawberries and started to draw a sketch of this scene.

What was this strange inspiring place with all its possibilities? I thought about the ruins, their natural appearance and decay. Doesn't someone want to use this place? Should it stay like this to maintain its absurd poetry? How can a participatory design process integrate man, the abandoned and nature and making use of the place as a collective good?

This drawing is an addition to the sketch I have done on-site. It shows how I perceived it and explored it by climbing through and on top the skeleton structures. In addition, it points out my perception of disconnection, which I perceived not only at that spot but also throughout my entire journey along the coast.

Conclusion

Todays journey is still a reward?

What changed about traveling in the last 200 years? Again, let us compare Schinkel's act of traveling to the relatively large variety of transportation possibilities for traveling nowadays. Not only the greater offer and the timeframe of travel have changed radically, but also the fact that traveling today mainly happens through transit spaces, the places, which Marc Augé defines as Non-places, exchangeable spaces without identity or any evidence of location and culture. Additionally, there is no longer a dramatic influence through the weather or the seasons to transportation vehicles. They developed into weather proof sealed up and air conditioned boxes, whereas we are going to lose the connection to local rooted characteristics like smell, moist, heat and more, ending up by hardly getting touched by a single drop of rain. 

Today's moment of arrival

In 2011 Anne and I planned the travel from Berlin to the Seville workshop, but instead of going directly by plane we decided to first drive to Paris by taking a bus. This bus ride was during the night. Unfortunately, the time we would have in Paris was limited to just a couple of hours. We left the highway and entered the bus terminal already being inside the urban fabric of downtown Paris. Unfortunately our bus was delayed and we continued with several local underground trains towards another bus terminal, from where we would go to the airport. Driving across the whole city we ended up with no time to eventually leave the transportation network and see anything different other than the transit Non-places of Paris. The moment we departed with our plane, we left the city as instantly as we arrived in it. Somehow we had never been in Paris on that day.

To draw a conclusion, both of the trips represent different approaches towards traveling. Schinkel's journey focuses on the act of traveling itself, learning from adventure and experiencing on the way, whereas my travel focused on learning in specific places, the way to those localities however were minor cases. Schinkel's journey had been a much more time-consuming approach with all its happy accidents along the path, his fantastic moments of arrival and the overall disconnected experiences in the abundance of nature. While traveling with nowadays possibilities, one has the advantage of choosing. Being able to continue if there is the slightest touch of inconvenience. In fact such kind of travel also holds certain dangers. During our 2 years, we experience thousands of adventures in quite a short time but thousands of others were left behind unseen. What we enjoyed in one place got lost in another. The faster the travel and the shorter the ephemeral experience lasted, the less intensive and superficial the perception of a place, its culture and people became. The most crucial element of a decision of travel-approaches is again the time which one is willing to invest. A journey in a car on local rural countryside roads seems to be a good conjunction of conventional travel approaches with todays travel tools. For my next journeys I will keep in mind that the way itself is already an important layer of the travel experience and that it is worthwhile to consider a personal appropriate moment of arrival.

[Sebastian Seyfarth, Berlin, January 2015]

Sources:

  • Riemann, Gottfried (1979). Karl Friedrich Schinkel - Reise nach Italien. Edition 1, German Democratic Republic/Berlin: Rütten&Loening.
  • Zandow, Mario Alexander (2001). Karl Friedrich Schinkel - Ein Sohn der Spätaufklärung. Stuttart/London: Axel Menges.
  • Augé, Marc (1992). Non-Lieux - Introduction à une Anthropologie de la Surmodernité. Paris: Le Seuil.

 

Architectural education has changed and evolved throughout the years. The École Des Beaux-Arts and the Bauhaus are the models that today are still the base for architectural education and the dominant paradigm in academia, being seen as the main learning setting for gaining design experience and knowhow.

In this sense, this reflection is how the European Master's Programme provides the platform for an extremely well rounded and innovative way of producing knowledge and cultural education, being a step further to the current curricula's that exist in the European educational context.

