Reading List

List Author

Benjamin Smith

Tulane University

Architecture and Pedagogy

Education is a negotiation, not only between student and teacher, but also between the content covered and the institution’s mission. Fusing design with critical thinking, architecture schools teach students to have confidence to put their ideas and their results into the world. Schools challenge students to respond to dynamic cultures and interrogate difficult questions with the aim of producing confident, engaged, and sensitive work. Through design studios, seminars, and lectures, students experience the practice and theory of architecture and encounter the cultural concerns and methodological paradigms that give shape to the discipline.

The following selection of texts represents a brief reading list on the topic of institutions and pedagogy. While many of the texts relate to architecture and its history, several of them engage this theme more broadly. The different points of view expressed in these examples address salient issues on the attributes of architectural education, the ways students learn, and how institutions function, as well as the relationships between these areas. I expect that most people reading this list share in the legacy of its content, as students and educators, and my hope is this: by curating texts that reveal a glimpse into what, how, and why design education matters, we continue to question and grow the methods, knowledges, and frameworks that make understanding possible.

[Image courtesy of Benjamin Smith.]

  • Experience and Education

    Free Press

    Dewey's book proposed a progressive model of education with a basis in experience intended to rethink traditional top-down learning models. The text suggested that experience, and appealing to one's experience, encouraged participatory learning with more freedom to engage the academic process, as long as the role of experience created an integral relationship in developing pedagogy and content. However, Dewey remarked that a “gulf” of experience between mature adults and adolescent learners can complicate learning environments, and in those situations educators should recognize their maturity, working to provide understanding that bridges differences.

  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed


    Freire’s account of the social dynamic between students and their teachers suggested several concepts to consider dissemination and reception in learning environments. First is his critique of the “banking” concept, which he articulated as a narrative function of control that he believed created an oppressive atmosphere stifling creativity and engagement with the subject matter. As an alternative approach, Freire suggested a dialogical method to transform the teacher's role toward a “student among student” relationship. The humanist approach Freire proposed established an environment characterized by participation, exchange, and co-creation to “decode” and investigate subject themes.

  • International Design Conference in Aspen: The Invisible City

    Design Quarterly 86/87

    A focus at the International Design Conference in Aspen (IDCA) in the summer of 1972 was alternative pedagogical structures. Session topics included "Students on Learning," "Experimental Urban Schools," "Education and Politics," "Conversations: School Programs," and "The City as a Classroom." One of the speakers was John Bremer, author of School Without Walls. The title of Bremer’s book established a popular pedagogical concept in the 1970s. At the conference, Bremer suggested the importance of a school’s social climate with regard to effective teaching, and explained it as “an invisible and private curriculum” that required significant managerial effort.

  • Big Shed Syndrome

    New Society

    The British architectural theorist published this essay in New Society in 1972 about the recently occupied warehouse building leased by the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), colloquially referred to as the New School at that time. Banham's argument for his article, titled “Big Shed Syndrome,” emphasized that SCI-Arc’s building served as a tool for pedagogy. Banham recognized that an attribute of the shed type promoted an environment for architectural thinking that was "architecture-free." Banham’s one-page essay used the building to exemplify, raise suspicions, and critique the shed concept as a learning environment for architecture, remarking that architecture schools could signify their pedagogy through their design.

  • The Teaching of Architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts

    The Architecture of the École des Beaux-Arts

    Secker and Warburg

    Covering the evolution, curriculum, effects, and political structures of the École des Beaux-Arts, Chaffee’s essay presented the history of a pedagogical system with lasting influence on architectural education. Familiar terms like “charette,” “prix de Rome,” and “atelier” become clarified relative to not only their historical context, but also to their persistence as dominant themes for methods of working, the competitive atmosphere for design awards, and instructor to student relationships. Regardless of the Beaux-Arts style, Chaffee’s account of the École represented a synthesis of profession and education demonstrating the school’s ambitions toward the production of architecture as an art form.

  • Educating Architects: Pedagogy and the Pendulum

    Public Interest

    In Gutman’s critique of the state of architectural education (and practice) in the mid-1980s, amidst the disciplinary push of Postmodernism, he questioned architecture’s efficacy if its scope remained too narrow. He called for a balance between the artistic and the pragmatic, the humanistic and the scientific, to give architecture greater meaning as a coherent theoretical product that served its purpose. Gutman addressed these themes through four areas of focus: first, through the role of design as one of idealism or realism; second, how architecture creates a dialectic between “aesthetics and objectivity"; third, the knowledge producing research frameworks of design education; and fourth, how architecture can increase its capacity to affect policy.

  • The Texas Rangers: Notes from An Architectural Underground

    MIT Press

    Caragonne’s book followed the Texas Rangers, a group of faculty in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas, Austin who emerged in the 1950s due to their belief that the school lacked a clearly defined pedagogical philosophy. Through collaboration between Austin's young faculty, including Bernard Hoesli, Colin Rowe, John Hejduk, Harwell Harris, Robert Slutzky, Lee Hirsche, and Ken Nuhn, the book showed how these architects and theorists spearheaded a neo-modernist formalism that produced teaching methods influential to many schools of architecture, one of the most well known examples being John Hejduk's 9-square grid exercise. Caragonne's account of Colin Rowe's contested document, the “Manual for the Conduct of Design,” which pitted some faculty against each other, provided a review of notable curriculum changes. One of the most significant changes was in the junior year sequence that shifted its focus to Rowe’s interests in the internal logics of form and the agency that form gives to architecture.

  • The ASU Architecture Guild Graduation Lecture

    Enough About Me

    Arizona State University

    Howard’s address to a graduating class at Arizona State University School of Architecture urged students to find their passions and values, allowing them to become sensitive contributors to the field of architecture, to both enlarge what architecture considers as well as refine its core attributes. He cautioned the students of the “myth of the ‘Hero-Designer’” and outlined strategies to achieve self-defined success, while recognizing the breadth of diversity that architecture accommodates. A central theme of the piece marked how imaginative designers could leverage exploration into qualities of experience, guided by the discipline of effort, to give motive to their work. Promoting clear aspirations to channel improvement, Howard’s empowering talk encouraged students to fulfill their promise.

  • Departmental Organization

    Fitting Form to Function: A Primer on the Organization of Academic Institutions

    Rowman & Littlefield

    Through a review of academic structures, Weingartner’s chapter examined effective administrative practices to support successful collegial environments. A recommendation for communication and trust between administrators and faculty served as principle skills to avoid three detrimental features of ineffective departments, which included “mediocrity,” “ideological splits,” and “non-functional.” By advocating for collaboration, and recognizing the kinds of challenges university colleagues must overcome, Weingartner’s strategies work toward creating opportunities to achieve academic progress.

  • arq: Architectural Research and Disciplinarity

    Architectural Research Quarterly

    In closing her essay, Rendell advised that a territory for architectural research could be viewed as an interdisciplinary “preposition,” stitching architecture’s boundaries through its questions and the solutions it produces, becoming a transformative disciplinary act. She comes to this conclusion after finding faults with the United Kingdom’s Research Assessment Exercise (which measures research quality in British institutions of higher education) as being out of touch with values in practice-based research that provide substantive advancement through interrogating architectural output and process. Identifying architecture as a subject and a discipline, Rendell demonstrated not only the complexity of research methodologies in architecture, but also celebrated its unique formats of knowledge production.

  • Henry van de Velde and Walter Gropius: Between Avoidance and Imitation

    Bauhaus Culture: From Weimar to the Cold War

    University of Minnesota Press

    James-Chakraborty dissected the origins of the Bauhaus by showing the school’s development through two figures integral to its founding, Henry van de Velde and Walter Gropius. The essay elaborates on the nuanced relationship between van de Velde and his successor, Gropius; between the School of Arts and Crafts and its re-articulation as the Bauhaus; and between two modes of early 20th century production, one characterized by style, the other by standardization. Although both architects shared pedagogical ambitions to unify the arts and crafts, and believed in a workshop culture, something exemplified at both schools, van de Velde's art nouveau idiosyncrasy and Gropius' goals of universalization exemplified James-Chakraborty's use of the terms “individuality” and “impersonal” to represent two divergent sensibilities.

  • Introduction: The Turn of Education

    Architecture School: Three Centuries of Educating Architects in North America

    MIT Press & ACSA

    Ockman’s essay served as a roadmap to the book she edited, which accounted for the evolution of architectural education in North America. In her introduction, she lays out key themes which are covered in more detail in the subsequent chapters, such as roots in the Polytechnic and Beaux-Arts models of education, the role of Modernism and early 20th century methods of production, and the social, technological, and historicist principles influencing post-war design. In addition to surveying pedagogical traditions, Ockman observes the curious position of education being caught “between the past and the future . . . between production and reproduction,” where schools of architecture can become reliant on a past that may no longer serve the mission of the discipline's progress.

  • Online

    Radical Pedagogies

    Volume #45: On Learning

    Radical Pedagogies was a multi-year project organized by Beatriz Colomina with PhD students at Princeton School of Architecture. The project produced numerous case studies on examples of avant-garde pedagogical models tested at architecture schools in the late 20th century. The research demonstrated the impact of pedagogy to challenge longstanding architectural learning traditions amidst climates of social and political change. Previously exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2014, a synopsis of the research published in Volume announced the exhibition of the project at the 7th Warsaw Under Construction Festival, and covered 17 examples from schools in Europe, Latin America, Australia, Africa, Middle East, Asia, and North America operating between 1948-1994.

  • On Building

    The Building

    Lars Müller

    Ponce de Leon’s essay anchored the ability of architects and their pedagogical experiments through the design of buildings. The text observed architecture as a creative process at a distance from traditional research. Ponce de Leon argued for the vitality of design, through its contingencies, culminating in objects of speculation to direct tools and their outcomes. Finding seeds of pedagogy latent in a faculty person’s practice she demonstrated the instrumental nature of architectural education to influence the built environment in a feedback loop engaged in cultural agency.

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