Research: 'themes' in architectural design studios

PhD Candidate: Beatriz C. Maturana
Supervisor: Dr Greg Missingham

While the general architectural education curriculum is accessible, public and subject to periodical scrutiny and evaluations, the core of the discipline, the ‘content’ of design studio is not. Design studio is peculiar in its delivery of knowledge. With a focus on problem-solving it provides an alternative non-normative approach to education. This approach is interesting as it requires a selection process of the problems to be tackled which tends, as sometime asserted, to emulate the reality of the architectural professional practice. This sifting process of selecting which problems of professional practice are incorporated and which are not, is replicated in the selection of the social reality (problems or issues) investigated within the design studio.

I am currently undertaking a PhD research at the University of Melbourne, Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning. My research supervisor and fellow researcher is Dr Greg Missingham. The focus of this research is architectural design studio and it investigates ‘themes’ in some faculties of architecture in Victoria in New South Wales, Australia.

The typology of problem selected and explored by the studio is what this research calls the 'themes' or problems. If the design studio is about problem-solving, what problems do these studios focus on and what problems do they leave out? The thesis will examine the data to ascertain how studios preference for certain 'realities' above others takes place.

This research has a practical application and it should assist to further understand how teachers shape new professional architects through the themes explored in the design studio. Because of this, we envisage that the results will be useful to all the faculties involved.

So far and to provide a contextual framework to this investigation, we have interviewed some academics from different parts of the world. The decision in regards to who I was going to interview responds to an earlier interest (still present but outside the scope of this work), to understand how an Anglophone and European (Napoleonic) educational traditions can determine the general profile of the architect that they produce. Interviews have been conducted in Australia, Sweden, Spain, Chile, Brazil and England. These interviews, while not longer the central focus of the research, have been essential to understand the wider context in which architectural education takes place (social, cultural and historical backgrounds, ‘educational market’ and competition, socio-political and ecological awareness) and finally, to understand the role of architecture within the city.


Santiago, Chile:
• Dr Cristina Felsenhardt Rosen: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: City, territory, Landscape Architecture and Environment / Design Studio.
• Dr Federico Arenas Vásquez: Profesor de Análisis del Territorio, Magister en Asentamientos Humanos y Medio Ambiente, Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales, Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Estudios Urbanos, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
• Dr José Rosas Vera: Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urban Studies PUC. Decano de la Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Estudios Urbanos, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
• Dr. Margarita Greene Zúñiga: Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Estudios Urbanos, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
• Jonathan Barton: Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Estudios Urbanos, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales. http://www.puc.cl/ieu/
• Ricardo Tapia Zarricueta: Arquitecto, Universidad de Chile. Director INVI (National Institute of Housing) 2003 - 2005

Porto Alegre, Brasil:
• Prof. Arq. Paulo Hom Regal: Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul.
• Prof. Arq. Renato Menegotto: Coordinator of the department of projects, Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul.

Barcelona, Spain:
• Dr. Aquiles González Raventós:La Gran Scala Masters Program, ETS Arquitectura de Barcelona

Stockholm, Sweden:
• Päl Röjgård: KTH, School of Architecture, Stockholm, Building design
• Mats Egelius: White Architects, author of book “Ralph Erskine, Architect” (1990)
• Pehr Mikael Sällström: Swedish Association of Architects, Education
• Dan Johansson: KTH: teaching 4th year architectural/planning/urban design, KTH, Stockholm
• Professor Dick Urban Vestbro: Div. of Urban Studies, Dept. of Infrastructure, KTH, Stockholm
• Lars Orrskog: Assoc. Prof in spatial planning, KTH, Stockholm

London, UK:
• Professor Hans Haenlein MBE: Hans Haenlein Architects / Reading University, Website: here
• Gregory Cowan

Melbourne, Australia:
• Dr John Rollo: Architecture and Building, Deakin University
• Rob Stent: Immediate past president of the RAIA (Victoria Chapter), Partner at Hayball, Leonard & Stent Architects
• Prof. Miles Lewis: BArch BA PhD (Melb) AM FAHA FRSA. Professor of Architecture, University of Melbourne
• Mario Gutjarh: BArch Melb. DipTRP Melb. MRAPI. University of Melbourne

