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Intensive teaching for the project

DOI: 10.12838/issn.20390491/n26.2014/edit

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Intensive teaching for the project

It was Ernesto Nathan Rogers who invented the summer courses of the CIAM as Giancarlo De Carlo[1] recounts. So while the “skilled, intelligent, generous” Rogers persuaded the CIAM groups to sponsor summer courses in Italy, Giuseppe Samonà "incorporated everything - CIAM, the summer schools, even Ernesto Rogers-" and took the initiative to the IUAV University of Architecture in Venice, transforming it into what would be an “extraordinary adventure for those times, that no other Italian School of Architecture could even imagine”. De Carlo attributes the great importance of the summer school developed by Rogers to essentially three main motives. The young architects from different countries who participated in this experience were bringing "new ideas" to Venice, introducing "new ways of working" to the school, and creating a rise of "new relationships between teachers and students". And he adds one thing: if today you could go back and see the projects that were developed on those occasions, they would most likely seem "ingenuous".

The primary character of the summer courses held at the IUAV in the mid-50s thus congealed with De Carlo in a interlacement of innovation and ingenuity, without however diminishing the scope and value of those experiences.

If that interlacement still characterises the developments and outcomes of the hundreds of summer schools that take place annually in schools of architecture around the world, it may be of some use to ask certain questions about the nature of such experiences: What importance do they take on, for instance, in the teaching of students, through an explanation and comparison of some of the Italian and foreign experiences. Issue number 26 of FAmagazine hence proposes a survey regarding the utility, the limits and the different forms of intensive teaching of architectural project-design.

Over the past few years, It is well known that project-design workshops have become evermore frequent and have often led to an enrichment of the education programs offered by many schools of architecture. The authors of this issue were thus invited to reflect on certain aspects that appear particularly important in initiating a comparison between the different modes and methods of intensive teaching programs for project-design. First of all, there is the temporal question: each workshop usually takes place over a period of time between two and four weeks. The brevity of the courses’ duration in turn generates conditions that differ significantly with workshops based on biannual or annual courses. Among these we should mention: the need to retract preliminary stages in order to give as much space as possible to the stages of project development; the consequent need for a rapid identification of the most effective strategies that respond to the program requirements; the growth in experience that comes from the formative moments of exchange between students and teachers of different schools participating in the program.

The articles that follow offer responses to some of the above mentioned questions and at the same time open new reflections regarding the internationalisation of schools and the complementary nature of traditional course work and intensive work-shops.

In his article, Alberto Ferlenga illustrates the experience of summer workshops that are held at the IUAV University of Venice. Founded in 2002 by Carlo Magnani, these workshops called WAVe (Workshop Architettura Venezia), will this year reach their thirteenth edition. Among the reasons for the success of this educational initiative, there must first be mention of the program’s ample size and scale: there are in fact 30 workshops, attended by about 1800 students in the Architecture University’s three-year undergraduate program. In addition to the program’s exceptional scale, there are other reasons explaining the enthusiasm with which the students await the month of July every year when the workshops are held at the IUAV. The atelier work-shops are directed by architects from all over the world, belonging to different generations with very different backgrounds and training; so, for the undergraduate students, this offers a great opportunity for exchange and to compare various approaches to project-design that are quite different from those to which they are accustomed. Furthermore the architects who are called upon to direct the studio sessions are oftentimes internationally renowned figures such as Eduardo Souto de Moura, Alejandro Aravena, Max Dudler, Pancho Guedes, Yona Friedman, Antonio Monestiroli, as well as young and emerging professionals in the field such as TYIN Tegnestue, Clinic Urbana, to name just a few.

Some additional names of renowned project-designers are also included in the article that Adriana Sarro built up as the narrative of a journey through time and space. The aim of her paper is a critical reading of some of the experiences of the workshop held in Sicily over three decades: from the famous International Architectural Design Symposium promoted in 1984-85 in Messina by Culotta and Melluso (which was attended among others by di Battisti, Cannatà-Fernandes, Leone, Magnani, and Venezia) to the experiences of more recent years, such as the travelling Villard design seminars. On the whole, the outcomes of these educational experiences configure themselves as a sort of projectual reconnaissance through contemporary themes and places where history and myth seem to blend together.

Antonio Tejedor Cabrera further broadens this perspective and reflects on the monographic theme proposed in this issue by projecting it onto a backdrop of historical and methodological questions pertaining to the teaching of architectural design as a core subject in schools of architecture along with the importance of the laboratory as a model of teaching. The practice already acquired by project-design workshops and the wide spread of summer courses and intensive programs are hence analyzed in the interrelations with the didactic organization at schools of architecture in Spain.

In my article I explain the experience of an Intensive Programme, held in three editions, between 2012 and 2014, in Venice, Paris and Seville, with the purpose of presenting the main characteristics of the teaching method adopted for this initiative. The absence of leading professors amongst the groups of students has resulted in discussions on the projects taking place at multiple and interconnecting levels. In this way, the transfer of knowledge, view points and knowledge takes place on both the vertical axis (teacher - student), as well as horizontally (student-student, teacher- teacher), thus facilitating an effective exchange of knowledge, comparisons of different approaches, and a hybridization of the teaching methods used in the four European schools participating in the program.

In the article by João Matos Barros and Rui Mendes, they point out how the workshop can represent a pedagogical realm that promotes the coexistence of different ways to approach the project. In particular, through recognition of the diversity of methods used by the different teams of teachers and students, they note a stimulus that engenders communication, comparison and research. The article analyzes the teaching methods and outcomes of the three workshops, two held at the University of Lisbon, and the third held at ENSA Paris-Malaquais. The differences among the experiences presented further highlight the emergence, in those three experiences, of an analogous dynamic model of learning, a methodology in continuous evolution, and an ongoing experimentation regarding the teaching of architectural design.

The article by Gustavo Carabajal closes this issue with a reflection that correlates the role of workshops to a more broad and general question of "how to" understand the teaching of the project. Sequential and simultaneous modes of learning, the integration of disciplines and processuality constitute the major points through which he articulates his argument. Against the backdrop of these questions, the three workshops described in the article take on the character of didactic challenges in order to address the topic of "the usefulness of what seems useless". The building of a bird-house, the project-design for a kite, and the designing of a game all seem like themes that are far from the teaching of architectural design. These themes however lead to the understanding that a bird-house is not a cage; that the project for a kite design can pose useful questions regarding the tasks of experiential learning; and to design a game requires reflection on the importance of rules. For a game and its rules, as Carabajal writes, are basically the same thing.

Mauro Marzo

Translation from italian to english by Alexander Sera

[1] G. De Carlo, I miei incontri ravvicinati con Giuseppe Samonà, now in A. Mioni, E.C. Occhialini (edited by), Giancarlo De Carlo, immagini e frammenti, Milano 1995, pgs. 40-41.

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