Constructivism in architectural design education

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The set-up of the first-year courses in architectural design at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) has, in recent years, shifted from general design assignments (‘design a building for given requirements on a given site’) to assignments divided into clear consecutive steps, each aimed at particular operations in the design process – and, accordingly, from a teacher-centered to a student-centered approach. This allows the students to slowly but steadily build a coherent collection of skills, which together form the skill-set and experience needed for the complex operation of architectural design.
This has been done based on two ideas, on the notion that design is a complex and open-ended skill, and on constructivism as a theory of learning. The first of these ideas has been elaborated by multiple authors, for example by Donald Schön in The Reflective Practitioner. The second idea, that of constructivism, is based on the work of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, which says that learning is the active construction of meaning by the learner. Learning happens when the learner is confronted with new understandings about reality that are in conflict with his or her prior knowledge, and because of this is forced to reconstruct his mental representation of the world. In a constructivist course the role of the teacher changes to being the facilitator for this process of constructing meaning.
In the first-year design courses at TU/e, ‘scaffolding’ for the students has been provided with sketch workshops, a set of categories to help to explore different possible solutions, and a sequence of themes as a framework for the course (space – sequences of spaces – light – sightlines – façade composition – structure - material – detail). To make this approach effective the didactical idea should be made explicit to the teachers, and reflection should be well-integrated in the set-up of the course.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInitiations: practices of teaching 1st year design in architecture
EditorsChristakis Chatzichristou, Popi Iacovou, Leonidas Koutsoumpos
Place of PublicationNicosia
PublisherUniversity of Cyprus
ChapterInventing fundamentals
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic) 978-9925-553-29-7
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2021


  • architecture
  • education
  • urbanism
  • constructivism
  • reflection-in-action
  • design
  • design process


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