Thinking Outside the Box: Addressing and Enhancing Visual/Spatial and Active Learning in Architectural Education

By Magda Mostafa.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

It has become a common phenomenon in the architectural design studio to observe students lacking the visual/spatial and active mode of thinking required of the architectural design process. This may be a result of years of traditional Cartesian modes of visualization or, on the other extreme, the widespread use of digital modeling tools which may deprive the students experientially from the spatial and volumetric dimensions of design first hand. This paper proposes the use of a series of abstract, three-dimensional, geometric modeling exercises in the primary stage of the curriculum, before the student begins formal design studios. The skill sets and learning styles- particularly the visual/spatial and active- of a case study group of students will be assessed at the beginning and end of this 12 week period during which the students will progress through the series of exercises. The impact of this “learning through doing” process on the three dimensional thinking skills necessary for architectural design will be analyzed, with a hope to reinstate such manual modeling studios as a pre-requisite for, and integral part of, traditional architectural design education.

Keywords: Architectural Education, Design Process, Design Studio, Visual/Spatial Thinking, Active Learning, Three-dimensional Modelling, Learning Styles

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.113-120. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.209MB).

Dr. Magda Mostafa

Assistant Professor, Department of Architectural Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt

Magda Mostafa (Ph.D) has been teaching architecture since 1996 and conducts various design studios at Cairo University's Department of Architecture as well as the Construction and Architectural Engineering Department and Performing and Visual Arts Department at the American University in Cairo, where she is now an Adjunct Assistant Professor. She was born and raised in Canada, and later came to Egypt to reside where she received her B.Sc, MSc and PhD in Architecture from Cairo University. Her doctoral dissertation studied architectural design for children with special needs and sensory dysfunctions, with a focus on autism. She is currently freelancing as a special needs design consultant for government and private sector projects in Egypt, the Gulf and Europe. She has also designed the Advance school for children with autism in Qattemeya, Cairo, the first building to be designed based on her published "sensory design theory". She was nominated for the 2005 UNESCO Prize for research and training in special needs education for children.


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