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Intuition Vs. Structural Theory In Beginning Design

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Teaching Innovations in Architectural Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.814.1 - 9.814.6



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Paper Authors

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John Phillips

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1606

“Intuition vs. Theory in Beginning Architectural Design” John J Phillips, PE Oklahoma State University


Beginning architecture and architectural engineering students at Oklahoma State University’s School of Architecture are not exposed to structural theory design courses until the third year of their curriculum. This can be seen as a detriment to the design courses during the first two years, where students must rely on intuition when addressing structural issues. This paper will explore one possibility for introducing structural concepts in the initial semester of the student’s career.

One project in the first semester ‘Introduction to Architecture’ course focuses on architectural engineering, and consists of student teams designing and building a model structure that is load tested. To test the effects of structural knowledge on the design process, three control groups of students were established for the project, with each given varying amounts of structural information for use in their design. The first group was provided no structural information and had to rely on intuition, the second group was given limited information, and the third group was given detailed information on structural concepts. The results of the study will be discussed, and recommendations will be given on providing beginning architectural engineering students with basic structural concepts for their use in early design courses.

Historically, the School of Architecture at Oklahoma State University has concentrated on architectural design basics during the first two years of a student’s education, only exposing students to structural design after they are admitted to the professional school at the start of their third year. Because of this, first and second year architecture and architectural engineering students are lacking in the knowledge of how structures influence the design process, and how simple concepts applied can greatly enhance the structural stability of their design. These first two years of a student’s curriculum without formal exposure to basic engineering concepts and theories prohibits the student from applying structural concepts to their work in the design studio courses, which can lead to misconceptions about structures in the upper level design courses. As educator Mario Salvadori states, “Even though the functional and structural components of architecture are most often distinct, structures has always had a decisive influence on design.”2 The issue of structures should be addressed by the student in these early design studios, so that a base of knowledge about structures can be established that can be built upon in subsequent courses. If this is not done, the results are third year students who cannot properly incorporate structural requirements into their designs. This past semester, a study was implemented to evaluate the effects of theory based information presented to students versus leaving the students to use their intuition with regards to structures. Helping the beginning design student better

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Phillips, J. (2004, June), Intuition Vs. Structural Theory In Beginning Design Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13427

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