Where is the learning?

The ‘Education of an Architect’ almost invariably focuses on the product. Where did she study? Was he a local or overseas graduate? Is she from the AA? Is he from UM?

Speculatively, the following discussion would veer to: How does he (local) compares to her (overseas)? Would you hire a local grad.? Why would you hire a local grad.? What is the difference between someone from UM and UiTM, or UM and UTM?

I asked an office colleague (forgot the exact question) – What is the characteristic of our students? What sets our students apart from the rest? (Our students are from University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur by the way…)

She said – our students are “capable”. Give them a job and they are able to do it. They may not be excellent designers, perhaps a few are, but they can do the job.

If UM grads can do the job, then there must be something right about our course.

We then hypothesise that for our first degree (BSc), in the 3rd year, we have the Comprehensive Design Project. This is where the learning all comes together.

This leads me to thinking about the idea of the Conceptualiser (Visualiser) merged with the Builder (Craftsman / Technician / Problem-solver).

However at the moment, we need to review this carefully. The philosophical with the practical. We do not want our learning programmes to be “wishy-washy, loose and undefined”. Hence we are going through this Curriculum Review.

My hypothesis focues on the Teaching of Theory as the crux of the problem:

What are the evidence of learning?
The evidence need to be measurable. We can do so in Tests and Presentation such as seminar, case study. The ones difficult to measure are discussions and debates, as these are collective endeavours.

Initial investigations:


Student – Able to apply many concepts together; Able to explain through analysis of design the many concepts learned.

Lecturer – Clear explanation of the definition of each concept needed.

Example – when a student learns about design in context, and a site analysis shows a heritage building next to the site. And the input given was, the new design needs to be sympathetic to the heritage building. This does not mean that it has to have the same language with the heritage building. The student needs to be able to interpret more than one concept. How to integrate a design in context and yet design without having to resort to styles.

Proposal – 3rd year CDP crit and presentation; Concepts learned earlier merging with concepts like Contextualism or Contextual Design


Student – Able to correctly explain a concept [in a crit / presentation]

Lecturer – The explanation of concepts must take time to explain. Quick slide show and brief explanation is not enough. The ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘where’ of the concepts must be explained. The choice to include concepts in the module must be determined. Better understand a few than to skim through many. Approach to learning theory must have the ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘where’ input.

Example – when a student says “futuristic”, what does he mean. It must be the correct concept that was learned. He does not know the real concept. If he knew the real concept of what the De Stijl architecture is about, he will state that its “cubism” and “futurism” combined. He will know what is “cubism” and he will know what is “futurism”. All he remembered was futuristic because he does not connect what he sees to the concepts that were taught.

Proposal – a revamp of theory = 1st year until 4th year. By 5th year students should know everything that they learned to be used in the thesis project. Not suppose to just learned it in the 5th year.

Theory –
Design Theory – Art theory; Design Theory; Furniture Design Theory; Interior Design Theory; Building Design Theory; Urban Design Theory.
(Which ones and where?)

General Problem – Theory and History are two different subjects. Because the theory is not covered in the studio or in previous theory class, we end up having to teach theory in history class.

Why learn theory?
Theory exists in all subjects, such as Environmental Physics Theory, Building Services Theory, etc except that it is not extensively learned as many technical schools cut out the theory and go for the application. Our school also the same following some technical schools in Malaysia and the majority’s influence is technically oriented.

We are at the crossroads….


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