CREATIVE CONNECTIONS: MAINTAINING STUDIO CULTURE IN AN AGE OF PHYSICAL SEPARATION
A core component of architectural education is the design studio, the comprehensive course where students integrate material from technical and theory courses into a unique synthesis of individual design intention and collaborative design critique. The architecture studio conventionally operates as a forum for instructors to provide lectures on topics, external reviewers to offer critical feedback on work, and most importantly, for students to collaborate, share, and constantly raise the level of performance. The physical studio is the environment where students enjoy the comforts of formally and casually exchange ideas, work on physical drawings and models, and collaborate with their peers; it is also where a great deal of an architect’s education occurs. This “studio culture” has been a hallmark of the education of an architect to the point where it has become a component for many professional accreditation bodies around the world. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted this pedagogical environment and outright extinguished the opportunity to retain this facility in light of recent physical distancing parameters. This paper presents key strategies in maintaining an architectural studio culture in both academic and extracurricular conditions.
The paper outlines a series of curricular steps that were integrated both midway through a pre-COVID-19 studio and an unprecedented completely online studio in Canada’s largest architecture program. Rather than dwelling upon the limitations of online engagement between students and faculty, the paper presents a series of teaching modifications that proved to be useful in maintaining, and in some instances, improving students’ studio engagement and performance. The paper also presents a series of extracurricular methods that were undertaken to ensure students remained both connected to each other beyond an academic context and motivated to keep a high level of productivity despite their physical separation from each other and the campus.