Design Elements: Shaping Design Pedagogy at theTime of Global Economy

Presented by: Anna Gitelman

It is a belief of our university that focusing teaching and research on problems in the real world best fosters professional competence. Our international faculties focus their projects and assignments on problems that reflect changes in economic and political situations not only in the US, but also in the world. These projects enable students to actively participate in the topic research through their involvement in the studios, workshops, conferences, exhibits, and other exchanges. A central aspect of all our efforts is collaboration—among diverse range of design programs, and with public and private institutions in the US and abroad. Our faculty and students are engaged in the problems facing countries at all stages of development, taking part in the public discussion of issues on a global scale, studying, developing and applying the best practices all around the world. In this presentation, I would like to discuss international program that we launched in the Summer of 2015. It was designed for graduate students that are striving to get a global perspective on the current economic developments in the world, and position themself in the global market. This program took place in Spain, and was conducted in collaboration with faculties from one of the premier Architectural Schools in Madrid. This two courses 6 credits program included a seminar on contemporary Spanish Architecture and a Design Studio. In the theoretical part of the program, students were introduced to contemporary issues of Spanish architecture as they reflected on the current economical and political situation. Students discussed the development of the contemporary language of Spanish architecture, which came as a response to the precarious conditions in Spain including cultural isolation and the delay in industrial and economic development after the Civil War. This language developed from an unorthodox awareness and a tendency towards experimentation built up by pragmatism and the ability to consider hybrid techniques and alternative tectonic solutions and material use. As a result, the number of projects that were presented in this course had a temporary nature due to the constantly changing economic landscape. After a careful review of these projects, students were presented with a design problem that addressed the same issue. For their studio project, they were asked to develop a design for an interior space that would have the ability to transform and accommodate alternative needs, but at the same time emphasize the dialogue between material culture and temporary nature of construction. The site that was chosen for this project was a flexible space located on the ground level of the architectural and design hub located in the heart of Madrid. Students had to develop a program for an international student center that would function as a temporary space until the more permanent location was found. In this presentation, I would like to share evolution of student research and design processes and teaching methodologies that were used during project development. The project theme ”Elements” encouraged students to look beyond the “normal parameters” of design elements and see them in relationship to the context. Students were able to use case studies that were presented during seminar discussions to start developing individual approaches to the problem. It also prompted students to take the research to the next level and start looking into “elemental” relationships within the contexts of the student hub, a social and creative space. Student’s research speculates that creative work and those who undertake it prosper far more in environments that appear a little un-designed or unfinished. These assumptions were inspired by extensive travel and site visits where students could see the works of architects and designers that had to find a balance between having a tight budget while creating an exciting design.


  • On-Site: New Architecture in Spain by Terence Riley, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 2015.
  • Interior: Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014 by Inaki Abalos (article) Arquitectura, Publication by COAM, Madrid 2015.
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