• Dr Ashraf Salama: Professor of Architecture, Qatar University. Meetings, email conversations and his extensive written work on architectural education continue to assist this research. Website: here

This research focuses on the content explored in design studio, not its pedagogy. Central to this research is the gathering of data from design studio outlines produced by faculties of architecture in Australia.
Greg and I are specifically looking for design studio handouts from 2003 to 2007. The data we are focusing on consists of: studio handouts, posters, or any other available information regarding the themes (topics) of architectural design studios from 1st to 5th year (or faculty’s equivalent 3+2), preferably in electronic form. No grades (results/marks) or data on student’s submissions are necessary. This research has ethical approval and does not involve photographic material (except for ours) or personal data.


If you believe you could contribute with data for this research please contact us: email

As part of the literature review I would particularly like to note the work of:

Fisher, Thomas. In the Scheme of Things : Alternative Thinking on the Practice of Architecture. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.
Argyris, Chris. "A Life Full of Learning." European Group for Organizational Studies 24, no. 7 (2003): 1178-92.
Bermudez, Julio. "The Future in Architectural Education." Paper presented at the 87TH ACSA Annual Meeting Proceedings, Minneapolis 1999.
Boyer, Ernest L., and Lee D. Mitgang. Building Community : A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice : A Special Report. Princeton, N.J.: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1996.
Habraken, John N. "Tools of the Trade,Thematic Aspects of Designing." An unpublished paper on the education of architects (1996),
Kostof, Spiro. The Architect : Chapters in the History of the Profession. 2000 ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.
Ledewitz, Stefani. "Models of Design in Studio Teaching." Journal of Architectural Education (1984-) 38, no. 2 (1985): 2-8.
Milne, David. "Architecture, Politics and the Public Realm." Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory / Revue canadienne de theorie politigue et sociale 5, no. 1-2 (Winter-Spring, 1981): 131-46.
Morin, Edgar. Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future (Les Sept Savoirs Necessaires a I’education Du Futur). Translated by Nidra Poller. 7 place
———. "Sobre La Interdisciplinariedad." Centre International de Recherches et Etudes Transdisciplinaires (CIRET) Boletín No. 2 (1990).
Salama, Ashraf. "The Architect and Society - Chapter 2." In New Trends in Architectural Education: Designing the Design Studio, edited by Ashraf Salama, 1995.
———. "A Theory for Integrating Knowledge in Architectural Design Education." ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research 2, no. 1 (2008): 100-28.
Salama, Ashraf M. "A Process Oriented Design Pedagogy: Kfupm Sophomore Studio " CEBE Transactions 2, no. 2 (September 2005).
Salama, Ashraf M., and Nicholas Wilkinson, eds. Design Studio Pedagogy Horizons for the Future. Gateshead UK: Urban International Press, 2007.
Schön, Donald A. "The Architectural Studio as an Exemplar of Education for Reflection-in-Action." Journal of Architectural Education (1984-) 38, no. 1 (1984): 2-9.
———. "Toward a Marriage of Artistry & Applied Science in the Architectural Design Studio." Journal of Architectural Education (1984-) 41, no. 4 (1988): 4-10.
Stevens, Garry. The Favored Circle: The Social Foundations of Architectural Distinction. Boston: Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1998.
Teymur, Necdet. Architectural Education : Issues in Educational Practice and Policy. London: ?uestion Press, 1992.
———. Environmental Discourse : A Critical Analysis of 'Environmentalism' in Architecture, Planning, Design, Ecology, Social Sciences and the Media. London: ?uestion Press, 1982.
Tombesi, Paolo. "Capital Gains and Architectural Losses: The Transformative Journey of Caudill Rowlett Scott (1948–1994)." The Journal of Architecture 11, no. 2 (2006): 145-68.


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