ZAA architects | Understanding and creating 3d forms
Architect in Montreal
Architecture, Design, Montreal
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Understanding and creating 3d forms

The 17th International Conference on Engineering & Product Design Education E&PDE15′
3 & 4 September 2015, Loughborough university, Design School, Loughborough, UK.

Understanding and creating 3D forms using familiar objects.
Mithra Zahedi, Zoubeir Azouz | University of Montreal
Keywords: design education, learning-by-doing, design methods, spatial geometry, 3D construction.

Summary of paper
A fundamental for first-year design students is to express ideas by drawing and creating volumetric models. Traditionally, this education includes spatial geometry and generation of forms whereby students learn to appreciate intersections of volumes and projections to describe three-dimensional (3D) forms in two dimensions. However, given the aptitude of today’s students to operate 3D-modeling software and the general accessibility of current technology, spatial geometry as a core subject may seem less relevant. Our goal is to re-engage students in learning required basic knowledge and skills through a complex multifaceted design process. We have designed a first-semester course of four project-based learning activities that apply learning-by-doing methodology. For each of the past three years, 65 to 75 students have participated in our 3D Expression studio course, in which they develop understanding of design process, vocabulary, and skills to create 3D models with precision, refinements, and high-level visual impact. The paper reports on the successful results of activities conducted during the 14 full days of this studio course.
Activities and framework
With the goal to construct knowledge on principles of generation of 3D forms, first-year students are placed in an experimental set-up where they are asked to draw on past experiences, understand a current situation, and then create new 3D artefacts. Dewey’s leading ideas of experience and learning-by-doing are central: Students receive limited instructions and undergo an iterative process to build knowledge. The pragmatic aspect of experimentation is essential for designing and developing new artifacts “to foster skill development and the learning of factual information in the context of how it will be used”. Dewey’s project-based learning is arguably the most significant contribution to design education. Among the benefits of this student-centred strategy are greater understanding of concepts within context, heightened creativity, improvement in communications, and better response to feedback.
The teachings of 3D Expression, which includes principles of geometry, can be considered as part of a liberal arts education that helps students to develop creativity and a sense of aesthetics. In Plato’s words, geometrical forms are “forms of beauty”. In art and architecture, geometry is traditionally a foundation subject in most design curriculum; however, while it remains a subject that contributes greatly to design, its teaching by traditional methods and tools may have lost connection to other subjects of design studies. This reflective report enabled us to validate that students are able to express new mental constructs and develop a deep sensitivity to forms that is useful in designing products. The results of proposed methods and the feedback from peers and students confirm the belief that the projects of the studio course help students to improve understanding of volumes, capacity for imagining new abstract forms, critical thinking, understanding of the iterative process of design, understanding of visual vocabulary, and development of skills in the creation of models based on deeper understanding of underlying geometry.
Conference paper on this link.