Our pedagogy is rooted in the fundamentals of architectural design, fundamentals that are all too often over-looked for current trends or flashy technology. The architecture curriculum at UMA stresses three major design areas: the awareness and facility of designing spatially, the knowledge for integration of scale into the design, and the power of light as the element that gives space its vitality and sensory content. When these elements are combined with an intention – the basic theme behind the design – a work of architecture may emerge.
Much as the intention is at the core of a design solution, so the use and teaching of Design with Intention is at the very core of what we teach. We have created a curriculum that systematically breaks these essential elements into their basic components. By giving students these skills, piece by piece, we help to educate designers that skillfully utilize these tools, clearly understand how they are intrinsically intertwined, and use them to support thoughtful and socially meaningful design intentions.
Developing the Spatial Mindset
Space. Architecture exists because we can only inhabit space or where the physicality of the building isn’t. Too often students in design start from the common object aspects of space definition, floors, walls, and ceilings, and manipulate and arrange these elements to define space. Designing with space as a beginning, rather than a result (the left-over of object) offers a much vaster opportunity for creative and expressive definition.
Space is the highest expression of architecture in that space is that part that may be inhabited and used for the satisfactions of life’s varied activities. The building is merely a collection of spaces in which those activities are encouraged to be experienced. Developing the spatial mind set is an important demand of a sound architectural education, representing for the student architect a shift in the object dominant paradigm in which that may have lived an entire life. In this way the architect become an expert in architectural experience potential.
We Seek Relatedness
Scale. We seek relatedness to our environment, as much as we seek relatedness to other people. It is a means of understanding our place within the physical contest of architecture, and the world in general. All too often the modern technologically driven environments in which we find ourselves lack many of those human attributes and elements that can be expressed in architecture and to which we can relate.
Scale is that aspect of the environment that offers this vital connection. Through the thoughtful use of natural materials, physical element sizes, related to the human size, and a sense of naturalness in construction techniques and light, to name but few, we may have an increased opportunity to link our “selfness” to the environment and hence better experience its positive attributes.
A Sense of “Aliveness” and Vitality
Light. Light in architecture is that which gives the space, with its human scale, a sense of “aliveness” and vitality. Natural light changes moment to moment offering a powerful link to the modulation needs of the sensory organism that we all are. We thrive on sensation and actually demand it physiologically to sustain arousal levels and optimal health.
Light offers this change, as no two moments of natural light in the environment are ever the same; light is never static and always changing. A space without natural light may be considered as “dead” and may impact its user over time in negative ways. Space and scale can be perceived and experienced because of the light that interacts and reveals them.
The Idea Behind the Design
Intention. Music has a melody, a novel has a plot, and architecture has an intention. Intention in design is the basic driving force behind the direction of the design’s expression. It is the idea behind the design, and that which can assist the designer in making decisions and help to prevent those decisions from becoming arbitrary of based on the designer’s own subjective personal historic paradigm. With intention as the driving force a design may come “through” a designer rather than just “from” a designer.