Key words: Education, Voyage, Design Methods, Interdisciplinarity, Network, Collaboration, Cluster, Experience

I. Background

[Fig. 01] Student-Master model of apprenticeship, office based training. Sketch by author
[Fig. 01] Student-Master model of apprenticeship, office based training. Sketch by author

Architectural education has changed and evolved throughout the years. Being traditionally based on a student-master model of apprenticeship, the students gathered knowledge and expertise, working side-by-side, mimicking and assimilating the ways of the craft in a real world environment in the architect's office. It has been a model strongly grounded on the notion of learning by doing, almost informal but with a strong emphasis on precision and assertiveness.

In 1671, with the establishment of the Royal Academy of Architecture in France, architectural education drifts from the traditional system and changes its focal point towards a more formal way of teaching. The context for architectural learning drastically changes within this period: the focus shifted from the office based training to an academic environment of classrooms and studio.

[Fig. 02]. École Nationale Des Beaux-Arts, Architecture Atelier Pascal. Sketch by author
[Fig. 02]. École Nationale Des Beaux-Arts, Architecture Atelier Pascal. Sketch by author

In 1819, with the École Des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the first notion of a professional architect with a formal training and academic qualifications rises. Studio learning pedagogy became the standard and École Des Beaux-Arts had set the course of architectural education.

"Rather than learning design and construction techniques while at work on building projects, the architect in training attended lectures on theory and design, discusses historical architecture, critiqued architectural problems, and worked under the tutelage of master teachers".[1]

[1] Wayne A. Wiegand, Donald G. Jr. Davis: Encyclopedia of Library History (Garland Reference Library of Social Science), 1994, p.38.

[Fig. 03] Josef Albers and students in-group critique, Bauhaus Dessau. Sketch by author
[Fig. 03] Josef Albers and students in-group critique, Bauhaus Dessau. Sketch by author

With the Bauhaus principles and teaching philosophy developed by Walter Gropius and colleagues between 1919 and 1933, this concept of design studio has been reinforced: the studio as a model, the project orientated workshop as method of teaching and learning, as an idea for education.

II. Paradigm

Without a doubt we can presume that these are the models that transposed time and that today still are the base and influence for architectural education, the dominant paradigm in academia, being seen as the main learning settings for design research and practice.

However, the studio characteristics are changing as well as the traditional methods of studio education. With advances in communication and computer technologies, students are no longer confined only to a physical space, which expands the learning setting to a much wider realm and range of both opportunities and experiences.

The fundamental question that rises is then:

What is or what should be the purpose of architectural education?

I always recall the phrase "Architecture cannot be taught, it can only be learned". Architecture cannot be taught in the way that the natural sciences can be taught.

There is an enormous difference between what architecture is and what construction is, and so, the faculty of architecture should then provide something else besides the technical expertise necessary to transpose a design to reality.

This should be critical thinking, awareness, perception, sense of meaning, a philosophical and intellectual basis and a strong range of skills that prepare the students for the challenges and possibilities of work, that rise after the academic period. All of these abilities represent processes rooted in experience: Architecture can than be learned as a process, as method, not only towards design but also towards self-development and production of knowledge.

III. Architektur.Studium.Generale

In this sense, Architektur.Studium.Generale [ASG] provides the platform for an extremely well rounded and innovative way of producing knowledge and cultural education, being a step further in the current curricula's that exist in the European educational context, dare I say comparable to the École-de-Beaux-Arts and the Bauhaus in its aim and ambition to become a new paradigm and approach that can and should set a trend for future learning.

Being a Master's degree programme, the concept assumes the excellence of the prior academic formation of its participants.

As it allows not only students but also professionals to enrol, it is clear that at this point, all the participants have a precise and strong foundation in the process of design, of analysis and critical thinking and judgment. But it will be specifically in this realm that the programme will flourish in its whole, as it provides the freedom to innovate and expand to learning settings that do not exist afore.

