The social dimension of studio space: face-to-face and beyond - exploring online learner experience



Architecture & Built Environment


  • digital tools, collaboration, cultural influence

There is wide acceptance that the studio stands central to architectural design education (Bakarman, 2003, 2005; Kuhn 2001; Forsyth., Zehner and McDermott 2007). It is a social environment (Gross, 1997; Chen and You 2010:152) which is characterised by communication, critique and collaboration. The studio is a physical place that facilitates pedagogy that supports community-centred instruction. It utilizes the theories of apprenticeship, social constructivism, socio-cultural theory of learning, collaborative learning, situated learning in communities of practice and enculturation.

However, the physical architecture studio, as we know it, is rapidly being transformed. Students spend less time in the studio and an increasing amount of time in computer labs. These spaces are not conducive to conversation and interaction - activities typical of the studio environment and necessary for critical thinking, ideation and design development. However, new ways to connect people and to nurture foster, and enable a sense of community are being presented by the Web. It provides possible ways to expand the existing traditional physical studio learning environment.

This paper presents work that is part of a current doctoral study by the author, entitled ―The online architecture studio: towards an instructional design framework for design-learning.‖ It reflects on the social nature, qualities and characteristics of contemporary studio learning, specifically related to the interactive and collaborative learning experience. It then proceeds to investigate how a similar social learning experience can be created online through a variety of tools such as Facebook, in teaching and learning. The learning context is one where students are involved in a fulltime final year of an undergraduate program in Architectural Technology at a University of Technology in South Africa.

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