Beginning Design

First Year

Physical model from Head Trauma Clinic - First Year project c. 1993

The problem faced by beginning students of architecture is similar to the problem faced by someone who, for the first time, experiences a new territory of perception. Imagine then, a Martian’s encounter in trying to decipher human language out of totality of terrestrial sounds.

Understanding architectural experience must begin with a discussion of how humans construct knowledge and meaning out of all experience. The design process illicitly refers to the cycle of perception and cognition through which human construct and inhabit their physical environment spatially.

The sequence of exercises given to first year students of architecture originate in the notion that all complex, spatial operations often depend on others, which are more elementary action of the known subject.

‘Change of Position’ and Spontaneous Measurement’ are basic operation of the Geometric Epistemology investigated by Piaget and Inhelder.

These levels of special skills develop in parallel with types of spatial relationships (e,g topological projective and Euclidian) and types of reference systems (e.g, egocentric action space and surveying multiple coordinated reference systems.)


To develop visual thinking, defined as the ability to represent both internally and externally, transform and manipulate visual elements of a problem’s situation. Visual thinking is made possible by a structured economy of differential visual features- visual grammar. The Bauhaus thinkers foretold this structuralist view with their theory of contrasts.

To construct a total image out of an assortment of visual experience. Architectural experience is movement through and around solids and voids. That means you cannot see it ll at once. To know a building or a city, one must move through it from outside to inside – from above and below. See it in the morning sun and evening light. So, by definition, architectural experience is distributed in TIME, and the main task of the mind is the construction of the total image.