Becoming Computational: Restructuring Reconsidering Pedagogy Towards a (More) Computational Discipline

Few would doubt the growing importance of computational methods and thinking within architecture, but what remains unclear is how a discipline such as ours becomes computational. In other words, how do we arrive at the point of integration, when architects understand that computation is not just a tool for helping design, but a way of doing design? When all designers --not only specialists-- can practice computationally and ruminate on the subject? The goal of this session is to examine the state of thinking on the matter, tracing possible trajectories and delineating obstacles on the way to making computation not the exception but a normative part of our profession.

We believe that the success of this transformation rests on something much greater than the adoption of a particular level of vocational skill. It requires a cultural shift. Our values, attitudes, and beliefs regarding design must change. As education is one of the primary instruments of implementing disciplinary culture, we propose an examination of the topic through the lens of pedagogy. Therefore, this session requests papers describing alternative project statements and courses, curricular structures or pedagogical viewpoints, which argue for a restructuring of architectural pedagogy to resolve our apparent separation from computational discourse.

A potential way to approach the topic might be to draw from the educational experiences of other fields that are in the process of redefining themselves computationally. For example: banking, biology, healthcare, journalism, etc. What can architects learn from their example? How has their way of working –indeed, their very perception of their discipline— changed and how has this been reflected in their training of late? What might be different about architecture that does not lend itself to the approaches of these fields?

Along similar lines, might students begin to learn about computation before entering architecture school? There are some who say that the ideas of computer science constitute a new literacy, that programming ought to be a prerequisite introduced long before college, much like math and writing. Would this benefit a more computational discipline of architecture? If so, how might professionals and educators help enable this change? Might we begin to expect experience and evaluate our graduate, or even undergraduate, applicants based upon their understanding of computation?

Alternatively, submissions might consider the question: where does computation fit into the architectural curriculum? Is the natural progression to add to the traditional sequence of two-dimensional drawing and three-dimensional modeling a capstone of advanced fourth-dimensional parametrics and multi-dimensional BIM? Or is computation a fundamental skill for designers, demanding a transformative redefinition of what we teach? Some institutions have proposed hierarchies similar to these. Others have proposed alternative sequences or the notion of abandoning hierarchy all together. What is the most desirable outcome, practically, culturally, and for the sustainability or survival of our profession?

Nicholas Senske,, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Chris Beorkrem,, University of North Carolina at Charlotte