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Future Theories, Graphic Arguments: Activating history and theory

Catherine Bonier

Image from student graphic novel “Transformative Architecture” by Alexis Malone, ARCH 7008, Prof. Bonier (2015)

Bonier, C., “Future Theories, Graphic Arguments: Activating history and theory”
NCBDS: National Conference on the Beginning Design Student / San Luis Obispo, California, February 2016

A profound disjunction exists, both within curricular structures and in the minds of students and faculty, between history and practice. History is often seen as a graveyard to be picked through for inspiration, simple fuel for slideshows and exams based on memorization. History classes can become a necessary chore to be dispensed with before moving on to the real work of design. It seems important, especially in the digital age, when the chasm between past and present feels particularly daunting, to introduce students to the struggles and visions of past architects in order to promote more active learning and a more synthetic and grounded contemporary architecture. An active investigation of the motives and methods of past architects helps connect students to the underlying issues of design that remain constant.

How can the integration of design proposals and visionary theories into history curricula activate student creativity, and revive the depth and continued relevance of historical architectural debates concerning nature, form, material, technology, politics, and production? This paper describes a pedagogical method to connect historical analysis with design provocations, with graphic novels as the final products of history and theory seminars.


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