Towards Responsive and Responsible Architecture


As global challenges, among which climate change or the intensification of urban living,  become undeniable factors, architectural design finds itself confronted with the responsibility to generate accessible solutions in response to these conditions. Facilitated by the development and innovation in technology, today, taking place at an unprecedented pace, architecture, urbanism and design are now called upon to respond to bigger challenges, and education within these disciplines must fall in line

In IAAC’s Advanced Architecture Group, we have answered this by giving importance to situated, shared and experimental research protocols in education, developing innovative educational programs and methodologies. From novel multidisciplinary educational models (see BUILDs) to applied research training among academia and industry (see KAAU), the Advanced Architecture Group has been working on redefining the paradigm of design education in the Information and Experience Age. The current pandemic situation is no exception to this, accelerating through impending necessity, a process of adaptation to contingencies to ensure that learning should be a way of living, independently from limitations of physical proximity and without being compromised by the challenges of isolation.

In a broader sense, this situation has inevitably become a platform to raise many questions, due to the forced adaptation to online learning formats, as to what the future of education holds for all. 

Is online learning the future of education? As Neil Selwyn suggests, there is no doubt that the future of education will of course incorporate a growing use of the internet; but the internet should by no means determine the course of education’s future. It is clear however that the challenges in adapting education to online learning formats, due to current necessities, is very real, and not as obvious as some may think.

In the Advanced Architecture Group, in response to the current and future challenges related to environment and society, we have created adaptive and innovative methodologies in programs whose content ranges from responsive and resilient cities to advanced manufacturing and robotics. Some of our core educational principles, and their current adaptation, include:

SYSTEMIC DESIGN – Multidisciplinary and multi scalar approaches, developing design through research 

During the pandemic period, we are continuing to develop multiscalar design responses, through research, counting on the support and discussion of our multidisciplinary experts, in answer to the current Design Crisis, through design innovation towards the development of resilient cities learning from science. With an enhanced dialogue with the reality of our current context, through real time data and information, this allows us to shape design responses.

LEARNING BY DOING – working with real case studies, realtime information, working together with the industries and using the city as a laboratory

We are now in a moment where we are not only learning by doing, but we are also learning by living, responding to COVID19 by, on the one hand, distributing our laboratory throughout the city of Barcelona, and collaborating with the global community of makers, printing face shields, masks, and valves for masks for healthcare professionals and pieces of equipment needed. On the other hand, we are responding through the development of understanding of the impacts of the current pandemic, with our City & Technology program, and designing for these new living conditions, in our Master in Advanced Architecture, designing ourselves.

SHARING INFORMATION – distributed educational formats, with global agendas and local solutions, With a long term experience in distributed educational programs such as our distributed summer program, the Global Summer School, we continue innovating in the integration of mixed physical and digital learning environments, to allow the continuous confrontation with experts from a variety of different fields. Adapting to the current contingencies, the IAAC Lecture Series has also adapted to online formats, and you can now attend them from anywhere in the world!

ADAPTABILITY – A constantly evolving and dynamic research environment

To ensure the highest quality education, we have of course adapted our teaching methodologies to online learning formats, but have also seen the opportunity to experiment with new experimental educational approaches responding to the current contingencies, as the remote collaboration with our ABB robots, being developed in the Master in Robotics & Advanced Construction.

HORIZONTAL STRUCTURE – We are all researchers and we are all learning TOGETHER

Now, we are learning about new ways of living and sharing, both in work and in leisure, developing a new level of understanding by learning together, and in constant feedback with our team, students and researchers.

On a broader note, IAAC, as an institute, is devoted to shaping the future habitat of our society, building it in the present. Through the educational formats we ensure that this goal is met by empowering people through the knowledge and tools they gain in their experience with us, to make real change in, for (and with) a performative habitat, evolving towards a positive future. As the challenges we face become closer to home and more real, this message and this mission will stay our number one priority, and we will continue to adapt where necessary to meet this purpose.

Mathilde Marengo