Over the coming weeks, Cool Spaces! will present assignments taken from Northeastern University School of Architecture’s 2014 Summer Design Studio, an introductory design course. Taught by NEU’s Rebecca Whidden and Alyson Tanguay, the monthlong program offers high school and undergraduate college students an opportunity to learn about the world of architecture through a series of design exercises that culminate in a final design project.
For our purposes, there will be a total of five assignments. Ideally, you can think about each assignment as taking about two weeks to complete. When a new assignment is posted, we’ll also post photos showing what Summer Design Studio attendees produced for the previous assignment. Remember: There are no right or wrong answers. These illustrations are meant to only show what others have done and to keep you on track.
It’s best to do the exercises in the order they are assigned. The idea is to gradually build toward the final project: in this instance, a small pavilion. Previously, we noted the tools and materials you will need; Stephen also strongly recommends getting a copy of Form, Space & Order, by Francis D.K. Ching. This book beautifully illustrates design concepts and explains architectural terminology in simple language. You will feel much more confident having it alongside you as you work through the exercises.
Here, the studio course is a self-directed, meaning that you will not have a teacher present, as they did at Northeastern. Nevertheless, you can still gain a lot from the experience. The key is to know that architectural design is all about iteration: doing things over and over and making incremental improvements each time. Engaging other people at each step is the key. You need to get into the habit of explaining what you are trying to accomplish with your design and sharing it with others. The act of trying to articulate your vision through architectural means — i.e., drawings and models — is the goal. Architectural design does not take place in a vacuum. A building is always designed for a particular place and a particular end user.
Ideally, this course would be offered in the context of a high school art or science class and directed by a teacher. In architectural design, you learn by seeing how others approach the same problem. If you want to engage in this process with fellow students, working with a teacher — even if they do not have experience in architecture — to keep the group focused and progressing is important.
Of course, you can always attend the Summer Design Studio — or any of the other programs available to high school students. There is no better way to experience the world of architecture than to immerse yourself in it.
Finally, if you do follow the course through to completion, send us your final design. Stephen promises to give you a critique. It’s the least we can do for you taking the time to give architectural design a try.
Image: Courtesy NEU Summer Studio.