Design Course Does Digital
by John Marx
The goals and aspirations of teaching a digital design process vary widely between different educational institutions, as well as between academia and the profession.
In contrast to those who see computer use as a technical skill like 2D drafting, we believe that teaching an explicitly digital design process will substantially improve the students' design abilities. The student work shown here is testament to the ability of computer visualizations to strengthen design thinking and radically alter the students' fundamental processes. We believe that this shift will result in a substantial improvement over traditional practice.
Some in the profession chastise the schools for not teaching the more technical skills. Clients and competitive demands for efficiency and presentation graphics have pressured many architecture firms to create a skill base more dependent upon young designers than at any time in history. This is primarily because older designers are reluctant to learn new computer skills.
However, to focus the debate about the computer's role on skills versus ideas ignores the fact that computers have the potential to change the process of architectural design.
Computer-aided design provides architects with a highly effective simulated 3D design environment. This is a significant shift from the two-dimensional process architects have practiced for centuries. The 3D nature of these tools invites the designer to think and act in the third dimension to a greater degree than previously imagined.
At the University of California at Berkeley, we have developed a course that teaches the process of digital design as an endeavor independent of the design studio. "Process and Methods of Modeling and Presentation" has six basic educational goals:
1) To teach students to design "on screen," as an alternative to the traditional plan and elevation process; to understand the value of a digital-based evaluation and prediction process.