Architecture's Dysfunctional Couple: Design and Technology at the Crossroads

By Jonathan Ochshorn.

Published by The International Journal of Design Education

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

Architectural design pedagogy stands on the twin pillars of expression and defamiliarization. Students, immersed in this studio-based culture, develop a subjective artistic consciousness aligned with the various evolving artistic tendencies within the profession. Technical considerations – those dealing primarily with structure, enclosure, energy/environment, and life safety – are introduced within separate courses, and integrated with design at some point in the curriculum through comprehensive design exercises.

I am not challenging the two-sided nature of architecture – its peculiar status as an "art" and a "science." However, the teaching of architecture has not caught up with radical changes in building technology that call into question the strategy of applying "technology" to designs that have been conceived and developed largely on the basis of subjective expressive goals.

Architectural pedagogy prior to the twentieth century could "separate" building technology from design largely because building technology was firmly embedded within the various design vocabularies that formed the basis of an architect's education. This is no longer the case: increasingly abstract building design objectives, on the one hand, and increasingly subtle technical requirements, on the other hand, have created a perfect storm of building failure in practice – a failure rooted in current pedagogical assumptions about design and technology.

Keywords: Design, Pedagogy, Technology

The International Journal of Design Education, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.35-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 364.025KB).

Prof. Jonathan Ochshorn

Professor, Department of Architecture, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Jonathan Ochshorn is a registered architect with an academic background in structural engineering and urban design as well as architecture. Prior to joining the faculty at Cornell University in 1988, he taught at City College of New York while serving as Associate Director of the City College Architectural Center, a research center supplying technical assistance to community groups in New York City. Since 1976, he has also practiced architecture and urban design in New York and California. His publications include studies on energy loss through tapered insulation, as well as the political and economic underpinnings of sustainable building. He is the author of Structural Elements for Architects and Builders (2010 Butterworth-Heinemann) and has developed several interactive computer programs, many of which are available online at no cost. Professor Ochshorn teaches in the areas of construction technology and structures, and offers an elective course focusing on the science and politics of green building.