Architectural Beginning Design Studio 02




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This course marks the second and final component of the Portland State University Architecture Program beginning design studio progression, and will provide a framework for the continued development of the fundamental attitudes and skills required in the establishment of a successful creative architectural design process.


In the Winter Quarter, ARCH 180 focused primarily on the introduction of two and three-dimensional, compositional manipulation as communicative device, and students were expected to make strides in developing abilities to choreograph qualitative spatial constructs.


Arch 181 will be considered a continuation of these efforts, but will supplement the initial progress made with the introduction of the critical notions of context and intervention, and an exploration of the relationships between them.  Context will be examined as both a physical and phenomenological condition, and students will be required to rigorously apply previously exercised methods of analysis towards the establishment and communication of a thorough understanding of these qualities.  The examination of Intervention will involve the formulation of a simple spatial ‘program’ and will culminate with an investigation into the methods with which that spatial experience might be established by effectively engaging and responding to a specific context.




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

-          How might the notion of “context”, or a specific condition of place, play a role in an architectural design process?  What might be involved in the design of a contextually-specific architectural intervention?

-          How might a rigorous, thorough and humble process of analysis and questioning allow a designer to come to terms with the specific environment within which they are designing?

-          In what ways can two and three-dimensional compositions, involving multiple levels of material and tectonic design decisions, act as explorative device for a contextually-specific architectural design? 

-          To continue to develop an understanding of architecture as communicative device, and the interdependent relationship between architectonic composition and resultant spatial experience.

-          To continue to develop a rigorous, thorough and humble process of analysis and questioning with which to facilitate one’s ability to confidently and willfully engage and develop any given design challenge, as well as critically examine one’s own work?




This is a studio-based class, the ultimate goal of which is the continued development of an enriching and truly personalized design process.  Students will be required to again set aside any and all preconceived notions regarding the reading of architecture and the processes of it’s design, and open their minds to a thorough and sensitive rhythm of questioning and making.  Students will continue to develop a consciousness of their perceptual devices, while enhancing their ability to think and design from the experiential point of view.


The course shall begin with a short observation, survey and analysis-based project.  The majority of the quarter will then focus on one primary exploration, which will be divided into two phases.  The initial phase will involve the observation and analysis of an existing context, requiring students to develop a thorough understanding of how specific experiences are facilitated and bound by the equally specific qualitative and quantitative context within which they occur.  The quarter will culminate with the design of an architectural intervention within the analyzed context, the nature of which shall be a Place of Observation.


Vehicles for these explorations will include two-dimensional, three dimensional, digital and written techniques.  Each translation will be subject to intense examination and development, in the hopes 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’.



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.



Course Website


The course website is designed to make the dissemination of course and project information as efficient as possible.  All detail assignments will be obtained online, and students are expected to review each new exploration prior to the date it is issued.


Students will be required to check the website regularly over the course of the quarter to receive project and schedule updates, tips, clarifications and other supplemental information.