Authors: Bronne C. Dytoc
This paper discusses the practice of graphic learning strategies for undergraduate architecture students in introductory structures classes. Rethinking the instructional strategies address the need for improved appeal, relevance, and engagement in the technical course, integrating graphic methods (precisely scaled drawing) in the scaffolded learning of complex tasks, and summary application in a final projectbased design task. Students apply their scaled drawing skills to represent the attributes of forces: magnitude, orientation, and action lines. These are indispensable in establishing graphic proofs to construct linkages to the accompanying computations accurately. Precise drawing of a multiforce loop leads to a math literacy where equations are generated consequentially from the graphics. This complex skill allows a better learning of truss design through the use of layered force-loops, aka Maxwell’s diagram. The project-based design task is initiated through analyses of selected case studies, constructing links between the graphic structures exercises and projects by known designers. Most importantly, through discussion, the case studies serve to bridge the concepts in basic structures to the design of the projects’ forms. The final project (a spanning structure, such as a bridge) is then designed and analyzed by student teams, applying the learned skills in a critical-thinking setting. The graphics instruction methods are instrumental in the guided learning of complex tasks while the project-based approach helps in motivating the students’ critical learning of structures, encouraging a deeper appreciation between form and forces. Pedagogically, while these instructional methods show some marginal improvements in learning performance, initial student responses point to better attitudes towards the subject matter. Further studies are recommended to verify the merit of the instructional strategies, and desired knowledge transfers to the design studio.
Keywords: Architecture education, structures, graphics, learning strategies