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Physical Models as a Teaching Tool in the Digital Condition

Landi, Davide


Davide Landi


Architecture as a discipline and a profession continually deals with the making sense of reality and all its complexities. A fundamental tool used in this process is the use of physical models as a substitutional tool. For instance, they are not a mere tool for comparison of different design proposals: physical models challenge abstract ideas by giving them physical consistency. Using this approach is not new in Architecture. Theorists and Architects such as Alberti consistently emphasised in his treatise that architects must work with drawings and three-dimensional models throughout the design process.
Societal changes such as the 2008 economic crash and the advent of new technologies have challenged traditional economic and technological models. New demographic structures and the migration phenomena, the production and availability of new technologies not only transformed the city and its inhabitants into something different (i.e. these are quantified cities which are experienced dynamically by quantified post-human beings), they also have affected the availability and nature of work and education. In this, the technological revolution has redefined architecture as a profession and a discipline. The use of computers in architecture, for example, started as drawing, and 3D digital model making machines. Nowadays, architects and students of architecture are able to use computers as programming machines to develop their own scripts and generate spectacular geometries and forms.
Taking this position into consideration, the paper will critically investigate the continuing use of physical models as a substitutional tool in the profession and thereby teaching of architecture. While it will historically approach the theme, the paper will present as a case study the work of a contemporary theorist/educator whose theories have been tested through constructions. Go Hasegawa is a Japanese Architect who studied at the Tokyo Institute of Technology with Yoshiharu Tsukamoto (Atelier Bow- Wow). After an internship in Paris with Lacaton & Vassal, he worked for Taira Nishizawa Architects. In 2005, Go Hasegawa opened his own office Go Hasegawa and Associates, which has questioned archetypes to generate prototypes. Overt time, his office has developed a portfolio that mainly covers single family/private houses which have embedded Hasegawa’s doctoral research and teaching (i.e. Go Hasegawa obtained a PhD in engineering from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and he has taught in several schools of architecture). Despite the rapid digital turn in architecture as a discipline and profession, Go Hasegawa stands in a renewed position towards the use of physical models as a substitutional tool to investigate reality and all its complexities.
From this, to anticipate my conclusion, the paper will question the intellectual differences between hand model making, and digital model making including 3D printing to introduce the notion of “opacity.” It comes only after the student or architect realises the continuity between digital and physical domains and the physiological and physical implications on a design process. At this junction, students develop a comprehensive understanding of physical model making as a contemporary design tool. In addition, physical and digital models create a frame for critical discussions and democratic education.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Start Date Jun 3, 2019
APA6 Citation Landi, D. (2019, June). Physical Models as a Teaching Tool in the Digital Condition. Paper presented at 4th Rencontres de l’EDAR - EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland