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  “Why are models so attractive?” Exploring the use of physical and digital modelmaking in architectural design production.

   School of Science, Engineering and Environment

  ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The process of architectural training has been well documented as being different to typical ways of learning, involving a reflective practice that happens through the interaction with objects (Schön, 1984). In recent years, the ongoing move to digital production has enabled design students to produce work and visualise their ideas in ways previously unheard of. This shift, is currently repositioning the role that traditional model making practices play in architectural education. The use of software in architectural design production is not merely a visualization tool, but has shifted the actions of design to the level of the software.

While this shift has been taking place, the field of neuroscience and education- and in particular the processes of learning and cognition- has been gaining traction (Zull, 2002; Thomas, 2011; Busso and Pollack, 2013). Specifically in the field of architecture, the work of H. F. Mallgrave (Mallgrave, 2011) presents a ground-breaking view of the history of architecture through the lens of architects’ brains responding to their sociocultural context.

The aim of this project is two-fold:

Firstly, it will explore the methods of model making and design production in the architectural studio to suggest a new theory of material engagement that argues that physical model making in architecture involves a cognitive change in the student’s spatial perception. Secondly, it will explore recent developments in understanding patterns of cognition in education, to review how they relate to space production in the studio. 

To enable you to formulate a new theory of material engagement, you will be employing qualitative methods to observe digital and physical model making of design students here at Salford University and other UK institutions, to support the findings with other university teaching practices.

Architecture, Building & Planning (3) Biological Sciences (4) Creative Arts & Design (9)


Media and Technology 40, 168–186.
Mallgrave, H.F., 2011. The Architect’s Brain: Neuroscience, Creativity, and Architecture, 1st ed. Wiley-Blackwell.
Schön, D.A., 1984. The architectural studio as an exemplar of education for reflection-in-action. Journal of Architectural Education 38, 2–9.
Thomas, M.S., 2011. From brain scan to lesson plan. Public Service Review: UK Science and Technology 4, 1–2.
Zull, J.E., 2002. The art of changing the brain: Enriching teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Stylus Publishing, LLC.

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