Mapping Making: A Framework for Contemporary Architectural Education


This paper addresses the conference theme of Teaching Making/Making Teaching by proposing a pedagogical framework in which to situate the teaching of making in contemporary terms. The framework accepts current practices of making as the new teaching model and strategizes how to incorporate the concepts into a modern architectural curriculum in order to prepare students as the makers of the built environment for tomorrow.


The takeaway of this paper is a strategic framework for (re)defining contemporary educational practices in architecture, based on years of teaching and practical experience. The framework is not a mandate but a starting point for discussions on what the teaching of making - focused on the built environment - should look like moving forward. The paper describes a flexible framework that is easily and quickly adaptable to different contexts and to changing technologies and ideologies.


The fundamentals of ‘making’ as they are taught in design education have changed. We have crossed the threshold of questioning the validity of digital making methodologies and are now entrenched in the new paradigm in which contemporary processes are driving the manifestation of physical artifacts. In this context, the toolbox that facilitates the design and fabrication of built forms ‐ inclusive of parametric modelling, computational algorithms for generative design, 3D printers, CNC routers, laser cutters, and robotic arms ‐ has fundamentally altered not only how we make objects, but how we teach design and prepare students for contemporary practice. This is especially true of an architectural education that is focused on the design and construction of the built environment and factors in many other layers such as human experience, comfort, and environmental ramifications to name a few.

Students preparing for a professional practice are expected to be on the forefront of all of these concepts plus have the skills and knowledge to integrate digital tools as a driver for all aspects of the design. With contemporary practice increasingly multi-disciplinary and collaborative, students are required to have an understanding of the complex relationships between the various entities involved in a modern design process. Students need to be leaders and innovators in these processes and educational institutions are responsible for producing these leaders of tomorrow.

This paper defines a curricular framework that supports a comprehensive and holistic view of contemporary digitized making practices. The framework developed prioritizes the instruction of students who seek specialized knowledge and skills applicable to the design and fabrication of the built environment within the context of an architectural education. The curricular matrix introduced maps the complex and often reciprocal relationships that exist between all invested parties from the client to the engineering consultant to the sub-contractor. Key concepts including data creation and management workflow, from design to production, digital craft, digital materiality, and systems based thinking will be defined and discussed as themes that give shape to the proposed curriculum. The strategies incorporated into the framework draw from over ten years of real world experience and examples in teaching and in practice. These projects will be employed to illustrate the concepts presented.

The proposed framework is not intended to replace all aspects of a modern pedagogy, but aims to enhance the key ideologies that are increasingly relevant and unique to an architectural education. Although the particular framework presented focuses on architectural education, the mapping of inter-relational connections between sub-disciplines will serve as a valuable curricular approach for educators across all design disciplines.