I could say that in its core, ASG is a Master's Degree in the exploration of design processes and methods in architecture as theme, being divided in 4 main cores as foundation for the course:

Voyage, Design Methods, Interdisciplinarity, Network

Why are these characteristics so relevant in the future of architectural education? They are all intrinsically connected but for a better understanding of their relevance, I will contribute a small reflection:

IV. Voyage

The voyage has always been intertwined with the architect's own expectation of what education should be and therefore, voyage experience is deeply rooted in precious cultural knowledge and cultural history. Since the Grand Tour in the 18th and 19th century and the voyages made by modern architects, we have always sought the travel as means to enrich ourselves and as a setting for learning what the mere faculty ground could not fulfil but in the culture of excursions and workshops.

Even though architects and scholars are pushing for more international working contexts, international workshops and travels are still not the rule for most of the academia curriculum, which makes ASG truly exceptional in its conception, providing the voyage not only as travel, but seen as a modern design method itself, that joins and connects all the other cores of the course. The statement that mobility is of high importance in today's working context is inherent to the premises of the course.

[Fig. 04] The traditional Grand Tour route. Sketch by author
[Fig. 04] The traditional Grand Tour route. Sketch by author

"The travels of architects have changed the thought and the architectural production of modernity, because the experience of travelling reveals that it is essential for the knowledge of architecture to incorporate a sensorial approximation of the constructed space, and because history has been rediscovered as a tool for designing, that goes beyond a simple catalogue of styles and aesthetics".[2]

[2] José Fernando de Castro Gonçalves: Motivation and consequence of travelling in the architecture of Le Corbusier: Voyage d'Orient and Latin-american travel. Cadernos Proarq 18, p.197.

The architectural voyage reveals itself as of major importance for cultural exchange, to the definition of one's aspirations, knowledge, vision, architecture and even character.

V. Design Methods

The exploration of different design methods within the same period of time is something that most universities, if any, do not address, which makes the collaboration between several international universities and their approaches one of the key points and the key strength of the course. 8 universities, 8 attitudes towards design processes.

The following reflection intends to be a mental chart and text-diagram regarding the methodology and design process in each university, subdivided in categories/steps/decisions towards the final result.

WS1 Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus

Transformation of the building(s) of the ancient GDR secret service in Cottbus – Workshop Spatial Strategies

[Fig. 05] GDR Building, Cottbus. Photo by author
[Fig. 05] GDR Building, Cottbus. Photo by author

[Fig. 06] No More Secrets, Installation on site. Photo by author
[Fig. 06] No More Secrets, Installation on site. Photo by author

The transformation of a young heritage GDR building required an understanding not only of place, but overall of the meaning of the historic context in which the existing building is embedded within Germany. With such a complex theme, the design process starts with a simple but serious approach to the topic through the exploration of senses, a first approach to the building based on intuition and feeling.

It evolves through an exploration and confrontation with the building environment, atmosphere. Dealing with space results in a first installation on site, already charged with the first observations towards the topic.

The analysis follows as a design step, with the students being involved in a deeper manner and with a more informed background towards the theme. It reveals itself as an extremely important step of the design process. Divided into history analysis, traces and conditions, it will allow for the formulation of relevant questions, declaration of interests and focus on specific topics to be dealt with.

With this information the individual can then start programming, designing a frame and schedule for the work, a preparation stage. With the knowledge and information gathered and with a specific frame and focus for the work, documentation comes naturally as a resulting design step. Collecting and selecting the information has further allowed the final result and output of the work. The combination of all the design steps unfolded a strong exploration of meaning, typology, resulting in a research oriented discourse: Documentation work as an approach to deal with spatial, political, historical and sociocultural components of the building.

Methodology/Design Process

Senses: Intuition / Exploration / Confrontation / Installation
Analysis: History / Traces / Condition / Questions / Interests (case studies) / Topic
Programming: Frame / Schedule
Documentation: Collecting / Selecting
Senses/Analysis/Programming/Documentation: Meaning / Typology / Research oriented discourse

WS2 - Tallinna Tehnikakõrgkool, University of applied Sciences

Sustainable and Reproductive Urban Development

[Fig. 07]. Estonia, Tallinn. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
[Fig. 07]. Estonia, Tallinn. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author

With sustainability as the main topic of the project, the design process begins with a strong analysis in what sustainability and ecological footprint actually means and by which architectural attitudes the term might be represented.

