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“BEGINNING ALL OVER AGAIN”: EXPERIMENTAL EXERCISES IN TEACHING ARCHITECTURE

L. Ottolini

Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
In the higher educational process, it is often useful to “begin again” or to “begin all over again,” reconsidering some topics already explored in the initial phase of the students’ education, to make them more aware of the path already covered or the one yet to be taken.
In the teaching of Architecture, “beginning all over again” means reconsidering, in its primary forms, what its constitutive element is, i.e. space.
Space can be defined through the identification of the fundamental characters that define it: the casing, the light, the materials and the colours.

The experiences that we are presenting in this paper take the student, in the final years of training and therefore, already used to working on the coexistence of these attributes, back to reconsidering them individually, in their elementary form.
The objective is that of making the student understand the importance that the different actions, in the different contexts, can have in the final construction of a project. The aim is therefore to reconsider the level of complexity attained, identifying and giving value to the founding elements.

To carry out this type of experimentation, a series of activities of the empirical-practical type, of a short duration and with an immediate experiential confirmation were proposed to the students.
From a sheet of paper that is folded, cut or shaped, they produced an elementary space, they measured its proportions and its ways of crossing.
From a cardboard box, with holes in it, catted or carved, they reconsidered the impact that sunlight can have on an interior.
From a board with portions of materials and fields of colour stuck on to it, they evoked the perceptive experience of an architecture.
From a box containing an object, its positioning, its relationship with light and its dimensions, they reappraised the relationship between space and its content.
And so on…

Through these brief design exercises, which aim to allow the students rediscover an instinctive approach to the topic, they once again recognize the pieces with which they can work to produce the whole and its complexity.

The objective of this study is to understand how empirical experiences of this type, practical and of a short duration, can represent, in a long and complex formative path such as the university one, opportunities of positive and stimulating “discontinuities” for the growth of each student.