Architectural Beginning Design Studio 01




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This course marks the first half of the twenty-week, two-quarter beginning design studio sequence.  As the foundation of the Portland State University Architecture Program, this course focuses on investigating fundamental attitudes and skills required for the development of a creative architectural design process.


A critical component of this endeavor will be each student’s willingness to set aside any and all preconceived ideas as to what architecture might be, and possible methods of its design.  Students must embrace the notion that any successful design solution is the result of a rigorous and thorough investigation – a spirited and open-minded rhythm of questioning and making.


This course will operate based on the premise that we have all been experiencing architecture our entire lives, currently by more-or-less unconsciously reacting to it.  As a beginning design student the task now becomes working towards a greater awareness of the mechanics involved in these tendencies.  By more critically examining one’s own perceptions, and consequently the constructs that facilitate those perceptions, students will begin to develop a process with which to understand, and eventually manipulate, the relationships between an architectonic composition, a resultant spatial experience, and the driving conceptual goals.




The objectives of this course shall be to engage the following questions:

-          What is the relationship between architectural composition and a resultant spatial experience?

-          How can a spatial experience act as communicative device for a specific idea?

-          In what ways can two and three-dimensional compositions, utilizing a variety of materials and methodologies, act as explorative device for an architectural construct?

-          How can a rigorous, thorough and humble process of analysis and questioning facilitate a designer’s ability to confidently and willfully engage and develop any given project, as well as critically examine their own work?

-          How does a high level of intentional crafting make possible a more efficient design process, while allowing for a greater chance for discovery?




This is a studio-based course, which will progress through a series of four analysis-based creative explorations.  The initial project will focus on the development of the fundamental skills of reading and architectonic composition.  The remaining projects will be examined through a series of abstract translations, which will utilize a variety of media and techniques.  Studies will include two-dimensional, three dimensional, digital and written techniques.  Each translation will be subject to intense examination and development, in the hope that a consistency in questioning, applied to a wide range of subject matter, might potentially expose harbored tendencies and an urgent need to see beyond the initial ‘shape of things’.


For these last three explorations, students will be required to establish an intent and struggle to convey it compositionally, while also using the work as a means for discovery and the development of an ideological position.  Students must understand that clarity is paramount at all stages, and in all forms.  The atmosphere of the studio is a key factor in making progress, and students will be encouraged to exercise a critical thought process both during and between studio meeting times - both individually and collectively.




Evaluation Criteria


Grades will be established as follows:


                                                        Projects 70%                                  


                                                        Studio Participation and Attendance 30%



Without consistent and concerted effort, success in this course is not possible.  Group discussions (which are a primary aspect of this studio), desk crits and in-studio work will take place during class, and attendance for the full duration with all equipment and work is required.  Any absence will negatively affect your grade, and accumulation of two or more unexcused absences will be considered grounds for an “X” (no basis for grade).  Two late arrivals will be equivalent to one unexcused absence.   Reference the Portland State University Department of Architecture “Grading Standards for Architecture Studio Classes” in the Student Handbook for additional clarifications on grading criteria.


All work must be completed on time.  Any work completed late will be marked down accordingly.  On days where work is expected to be pinned-up, work must be pinned-up by the beginning of class or it will be considered late.  Incomplete work will not be discussed during individual or group reviews and critiques.


Architectural design studios require a great deal of time and effort both during and between studio meeting times, and students will be expected to make the appropriate commitment to the course.  High quality craftsmanship will be required for each piece developed – Carelessness and inferior quality will be grounds for significant grade deductions.