Communication as Expressive Reflection

This text has been published in the first edition of the UMA newspaper, in which the approach of different areas of education is explained by the lecturers.

This text refers to the area of Reflective Practice, within Theory and Communication.


Photo of Sofia Wetteinen’s portfolio. Sofia materialised her development into spacial qualities, where reflection about the different courses have to be extracted from the cells and unfolded.


Communication, as it is practiced at UMA Laboratory of Architecture, unfolds on an axis that has two directions. On one side, it projects to the world as an expressive form of presenting activities and acquired knowledge. On the other direction, it works as a generative tool for design, since it caters for reflection on-, for- and in- action. Communication aims therefore both at reflecting on the design process and at presenting outcomes.


The theoretical foundation of this approach lies on those philosophical streams, which endorse a sensual engagement with the context. Our work is based on the understanding that the world makes sense because we can act in it and, especially, we can transform it, through Making. The privileged interface, with which we combine the perception of the world with the skill of transformation, is the hand. The hand allows us to repair, build and sketch. These actions elicit, at different levels, the embodiment of factual knowledge (where factual is meant literally as “what has been made”). Each action allows a different degree of ambiguity and space for interpretation and each is focal to design (Sennett, 2008; Trotto, 2011).


This thought permeates our teaching at UMA Laboratory of Architecture and it manifests itself in the field of Communication. Techniques for sketching and building are provided on a regular basis, to assist students in their understanding of the world´s complexities and project transformations on the status quo. Students are urged to use these techniques and to work through a range of scales of modeling, since each scale produces a different level of understanding of the project and triggers new spaces for designing. Equally, we strongly encourage the construction of 1:1 experienceable models, to support repeated moments of perception/conception throughout the design process.


The model that students follow during the design process, aimed at reinforcing cycles of reflection-on-action, is the Reflective Transformative Design Model. This model insists on fast and frequent iterations, which go from making and concretizing to analyzing and abstracting. Through these cycles, a social transformation is envisioned and partial and definitive outcomes are validated in context. (Hummels and Frens, 2009).


Students are regularly required to reflect on their design actions and present their reflections as a combination of different media, which embed distinct layers of meaning. These reflections are eventually collected into students’ portfolios. The students are motivated to reflect on their development, their identity and their vision, and they are asked to ground their statements with examples drawn from their ongoing projects. Students are encouraged to use the latest digital media, such as iBooks or interactive PDF’s, to present their portfolios. The same goes for teachers, who present the School´s prospectus both in digital and interactive formats, and in traditional analogue formats.

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