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LEARNING TO SEE: MADRID AND ITS HISTORY THROUGH THE ANALYSIS OF THE MOST EMBLEMATIC CITY BUILDINGS

M.A. Flórez de la Colina, P.C. Izquierdo Gracia, M. Valiente López

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (SPAIN)
Basic drawing techniques are confronted to computer aided design (CAD) in many architecture or engineering curricula in most European universities. To represent and understand reality, these professionals need to use graphic models, and new technologies with electronic devices are replacing manual techniques. Training students to acquire the ability to “see the space” is also to help them to develop their imagination and abstract thinking skills. The importance of teaching students how to draw using traditional instruments was already pointed by Mac Laren (2008) [1] while Ferguson (1992) [2] explains that many Renaissance innovators were artist before engineers, learning to sketch to transmit their ideas, but also to understand the world around them.

As a case study, we developed a strategy to check these abilities of European students through our “Athens Course” [3], a drawing course in Madrid, with traditional and very basic means, offered to European engineering and architecture students, specifying that no prior knowledge of drawing is required. It is aimed to make them know the city of Madrid and its history, walking and looking around and learning “how to see” as they focus on what they like or in problems they perceive, to develop their communication skills by speaking with other students and sketching some of the most emblematic public spaces, such as “Plaza Mayor” square, or buildings like “Centro-Centro” in Cibeles square.

Some important considerations about the context and the aim of our study: the number of students is limited, 28 in November 2014 and 22 in November 2015, with very different kind of studies, with no “control group” to check. Most spatial skill tests are based in simple or complex graphic forms. As described, the model for our student practice is as complex as a modern city can be. But the limitation of their graphic competence obliges them to select the information they transmit. It may look difficult to reach our aim, to produce images that can enlighten for us the sentence of Arheim (1986) [4]:"Thinking, then, is mostly visual thinking" and to start new methodologies for “creative thinking”.

The results are shown and explained in this paper, were students communicate a clear image of Madrid, not always seen by local citizens.

References:
[1] Mac Laren, S.V. (2008). Exploring perceptions and attitudes towards teaching and learning manual technical drawing in a digital age. Int J Technol Des Educ 18. Pp. 167–188. [DOI 10.1007/s10798-006-9020-2]
[2] Ferguson, E. S. (1992). Engineering and the mind's eye. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
[3] “Athens Course – UPM-101”. The ATHENS Programme is one week course, held twice a year (in March and in November), by a network of European higher education institutions (universities, universities of technology, Grandes Écoles...). The programme is coordinated by ParisTech.
[4] Arnheim, R. (1986). A plea for visual thinking. New Essays on the Psychology of Art. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 135-152.