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Conference Proceeding


Architectural Engineering Institute

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State College, PA, United States


Beginning architecture students have traditionally been taught structural design using an engineering-based educational model. Often, information is presented in formula-rich lectures filled with abstract representations of architectural space. In other words, when structural design is presented as a series of calculations instead of a series of design explorations, educators miss a great opportunity to develop a better integration between structural information and other architectural coursework—and integration that would enhance design development by balancing technical resolution and exploration. A new educational model for teaching structural design to architects is needed. Architecture students should be given a series of exercises that help to develop their understanding about the relationship between structural form and forces, structural behavior, and the array of potentially responsive architectural forms. This paper will demonstrate how a curriculum based on experiential exercises, haptic learning methodologies and project-based design exercises in a laboratory setting can provide a more effective way forward in educating architects about building structures. Because initial exposure to complex topics can often make a significant difference in long-term learning efficacy, this paper will primarily discuss the very first lab project in the sequence, an ergonomic lab in which the students use their bodies to explore basic structural principles related to the relationship between form and forces.


This is an author's accepted manuscript of a paper published in AEI 2013: Building Solutions for Architectural Engineering, ed. Chimay J. Anumba and Ali M. Memari (Reston, VA: ASCE, 2013), doi:10.1061/9780784412909.023. Posted with permission.

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