Date: 
09.01.15

Studio Culture

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STUDIO CULTURE POLICY
 
Although this is termed the Studio Culture Policy, it should not be viewed as exclusive to studio.  The guidelines regarding respect, intellectual engagement, experimentation, cooperation, collaboration, and time management extend to all courses, events and interactions within the School.
 
Background
 
As part of the National Architecture Accreditation Board (NAAB) conditions, each accredited school of architecture is required to have a written policy outlining the culture of its studio environment. This requirement is predicated on the American Institute of Architecture Students Studio Culture Task Force report from 2002, which encourages an environment that advocates values of optimism, respect, sharing, engagement, and innovation.  These are all values that the Princeton University School of Architecture fully supports.
 
Studio Philosophy
 
Architecture is a discipline at once technical, aesthetic and social in scope. As such, it involves a broad range of intellectual and practical abilities. Perhaps the primary attribute of architectural thinking is the ability to synthesize information from a number of different disciplines or areas of expertise. It is this synthetic, problem solving capacity that is best taught and understood in the context of design studio work. Studio work begins with the clear definition of a problem, proceeds through research to the identification of relevant data, and ends with the empirical testing and development of solutions. Many different skills come into play, from research and conceptualization, to drawing and model making. Students are encouraged to work with a wide range of media, and to think about issues of process and representation parallel to design work. In studio work, material from the entire curriculum comes into play; you are encouraged to integrate material from courses in design, building technology, history/theory and professional practice. Studio work is a collaborative process: an ongoing conversation with teachers, fellow students and visiting critics.
 
Role of Studio
 
Studio is a central component of the Master of Architecture curriculum: the studio is the place where students research, propose, test, develop, and present design propositions that synthesize material from a diverse range of sources, both inside and outside the curriculum. It is a place of collaboration, intellectual exchange and experimentation for students and faculty alike. The design studio is a place where students learn by doing; the School promotes creativity, and celebrates the values of innovation and discovery. The studio is also a place to take responsibility for what a student has created, and to be able to present and defend a student's work in public. Finally, architecture is a collective art form; many design projects at the School are group based, and there is always an aspect of collaboration in studio. Every individual project contributes to the School's design culture. Students are very strongly encouraged to work in studio, in order to benefit from and contribute to this crucial collective dialogue.
 
Studio Atmosphere
 
The School of Architecture encourages an atmosphere of mutual respect among students, staff, faculty, and administration, in studio, in reviews, in classes, and in the School in general. The School supports an atmosphere of intellectual curiosity, where new ideas and multiple points of view are encouraged. The School promotes cooperative understanding and views the studio to be a place where architectural ideas are discussed and debated, and where contradictory viewpoints can co-exist. Princeton's School of Architecture is known for discourse, critical thinking and self-directed learning. We actively encourage students not only to participate, but to initiate dialogue. The Studio is a laboratory for new ideas; one of the most productive aspects of studio culture is its variety and informality; many of the best ideas arise independent of a particular class, structure, or event, through an after-hours discussion or a chance encounter. Pidgin, the film series, Ad Hoc, Pizza Fridays, and other such publications, programs, and events, for example, are often where new ideas take root.  The School of Architecture welcomes and will support all such initiatives, which should be presented either directly to the Dean or to the student representative.
 
Design Process
 
Studio culture encompasses a number of distinct aspects of design teaching: class sessions and group meetings in which ideas, studio problems or readings are discussed; individual tutorials (desk crits), which are perhaps the most characteristic component of design studio teaching; public reviews of varying degrees of formality (with and without outside critics); and finally the private time spent working in studio, where individual or group projects are developed and produced. Each of these has a particular protocol and needs that have to be respected. In design teaching, production is important, but attention to design process is also necessary. Students are encouraged to clarify their thinking and present a full range of material that documents their design process. Individual desk crits will always be more productive when the student brings ideas and sketches to the table for discussion. Criticism in reviews will often focus on process, suggesting different avenues for exploration or alternative approaches. A productive studio culture benefits individual students and the School as a whole. Students working in studio are engaged in a common purpose; ideas, methods and proposals may differ, but in different ways, everyone is working toward a similar goal. Students will find that this atmosphere of shared purpose informs and enriches everyone's individual work.
 