A traditional programme or place is not the starting point of the workshop. This allowed a different way of inspiring the project, revealed a different process, which encouraged independent, active research from the students.

The choice of the site and the focus of the project were entirely up to the student's decision. It is an interesting and valid way of approaching architectural design, especially in a context of economical crisis as the one we have to face. The idea is to allow architects to be pro-active, looking for their own interests and looking for ways to produce architecture and knowledge in an independent way.

After a selection of place and country analysis, the design process turns to and explores sustainable architecture, energy efficiency, waste management and building materials. All of the topics result in an implementation strategy combined with the specific site qualities, leading to a sustainable and reproductive urban development project.

Methodology/Design Process

Theme Analysis: Ecological Footprint / Sustainability
Place: Site chosen by students / Encouraging independent, active research
Country analysis: Ecological footprint / Energy consumption
Sustainable architecture: Energy efficiency / Waste management / Building materials
Theme/Place/Sustainable architecture: Site qualities Implementation

WS3 - Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, Portugal

Hotel-Escola in Lisbon's city centre

[Fig. 08] Portugal, Lisbon. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
[Fig. 08] Portugal, Lisbon. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author

[Fig. 09] Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, Architecture Studios. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
[Fig. 09] Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, Architecture Studios. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author

[Fig. 10] Studio Discussion. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
[Fig. 10] Studio Discussion. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author

We could say that Lisbon University provides a strong and classical way of approaching architectural design. The design process has been initiated with case studies. They have been the reflection ground to start the learning process. The selection of the case studies presented to students is generally extremely relevant. Case studies are works of excellence, both in theory and in practical implementation of ideas and strategies and they allow the student not only to study them but also to understand qualities, atmospheres and ways of thinking. They are the place for inspiration and motivation for the beginning of the process.

They are followed by a strong analysis of place and all that it comprehends: site, context, environment, natural system, artificial system and the most classical way of understanding and perceiving place, physical urban model. The analysis of place always starts from the big scale to the small scale. After the understanding of city and environment, an exploration and critic of programme followed. What does the place need, what does the city need, which programme is adequate? These questions have led to individual interpretations of the subject, have been worked out in group analysis, unfolded in possibilities of work and once the programme was found, an exploration of typology followed.

When Place and Programme meet, the selection of interests begins, the initial sketch of a concept, intensions and ways of representation. These will result in the final project and output of an architectural project, in the form of urban strategy and building. A building is and should always be a result of a deep understanding of all the elements mentioned. It should have a meaning and should have a purpose, deeply connected with context and place.

Methodology/Design Process

Case Studies: as reflection ground to start the learning process / Inspiration
Place: Site / Context / Environment / Natural System / Artificial System / Model
me Analysis: Individual analysis / Group analysis / Possibilities / Group discussion/debate / Typology
Place and Programme: Selection of interests / Concept / Intensions / Representation
Place/Programme/Subject Matter: Strategy / Belvedere / Building

WS4 - Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland

PARK PRZEMYSŁOWY (Wrocław Industrial Park)

[Fig. 11] Wroclaw University of Technology, Studio debate. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
[Fig. 11] Wroclaw University of Technology, Studio debate. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author

[Fig. 12]. Final Presentation. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
[Fig. 12]. Final Presentation. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author

The creation of teams among the students has been the first step of the design process and implemented as communicative methodology used by Wroclaw University. This allows diversity within the groups and different opinions appearing during conceptual work and debates. Working as a cluster and in a collaboration environment is extremely important in a future professional environment. The collaboration of external professors, with different opinions and approaches also had a key role in the design process.

Working and seeking for transforming an Industrial Park, the process developed with an exploration of place, understanding city-scale, making an inventory and analysis and viewing the potential of the place, what it can be for the city.

