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Proceedings of the 18th National Conference on the Beginning Design Student

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Design -- Study and teaching, Architecture -- Study and teaching, Design (Philosophy)


As a beginning design teacher for over twenty years, I have learned that educating beginning designers entails reaching a delicate and difficult equilibrium between two contradictory positions: while maintaining the rigor of high aspirations that expect all students to exhibit sophistication of concerns and execution in their designs, one must also remain aware that each student's process is unique and fragile. This condition summons one to tolerance (not to be confused with indulgence) and much patience. This pedagogical approach, one that we practice at our school, is provokingly summarized in a phrase by one of my accidental mentors, "We are intolerant but patient."

The effort to achieve this critical balance may easily become ineffectual if one attempts to maintain a homogenous and arbitrary progress throughout the studio. The usual consequence is that the most competent students in the early stages dictate the pace of the project for everyone else. The artificiality and restrictiveness of this condition tends to hinder the sustained engagement (so indispensable for the creative act) by the rest of the students in the studio.

I submit these textual vignettes as an attempt to examine the crucial role that time and pacing play in the early stages of skill acquisition and its subsequent development.


Presented at the 18th National Conference on the Beginning Design Student, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon. March 14-16, 2002.

© Portland State University, published by Portland State University, Department of Architecture

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