Time Management
 
While studio is a home, the School of Architecture does not expect students to live there. Studio assignments can and should be completed in reasonable periods of time, without students having to spend all night at the School. The faculty is required to spell out all expectations, requirements, and deadlines in a clear manner and to work with their students to ensure that these are achievable within a realistic timeframe. The School of Architecture encourages students to balance their academic and personal obligations, including regular sleep, exercise, and healthy eating habits. Furthermore, studio should be rigorous and challenging, but it should not be allowed to overwhelm other academic obligations. Students in particular should manage their time so as to avoid all-nighters, and if a conflict arises with any course deadlines, we encourage students to take up the issue as soon as the conflict becomes evident. Students should take any considerations they have at the School -whether compliments or criticisms -either directly to the respective faculty, the Director of Graduate Studies, the Dean, or to their student representative.
 
Studio Space & Equipment
 
A diagram will be issued to each student on the first day of classes showing the location of each design studio and the studio desk layout. Each student will be issued the following furniture and equipment for each semester that they require space in the design studio: two 3’ x 6' work tables, two drafting lamps, one power strip, one task chair and one lockable steel cabinet. While the School of Architecture is a small world, where everyone knows everyone else, we strongly encourage students to lock their valuables any time that they leave their desks. Students are also encouraged to turn off lights and other electronics when not in use. Studio desks are a student's "home base" in the School. We ask that students respect the fact that they are all sharing a single space and that noise travels. Students are encouraged to use headphones if listening to music and to take cell phone or extended conversations to the student lounge or another area of the building. We remind students that most of this is common sense and simple courtesy; communication and respect will go a long way to assuring that we can maintain a positive and productive atmosphere in studio.
 
Critiques and Reviews
 
In architecture, as in other creative fields, there is no single, shared set of objective criteria that allow us to say definitively that a project or solution is right or wrong, good or bad. It is for this reason that discussion and criticism on reviews tends to concentrate on clarity and consistency, as opposed to making judgments of value or quality. While adhering to rigorous standards and promoting high expectations for design work, the School of Architecture advocates constructive criticism and respectful dialogue, however spirited, in all reviews and discussions, public or private. Faculty need to understand that reviews are stressful to the students; the School encourages thoughtful debate and respectful dialogue. Criticism should be specific in nature and dedicated to advancing the student's work. For their part, students also need to respect the review process. This means arriving on time, being well prepared, adhering to the schedule proposed by the design critic, and attending the entire review. In addition to serving as a means to assess the progress of individual students, reviews are a valuable forum for public discussion. The conversations that take place in reviews are an integral component of design teaching. Attending the full review is not only a gesture of respect and support for fellow students, in many instances, all students will benefit from comments made at another student's review. Remaining in studio working up to the last minute, not only disrupts the review process, it is disrespectful to fellow students, and one will miss out on important studio content.
 
Studio Grades
 
Taking into account the difficulty of assigning objective letter grades to the inherently subjective work of studio, all design studios are graded on a Pass/Fail basis on the student's official transcript. Within the School of Architecture, studio grades (with the exception of thesis) are recorded as Pass, High Pass and Low Pass (and in exceptional instances, Fail). Individual faculty grade each studio and determine the number of Pass, High Pass and Low Pass grades. However, by convention, the majority of students receive a Pass; a few exceptionally strong projects are recognized as High Pass, and a grade of Low Pass is given if a student is experiencing difficulty. Students in danger of failing or receiving a Low Pass receive written communication from the design studio teacher as soon after the mid-term review as possible. This letter should specify the areas that need improvement and recommend specific steps that the student can take. Studio grades serve two purposes: on the one hand they let students know where they stand in relation to the expectations of the School and the individual professor, and on the other hand, they allow the School to track the performance of each student, and make sure no one is allowed to fall behind. That said, it should be emphasized that grades are only one measure -and probably not the most important measure -of a student's performance in studio or of future potential. Criticism and advice provide in desk crits, pin-ups and reviews will form a more substantial and productive evaluation, and in all studios, the design teacher is required to give a detailed written or verbal evaluation that addresses each individual student's strengths and areas for improvement, and outlines recommendations for further work and future studios.