Page T1.1 . 27 March 2002                     
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    Parisian Media Merge

    by Jacques Pochoy

    About 20 years ago, when computers shrank in size and software began to produce vector drawings on large plotters, schools of architecture faced a dilemma. What to do with this technology? Even when schools started offering courses about computers, most design studio instructors sneered at the gadgetry. They didn't trust it, and the drawings were awful!

    At the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris, we never learned how to be "academic." In fact, the main reason for the school's establishment in 1870 was to provide an alternative to the classical orders of the French Beaux-Arts. So when our students set up some computers in a remote part of the school, we followed their lead, called it a "computing laboratory," and allowed them to use it.

    Teaching vs. Training

    Our belief was, and still is, that an architecture school has no need to "teach" digital technology but must create an environment so students can discover for themselves a proper use for it.

    This worked nicely for years. Students built both cardboard models and 3D renderings; they mixed hand-drawn plans with machine plotted ones. They tended to divide into two categories: the artists clinging to their brushes and pencils and the engineers mastering the latest processor capabilities. However, their grades continued to depend on the quality of their designs and presentations.

    Meanwhile, the professional world was adopting computers and asking us for well "trained" graduates. By this they usually meant drudges skilled in computer-aided drafting, with or without architectural knowledge. But we refused to "train" our students, believing that an architect’s craft is design. Learning the production techniques should be treated as a minor problem.   >>>


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    ArchWeek Image

    The simplest way for a student to "go wired" is to scan in hand-made drawings.
    Image: Aslihan Ergin

    ArchWeek Image

    Once the "classical plan" is forgotten, other ways can be found to express the concept.
    Image: Anthony Fournier


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