This knowledge led to a strategy, that involved a strong concept, the consequences of urban development and the creation of different scenarios for the same place. How can the project influence the city within the next years?

The idea of creating a project with the vision for a 20-years future was of extreme relevance for both economic opportunities and investors. The final step of the working process was then the development of a marketing concept. The power of images, how to get investors convinced and overall monetization strategies to implement the project was one of the key elements in understanding a different process, extremely focused on business development as part of architectural design process.

Methodology/Design Process

Teams: Diversity / Opinion / Professors
Place: City-scale / Inventory and analysis / Potential
Strategy: Concept / Urban development / Scenarios / Variations / Influence
Marketing: Imagery / Investors / Impact

WS5 - University of Innsbruck, Austria

ALPINE ARCHITECTURE

[Fig. 13] University of Innsbruck, Austria. Studio. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
[Fig. 13] University of Innsbruck, Austria. Studio. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author

[Fig. 14] University of Innsbruck, Austria. Final Presentation. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
[Fig. 14] University of Innsbruck, Austria. Final Presentation. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author

The work and research method implemented in Innsbruck University was directly connected to what the proposed project focused: A city in the mountains, a strong reflection on society, city and an experimental way of approaching design. Utopian architecture.

The design process began with a strong reflection about what society represents and what it can develop towards a utopian setting of society. This led to an investigation of city, infrastructure, life, nature, economy and sustainability.

Within the different groups of work, key topics were chosen to be developed; architecture and material, water & waste management, ecology and energy. With all the knowledge and information gathered, the project takes form in the form of a new utopian city: New foundation, society, rules, environment and the idea of a mobile city – a true utopian city in the mountain.

Methodology/Design Process

Reflection: City / Infrastructure / Life / Nature / Economy / Sustainability
Topic: Architecture and Material / Water & Waste Management / Ecology / Energy
Utopia: Foundation / Society / Rules / Environment / Mobility
Reflection/Topic/Utopia: Mountain / Self-Sufficient city / Experimental Architecture

WS6 Universidad de Sevilla, Escuela Técnica superior de Arquitectura, Spain

Territory, Cultural Landscape and Urban Development on the Andalusian Coast. Tourism and Social Sustainability

[Fig. 15] Bolonia, Spain. Installation on site. Photo by author
[Fig. 15] Bolonia, Spain. Installation on site. Photo by author

[Fig. 16] Estepona, Spain. Photo by author
[Fig. 16] Estepona, Spain. Photo by author

Working in a territory as vast as the Andalusia Coast and with the phenomenon of tourism is an extremely challenging task. In order to understand such places, it is crucial to analyse the place through history; analysing the territorial transformations on the coast throughout the years and with a strong emphasis on research. It is important to understand the phenomenon and then comparing it to reality, in this case with two different places and their different realities towards tourism itself, Bolonia and Estepona.

While exploring the place and with the knowledge gathered, some topics arose that have been 'informing' the project's design such as communication tools, social awareness and community. In order to act and perceive space in different ways, we were introduced to the concept of Dérive, an unplanned journey through the place. Discovering a place while being blind, making path decisions based on dice games, etc. It is an interesting way of discovering places you would not normally pass by, a new experience and a new authentic way of discovering landscape and territory, a new design process to develop the project.

The combination of history, phenomenon and reality and finally place results in a conclusion: direct experience of the object of study as key to architectural research and intervention on site, that results in a design strategy and final output of the process.

Methodology/Design Process

History: Territorial transformation on the coast / Research
Phenomenon and Reality: Bolonia/Estepona / Diversity
Place: Communication Tool / Social Awareness / Community / Dérive
History/Phenomenon and Reality/Place: Direct experience of the object of study as key to architectural research and intervention / Strategy

WS7 Tel Aviv University, Faculty of the Arts, Israel

Between Tel-Aviv and Jaffa

[Fig. 17] Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
[Fig. 17] Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author

[Fig. 18] Jaffa, Israel. Photo by author
[Fig. 18] Jaffa, Israel. Photo by author

Tel-Aviv and Jaffa are nowadays disconnected, fragmented places. The design process has been founded in a strong reflection about history and has been rooted in an understanding the situation of investigation as part of an urban fragmentation process. An important part of this workshop has been learning and understanding the complex culture for approaching complex places. It is impossible to act without understanding the city, its different layers and its character.

