A New Apparatus for Design Education: An Inside Look at SCI-Arc's EDGE Master Program

SCI-Arc’s Master of Science in Design Theory and Pedagogy is a one-year program that addresses the growing ambiguity between practice and academia and prepares students for the new hybrid career that has emerged in architecture: the architect-theorist-educator. As shifting political, social, cultural, technological, and ecological paradigms redefine architecture, the program speculates on how architects will practice in the future, interrogates current pedagogical models, and focuses on what needs to be rethought, advanced, or challenged. One of five master’s programs within SCI-Arc EDGE, Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture, Design Theory and Pedagogy prepares young architects for new forms of architectural practice.

According to program coordinator Marcelyn Gow, “We’re focused on building discourse. Students graduate from the Design Theory and Pedagogy program with an ability to perform their pedagogy through both design and theory. Each of our graduates has constructed a discourse that will shape how we collectively reflect on the discipline and the practice of architecture. Therefore, the academic careers we create are not in anticipation of practice; they are a form of practice.” 

SCI-Arc alumnus Viviano Villarreal-Buerón (MS Design Theory and Pedagogy ‘19) chose to highlight professional practice as the central topic of his educational proposal though a live pedagogical incubator. He fashioned the concept for the incubator studio on insights he acquired having worked for OMA in Beijing and in maintaining his own current practice Mass Operations in Monterrey. The studio presented a simulation for students to experience and respond to events and challenges nascent architectural practices typically encounter. In the studio, students formed small teams, proposed a name and identity for their office, compiled a portfolio, and responded to fictional scenarios. Villareal-Buerón’s “Pro Simulation Summer Studio” was offered as part of a five-week visiting professorship he held at the Escuela Superior de Arquitectura y Diseño ESADI in Monterrey, Mexico in 2019.

Villarreal-Buerón was the 2018 recipient of the BECA SCI-Arc Mexico scholarship. “The SCI-Arc BECA scholarship is a rare opportunity for a Mexican architect to test the limits of architecture. Through the Design Theory and Pedagogy program, SCI-Arc has introduced me to a higher level of how we see, think, and talk about architecture—a true watershed moment in my career,” he reflects. Villarreal-Buerón’s studies at SCI-Arc culminated in his receiving the inaugural Hsinming Fung + Craig Hodgetts Postgraduate Thesis Prize awarded for design and academic excellence.

“Design Theory and Pedagogy broke out this past year in surprising directions and collaborated in significant ways with other institutions,” says SCI-Arc Postgraduate Programs Chair David Ruy, referencing Villarreal-Buerón’s live pedagogical incubator at ESADI in Monterrey, Mexico and Juan Rincón Gaviria’s collaborative curation, Sweet Harmony, exhibited summer 2019 at the Saatchi Gallery in London. “We’re proud that the work being developed at SCI-Arc EDGE can have such an impact in the larger culture,” says Ruy. “We’ll continue to build on these successes as the programs evolve.”

Exhibition view of Sweet Harmony: Rave Today co-curated by Juan Rincón Gaviria [SCI-Arc MS Design Theory and Pedagogy ‘19] at the Saatchi Gallery, London. Image Courtesy of SCI-Arc

Designed to be a platform from which a new generation of academic architects can evolve, the Design Theory and Pedagogy program encourages the development of unconventional design research that uncompromisingly expands the scope of traditional programs of advanced architectural scholarship to construct a new apparatus for the production of design theory. Throughout the program, students have substantial opportunities for acquiring practical teaching experiences combining writing, critical thinking, lecturing, and curriculum design that reconsider contemporary pedagogical practice. 

Program graduates have gone on to hold faculty positions at SCI-Arc, UCLA, Cal Poly Pomona, California College of the Arts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Städelschule, Kent State University, Pratt Institute, The Ohio State University, Universidad Iberoamericana, and New Jersey Institute of Technology. Others have entered PhD programs to continue their pursuit of architectural scholarship. 

Exhibition view of EDGE Design Theory and Pedagogy student-curated exhibition Institutional Pedagogies at SCI-Arc, fall 2019. Multichannel video installation of student interviews, archived data, and research pamphlets. Image Courtesy of SCI-Arc

Current Design Theory and Pedagogy students have been studying the history of architectural pedagogy and refining their teaching experiences by observing SCI-Arc’s core curriculum in the fall and advanced studios in the spring, as well as through developing models for core design curricula and proposals for advanced design studio briefs.

This April, the students presented interim iterations of their design education briefs to an esteemed panel of theorists and practitioners including Johan Bettum (Program Director of the Städelschule Architecture Class, Frankfurt); Ulrika Karlsson (Professor, Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm); John May (Co-Director, Master in Design Studies Program, Harvard GSD); Michael Osman (Director of the PhD program, UCLA Department Architecture and Urban Design) and other SCI-Arc faculty members. 

The class will complete the program by implementing their pedagogical positions following these briefs in the summer semester and presenting their progress at the annual EDGE Symposium in August. Keep up with the progression of student work by following @sciarc on Instagram.

The following is a showcase of projects developed by Design Theory and Pedagogy students during their tenure at SCI-Arc: 

Dylan Krueger’s (MS Design Theory and Pedagogy ’18) Rural Speculations examines the transformation and estrangement of the everyday into the extraordinary . Image Courtesy of SCI-Arc
Yara Feghali’s (MS Design Theory and Pedagogy ’18) Urban Baroque is a project for downtown Los Angeles focused on the transformation of building facades through the application of AI convolutional neural network processing. Image Courtesy of SCI-Arc
Claudia Wainer’s (MS Design Theory and Pedagogy ‘18) Fetish House challenges stereotypes related to gendered roles in the domestic interior. The application of architectural thinking takes place in the form of critical reflection on assumed norms and conventions. Image Courtesy of SCI-Arc
Ryan Scavnicky’s (MS Design Theory and Pedagogy ’17) Fictional Landscapes is a series of constructed images interrogating the estrangement of architectural entities into constructed natures. Image Courtesy of SCI-Arc
Subin Jameel’s (MS Design Theory and Pedagogy ‘19) Field Conditions is a project that incorporates a formal and material dialogue between constituents within a field of objects. The idea is to create a sense of ambiguity between real and fictional elements, as the faux takes on hyper-real characteristics, and the characteristics of the original pieces take on more curiously faux characteristics. Image Courtesy of SCI-Arc
About this author
Cite: Antonia Piñeiro. "A New Apparatus for Design Education: An Inside Look at SCI-Arc's EDGE Master Program" 25 May 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/940092/a-new-apparatus-for-design-education-an-inside-look-at-sci-arcs-edge-master-program> ISSN 0719-8884

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