Beyond the discussion at the extremes: an investigation into the plausibility of shifting focus from pedagogy to a didactics of architecture.
Architectural education has received attention from within and even from outside the field, and it has even been presented as a model for all professional education, as i.e. by Donald Schön, since 1983 and 1985. In conditions of globalized capitalism, developing tendencies in education, such as the shift from objectivist to constructivist paradigms, have not left architectural education unaffected. Especially since the global financial crisis of 2008 it is expected to remain under scrutiny: Does contemporary architectural education have the purpose of developing the student’s individual expressiveness, or is it a process of coming to terms with society, and even, developing a ‘world’ citizenry? Is it a process of unifying the fragmented areas of knowledge and interpretations of reality into an articulated and meaningful whole or is it about acquiring instrumental knowledge towards professional mastery? The motivation for this thesis was born in the aporia of how we could situate, in the context of broad questions as the above, the enquiry into ways of investigating better teaching and learning in architecture. This research draws from examples of architectural education in the U.K. and from previous research work undertaken in the U.K., as well as from relevant deliberations from the international educational scene. The thesis distinguishes between pedagogy and didactics within the current discourse, and argues for the priority of didactics in the framing of explanations for architectural education. The main questions are: (a) what are ways to investigate better modes of learning in architecture, and (b) what are presuppositions for establishing a special didactics for architecture. Two methods of enquiry are employed in this thesis. One is argumentative analysis, used on two exemplary cases of a subcategory of the broader discussion, described in this thesis as ‘discussion at the extremes’. The other is philosophical explanation, used to investigate the logical, theoretical and philosophical presuppositions and consequences of architectural education. The ‘Theory of Experience in Education’ by John Dewey and the ‘Theory of Skill Acquisition’ by Hubert Dreyfus, representing the distinct theoretical frames of pragmatism and phenomenology respectively, are proposed for the study of architecture’s two didactic tools, of the Design Studio project and the Live project. The approach is dialogic, attempting to bridge qualities of the two frames into a hybrid descriptive model. The thesis concludes with the proposed component of a descriptive didactics for architecture. At the end, this thesis puts forward the opening of a broader discussion about the prospects for a didactics and meta-didactics of architecture.