Using the classroom to challenge the boundaries of a discipline

Sawako KaijimaSawako Kaijima, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Shutzer Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute, challenges students’ preconceptions about material often defined by their disciplinary norms through the use of visual programming to foster an “intuitive understanding of structural engineering in architectural design.” Structural design and architectural design often live separately in teaching and practice but are fundamentally linked. So her Interface Design: Integrating Material Perceptions course seeks to fuse these two disciplines. The use of a software tool developed specifically for this course, which is accessible even to students with no programming experience, “defamiliarizes architecture students from the common way of looking at materials” and introduces them to an engineering perspective right from the start. 

Lowering the barriers to becoming a practitioner

Lily SongLily Song, Lecturer and Research Associate, divides her course, Community Development: History, Theory, and Imaginative Practice, into three sections. In “Unraveling,” students read theoretical texts about community development and interrogate dominant approaches that uphold race, class, and gender-based supremacies. “Revisiting” immerses students in alternative histories of community development, drawing on various liberation struggles and movements. Finally, “praxis” brings community development practitioners to present and discuss their work.... Read more about Lowering the barriers to becoming a practitioner

Pushing students to confront limits by transforming the abstract to physical form

Megan Panzano, Into Practice HeadshotIn her Transformations course, Assistant Professor of Architecture Megan Panzano uses architectural design methods and concepts, and a workshop approach for giving feedback, to engage undergraduates from a wide range of concentrations. When students translate abstract ideas into physical form through a variety of materials and fabrication techniques (see photos below), they confront limits, question assumptions, and expand their problem-solving capacity.



Giving students practice with constructive criticism

Mark Mulligan, Associate Professor in Practice of Architecture, requires students in Tectonics Lab to work collaboratively on design-build projects of increasing complexity over the course of the semester that are subject to critique by peers, guest experts, and Mulligan himself. For example, with an assignment such as construction of a simple joint between two pieces of wood, “I tell them that we’re actually going to test the joint to its breaking point, so they know that they have to build something that can withstand real force;and to make it fun, I get everyone to predict where it is going to break”—a metaphor for gaining practice with receiving constructive criticism.

‘Real-world’ projects: Balancing student learning and community need

Ann Forsyth headshotAnn Forsyth, Professor of Urban Planning, incorporates projects with clients into many of her Graduate School of Design courses, from semester-long endeavors to optional assignments. Students gain experience designing sustainable and healthy cities by working with and producing reports for government, educational, and non-profit organizations.

Defining learning objectives: Pre-semester, and all semester

Tony Gomez-IbanezJosé A. (Tony) Gómez-Ibáñez, Derek C. Bok Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy, who holds appointments at the GSD and HKS, defines the learning objectives of his course prior to the start of the semester and references them to frame each individual class session: “I use the first five minutes to place each class in the course – ‘The last class we talked about X and today we want to see how those ideas might apply to Y.’”