Case-Based Pedagogy

A major part of architectural design exploration is physical prototyping. It is when you can get much clear insight of the abstract thought and inspect the idea through different lenses, most often the three fundamentals of building outlined by Vitruvius: Firmatis or robustness and durability, Utilitas or the functionality and Venustas, aesthetical aspects: how building should delight the users and raise their spirits. Although you would explore that idea in a 3D modeling tool or by sketching, the understanding you get from a real prototype holds more intuitive information, even if it is a scaled one. You would face the multi-dimensionality of the design, the constraints and opportunities, and the fact that you need knowledge or contribution from other domains like material science and engineering.

students study their design idea for a case-specified project by prototyping – Burchard Hall

Besides, each architectural project in a design studio is usually site-specific. That would map various forces into the design, including directionality, climatic features, adjacencies, etc. All would define and frame the project within a particular array of solutions. Along with that and more than built projects, thousands of projects are not built; yet, they expanded the imagination, creativity, research borders and offered new insights into the field due to their uncontextualized concerns. The abstraction layer of such questions has afforded opportunities for unbiased thinking that might aid emerging novel solutions or more intriguing questions.

Given this analogy, I think case-based learning can clarify a subject by often simplifying and, in some cases, reducing it to specific circumstances. It reveals the nature of real-life problems requiring multivariate and multidisciplinary thinking, analyzing and synthesizing, and dealing with more complexity and high dimensionality. This approach needs to be accompanied by theorizing and abstraction to provide creativity, imagination, and interpretation opportunities. Going back and forth from deductive to inductive methods can extend the cognition and enable it for theoretical and empirical learning.

spatial culture of design studios as a space for collective design exploration – Burchard Hall, March 2021


3 replies to “Case-Based Pedagogy

  1. Thanks for sharing! I think architecture is a perfect example of where problem-based learning can work really well, because it is so hands-on. I can definitely see how talking about a project or putting it on paper wouldn’t be as meaningful or impactful as actually building something and seeing how it goes. I’m sure instructors in these types of classes function more as guides, to help students troubleshoot problems they are experiencing, rather than simply telling them how to do a certain task.


  2. Hey Sara. This was an interesting post to read for a few reasons, but the first one that caught my eye was the new architecture terminology-I have definitely experienced venustas, but never had a word for it! It was a fun post because I am in an allied discipline (Landscape) and I see parallels between our studio cultures in so many ways–and yet it is also very different, too. I liked what you said about taking a problem and simplifying it to parts that can be tackled…each piece builds on the next until you have a solution or intervention developed.


  3. Hi Sara! I think your closing comments on the fact that the case-based learning HAS to come hand in hand with the theoretical work is essential and key. I have experienced some case-based learning in my own undergrad experience but I think it was lacking in terms of the actual theoretical work behind it. There seems to be this support for connecting course-work to real worl experiences but I think it falls behind when actually connecting it to deeper concepts and not just the formulas or software that is used. It’ll be interesting to see in the future for there to be an increase in case-based learning and seeing how other people are able to successfully integrate it including the philosophy behind concepts.


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