[Knowledge, Comprehension, Analysis]
Enter, slowly (Entrez Lentement)
Introduction to Architecture I and II are the opening design courses of the two first semesters of undergraduate studies at the Department of Architecture of the University of Thessaly, Greece. Both are taught by the same team (Phoebe Giannisi, Iris Lykourioti, Yorgos Mitroulias, Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, Yorgos Papakonstantinou) of tutors for more than a decade. In this framework we have had the chance to experiment systematically in design teaching methods while a teaching culture derives from the above introductory courses, one that summarizes the interdisciplinary character of the curriculum of our Department based on the dialectic relationship between architecture, arts, crafts, technology and environmental studies. The introductory design course exemplifies the above experimental experience. Both content and teaching methods are articulated in a complementary way in order to deal with spatial and material issues related both to the City and to the Coutryside (Thessaly being the main agricultural region of Greece).
Our objective is to initiate students into a different mode of observation, interpretation and representation of the material world that surrounds them; the material world that they themselves are going to design and produce in the future. Our design stance derives from the idea that our material world is produced by the inventiveness of people, the development of specialized knowledge (technique) and, aesthetic and symbolic values (art) that will give shape (processing) to raw materials through the (social) organization of labor in a given historical, natural and cultural habitat (geography). No material process exists outside this social scheme.
Entrez Lentement (enter slowly) is an emblematic phrase taken from Eilleen Gray’s built manifesto E 1027. Denoting the meaning of the motto for our courses’ purposes, we conclude that spatial understanding is a complex cognitive process and needs time to be grasped and apprehended. Thus, students should be introduced into the medium of Architecture by encountering spatial complexity and not simplified descriptions of spatial realities. Only they need to do it slowly.
Introduction to Architecture I: THE CITY ///// Public Space, Objects and Techniques. The useful object and the workshop of the artisan.
In the first semester we initiate the students into systematic modes of observation. Firstly, we bring into play the methods and tools of observation employed by social sciences such as Archaeology, Social Anthropology plus the playful practice of investigation, as it appears in a literature genre, the detective stories. Secondly, we encourage students to visit artisan workshops of the city of Volos in order 1) to build a relationship with the people -the carriers of technical knowledge, 2) to get familiar with the spatial, urban network of productive workshops and thus, 3) to understand the necessity of the distribution of technical knowledge at a local urban scale. The collaboration between students and artisans is built around the study and transformation of a very useful object that every artisan uses in his daily professional activity.
The teaching method includes various exercises on sketching, drawing, mapping, collage and video-montage making that deal with a series of modes of cognitive and aesthetic understanding such as de-contextualization, transformation, re-appropriation, re-contextualization of an object. Lectures enrich the design exercises of the students by helping them to establish relationships between design options and the history of art and architecture. Such discursive activity helps students to contextualize and historicize modes of representation and modes of making material objects. (design and production). Finally, the students transform, re-appropriate and re-contextualize the object of their study in 1:1 scale. They themselves become the artisans and the users of the material object they have been transforming.
Text from: Lykourioti, I., 2020. 'Entrez Lentement: Materials, Techniques, Geography', in Trova, V., Lykourioti, I., eds, Materiality in the architectural studio process, good practices. Lisbon: Caleidoscopio, pages, 122-133.
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