The next focus of the workshop has concentrated on perceiving the site through group discussions, debating possibilities and asking oneself what the identity of the place is. These answers led to a response, an urban strategy strongly based on public space.

Methodology/Design Process

History: Understanding history as part of urban fragmentation / Culture
City: Layers / Character
Site: Group discussion / Possibilities / Identity
Urban Strategy: Public-Space / Punctuality / Building

WS8 University of the Arts Berlin (UdK Berlin)

m3 - Architecture meets Sound, Body & Moving Image

The design process was initiated with meeting people from different disciplines: Architects, dancers, musicians, designers, filmmakers and choreographers. It is extremely interesting to perceive that the group of people and composition of disciplines, you are working with, has a most important impact on the design process, its steps and methods and will deeply influence the end result.

[Fig. 19] Uferstudios, Berlin. Installation. Photo by author
[Fig. 19] Uferstudios, Berlin. Installation. Photo by author

The place reveals itself as mandatory part of the process, with research, exploration and intuition as key points that lead to a concept. The revealing step is then working and choosing from a artistic set of tools and settings: using your body, sound, image or an object to create knowledge, experience and combining all of this to work with the more fundamental way of perceiving architecture – space. The result was the creation of an installation, a new setting, reactions and perception.

Methodology/Design Process

People: Architects / Dancers / Musicians / Designers / Filmmakers / Choreographers
Place: Research / Exploration / Intuition / Concept
Tool: Body / Sound / Image / Object
Space: Movement / Interaction / Perception
People/Place/Tool/Space: Setting / Reaction / Installation

All these experiences allow the students not only to open their mind and spectrum of interests, but to enhance their own self-development both as architect and as a personality, enhancing a much stronger capacity of adaptability in other contexts and environments, in both academic and professional work.

VI. Interdisciplinarity and Network

Architecture has always been a multidisciplinary field. Vitruvius described it as "a science, arising out of many other sciences, and adorned with much and varied learning (...)".[3] Architects collaborate actively with others fields of expertise, in a constant dialogue that enriches both the intellectual and physical outcome of our production work.

[3] Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, Joseph Gwilt: The Architecture of M. Vitruvius Pollio in Ten Books. Translated from the Latin by J. Gwilt. 1826, p.3.

Some of these dialogues normally occur only in a professional environment, but the strategically leading approach of the course towards this notion shifts to a truly interdisciplinary context within university itself.

The course had the ability to accommodate not only relevant fields of architecture but also other expertise's, both in the student and faculty body, which resulted in the variety of approaches and methodologies that enriched and contributed to a close to real world experience of working in cluster teams with strong debates, confrontations and overall different opinions that led to sometimes amazingly different results.

All the universities gain – with face-to-face debates between the different participating professors about their approaches and positions and also between the students, who have contributed an active voice in all workshop and presentation debates.

The European Architecture Dialogue platform created an unprecedented insight to what I call University-to-University learning, generating the perfect setting for the informed professor that is simultaneously a teacher and a learner in the programme himself.

VII. Conclusion

ASG is a course that reads excellence – excellence in teaching and excellence in learning. It is without a doubt a step to improving architectural education not only for students but for professors as well, in a perfect symbiosis between the commitment and guidance of the master and creativity, curiosity, collaboration and expertise of the student. The range of possibilities within the programme is immense. I truly believe it is a course where there is a two-way, reciprocal learning street between not only student-professor, but also student-student and professor-professor.

I have learned immensely with my colleagues and friends and the programme also gained a tremendous richness through our own quality as thinkers and our own quality as a group. We have been our own family for two years.

I know that the network Reiseuni_lab that has been established in the meantime will not fade. I know that I will work with some of them in a not so distant future and I know that the programme allowed me to live an experience that would have taken at least 10 years, if not more to realize, condensed in 2 intense years of the architecture master.

