Constructing Understanding: A Developing Strategy for Teaching Introductory Construction Courses

By Chad Schwartz.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

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

In “Being and Time,” Martin Heidegger states that the nearest kind of association one can have is not merely through perceptual cognition, but rather by handling, using, and taking care of things. As he noted, “we do not come to know a hammer by staring at it, but by grabbing hold of it and using it.” Undergraduate students in any school of architecture, especially those in their first and second years in the program, are inundated with countless new learning experiences and avenues of thought. Frequently missing from those experiences, however, are moments in the curriculum that allow the student to connect their generated abstractions to the actual built environment through critical acts of making. In an age of increasing focus on digital technologies and virtual architecture, these developing students also need to be introduced first hand to the physical consequences of the lines they draw on paper. By introducing acts of making into the curriculum alongside their digital counterparts, students are given the capacity to achieve a deeper understanding of their projects and of the architecture they will come to design in the future. This research paper presents one strategy for teaching introductory building construction that allows the developing architecture student to begin to cultivate understanding between the sketch, the drawing, and construction throughout the design process. Working at multiple scales, this strategy encourages these students to have a more intimate relationship with the materials of design and construction both from a technical view of construction and a poetic understanding of architecture as an assembly. Haptic connections with actual construction materials provide a tangible basis of knowledge that has the potential to inject the unseasoned architecture student with a valuable, but often forgotten, connection to materiality and the sensory potential of our built world.

Keywords: Building Construction, Critical Making, Hands-on Making, Representation, Experiential Learning

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.15-24. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.044MB).

Chad Schwartz

Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, College of Applied Sciences and Arts, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, USA

Chad Schwartz is an architect and educator serving in the role of assistant professor in the School of Architecture at Southern Illinois University (SIU). He has an undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Illinois - Chicago and a Masters of Architecture from Arizona State University (ASU). He has taught in the design studio extensively at the undergraduate and graduate level at SIU and ASU, and also teaches construction and building technology. His research is based on studying the introduction of critical making into the studio environment and the development of appropriate curricular strategies in introductory construction courses.