Design/build: A Relevant Pedagogy for Architecture Education


  • Olivier Chamel Florida A&M University



Design/Build, Furniture, Building Prototypes


The predominance of drawing as a mean to create and represent architecture, whether in an educational setting or in professional practice, has had a profound influence on the design process. Drawings are so much a part of that process that they can often be mistaken for architecture itself. But drawings are not architecture, rather they are tools to create and control.

Historically, drawings greatly contributed to the establishment of the profession of architect inaugurated by the Italian Renaissance. They became the means by which architects gained control over design and by extension over the construction process. Control of the design process eventually moved from the hands of the master builders to architects’ pencils.

The long-held monopoly of drawings in architecture has perpetuated a structural disconnect between design process and the “making of things”. The heavy reliance on drawings has lead to tendencies for abstraction, repetition, self reference and a diminished sense of genuine innovation.

Design/build as an alternative delivery method focuses on a more intuitive approach based on the creative powers of manual labor and the interaction of the designer with the material world. This methodology has the advantage to re-engage a generation of student increasingly invested in a world of virtual stimuli with the physical materiality of things and promote the creative value of Homo Faber. By “making things” students are designing. A hands-on approach would also meet the needs of a student body who responds well to active learning pedagogy.

This paper will present a series of recent furniture design/build exercises where students designed and furniture and small building prototypes with limited reliance on drawings. We will discuss how subjects such as structures, material sourcing and construction detailing can be transposed from various courses and applied to design/build projects. We believe that a pedagogy based on physical experimentations could infuse energy throughout curricula no matter the course subject.


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Author Biography

Olivier Chamel, Florida A&M University

School of Architecture and EngineeringTechnology


Cammy Brothers, Michelangelo, Drawing, and the Invention of Architecture, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008

Henri Bergson, The Creative Evolution, New York: Dover Publications, 1998

Sergio Ferro, Michel-Angelo, architect and Sculptor of the Medici Chapel, Plan Fixe Edition, 1998

Spinoza, “Ethics”, Part 3, proposition 2. Traduction by R.M. Elwes. Dover publications. 1883

Zhuanzi, “The complete work of Chuang Tzu, Burton Watson”, Columbia University Press. New York. 1968. Book 13




How to Cite

Chamel, O. (2016) “Design/build: A Relevant Pedagogy for Architecture Education”, VITRUVIO - International Journal of Architectural Technology and Sustainability, 1(2), pp. 53–65. doi: 10.4995/vitruvio-ijats.2016.6773.