We, as architects and thinkers, possess very special skills that allow us to submerge and succeed in different disciplines. All of this not only proved this experience but changed me as a person and made me a better professional and a better architect today.

In an article by Peter Buchanan in 2012, while we were already deeply involved in ASG, he described what could be the ideal course for an architectural education. His process of thinking led to a course with strong foundations in methods and a multidisciplinary approach:

"Such a common foundation course may seem like an idea whose time has come, a way of starting to get all these disciplines back on track. But it seems very unlikely to happen: is there any university or institution really serious about an education apt to and drawing on the potentials of our time? It doesn't take a cynic to answer no."[4]

[4] Peter Buchanan: Rethinking Architectural Education. 2012

[Fig. 20] Schnittmuster-Strategie, Dagmar Jäger. Berlin Reimer 2008
[Fig. 20] Schnittmuster-Strategie, Dagmar Jäger. Berlin Reimer 2008

Not only does one realize that this answer has to change, but that the first reflection was made in 2008 with Dagmar Jäger's Design Theory Schnittmuster-Strategie, and that the response was and is the international Master's Programme of the Reiseuni_lab, an exceptional architecture programme that is ahead of its time.

I would like to thank all involved in the project, from professors to students, and the mentor of the programme Dagmar Jäger.

[Eduardo Magno, Berlin-Lisbon, January 2015]

Literature List

  • Peter Buchanan: Rethinking Architectural Education. 2012
  • Daniela Gachago, Eunice Ivala, Jolanda Morkel: Cognitive apprenticeship and work integrated learning. 2013
  • José Fernando de Castro Gonçalves: Motivation and consequence of travelling in the architecture of Le Corbusier: Voyage d'Orient and Latin-American travel.
  • Walter Gropius: "Bauhaus Manifesto and Program". 1919
  • Talbot Hamlin: Some European Architectural Libraries: Their Methods, Equipment, and Administration. 1939
  • Spiro Kostof: The Architect: Chapters in the History of the Profession. 1977
  • Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, Joseph Gwilt: The Architecture of M. Vitruvius Pollio in Ten Books, Translated from the Latin by J. Gwilt. 1826.
  • Wayne A. Wiegand, Donald G. Jr. Davis: Encyclopaedia of Library History (Garland Reference Library of Social Science). 1994
  • Frank Whitford: The Bauhaus: Masters and Students by Themselves. London. Conran Octopus. 1993

Imagery Index

  • Fig. 01 - Student-Master model of apprenticeship, office based training. Sketch by author
  • Fig. 02 - École Nationale Des Beaux-Arts, Architecture Atelier Pascal. Sketch by author
  • Fig. 03 - Josef Albers and students in group critique, Bauhaus Dessau, ca. 1928–29. Sketch by author
  • Fig. 04 - The traditional Grand Tour route. Sketch by author
  • Fig. 05 - GDR Building, Cottbus. Photo by author
  • Fig. 06 - No More Secrets, Installation on site. Photo by author
  • Fig. 07 - Estonia, Tallinn. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
  • Fig. 08 - Portugal, Lisbon. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
  • Fig. 09 - Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, Architecture Studios. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
  • Fig. 10 - Studio Discussion. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
  • Fig. 11 - Wroclaw University of Technology, Studio debate. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
  • Fig. 12 - Final Presentation. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
  • Fig. 13 - University of Innsbruck, Austria. Studio. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
  • Fig. 14 - University of Innsbruck, Austria. Final Presentation. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
  • Fig. 15 - Bolonia, Spain. Installation on site. Photo by author
  • Fig. 16 - Estepona, Spain. Photo by author
  • Fig. 17 - Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by Tomás Forjaz, edited by author
  • Fig. 18 - Jaffa, Israel. Photo by author
  • Fig. 19 - Uferstudios, Berlin. Installation. Photo by author
  • Fig. 20 - Schnittmuster-Strategie, Dagmar Jäger. Berlin Reimer 2008