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Reiseuni Report | Making Of European Architecture Dialogue
Reiseuni Report | Making Of European Architecture Dialogue

Vol:III_11. Workshop Cluster • Design Reflection – Decoding of Design Strategies

V:III_11. Workshop Cluster • Design Reflection | Dagmar Jäger
V:III_11.1 [DR] Design Research: Practice of Aesthetic Reflection. Key Terms
V:III_11.2 [DR] Design Methods: Three Workshops – Decoding the Process. Goals and Programmes
V:III_11.3 [DR] Interdisciplinary Discourse about "Research by Design"


[Fig. 00] Design Methods – Phase Diagram, Dagmar Jäger
[Fig. 00] Design Methods – Phase Diagram, Dagmar Jäger

Design Reflection | Three workshops about architectural research by design, interdisciplinary models and theory create an empirical framework of self-reflection and open debate within the study programme, in order to establish an experience-based architectural design discourse. Students and professors reflect upon the rich treasure of their own design practice as also on differences of positions of the participating architecture schools. Experimental seminars and colloquia serve to catalogue, systematize and analyse multi-faceted design strategies, to objectivize individual positions about architectural practice, education and research into an open-minded knowledge transfer between all participants of the Reiseuni_lab.

The first chapter presents key terms of design research like “art and science of designing”, ”architecture and design knowledge”, “self-reflection as integral part of architectural design research” and explores the Master programme’s key strategy, the “rotation between project work and reflective periods”.

V:III_11.1.1 Ontology of Design Processes: Comparative Search of Iterative Design

The German philosopher and hermeneuticist Hans-Georg Gadamer has seen it as a "problem of a specific kind, if aesthetic reflection is not already part of the process of design itself. With regards to the idea of the work, it is without doubt, that the designer [during the process of working on the design] needs to consider, critically compare and evaluate different opportunities of design."[1] The specific characteristic of the comparative search for new solutions is implicit in the process of practice through iterative design and the recurring reflection thereof – as Gadamer understands this quality from a design-ontological perspective. Heuristic-reflective design processes bring forth aesthetic processes of search, cognition and revelation, in which alternative variations of design are conceptualized under subjective aesthetic, intrinsically driven and objectively functional criteria. The design position and solution are carried out step by step and in an iterative manner.

[1] The Heidegger-scholar Hans Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) developed a hermeneutic philosophy Wahrheit und Methode elaborating the concept of an individual understanding within the limits of the specific conditions of understanding [Bedingungen des Verstehens; ibid.: P. 281f.]. The German citation: "Der Philosoph und Hermeneutiker Hans-Georg Gadamer bezeichnet es als "Problem von besonderer Art (...), ob man nicht im Vorgang der Gestaltung selber (...) schon ästhetische Reflexion am Werke sehen soll. Dass der Schaffende im Blick auf die Idee seines Werkes verschiedene Möglichkeiten der Ausgestaltung erwägen, kritisch vergleichen und beurteilen kann, ist unleugbar." [Gadamer, Hermeneutik I. P. 123 (DJSMS: P. 52)].

Art of designing – Science of designing

The phenomena of architectural design (Entwerfen), crystallizing in design practice, experience and reflection thereof, includes qualities of art and of science at the same time: The art of imagination and conceptualisation, of renewal, invention and of relational thinking on the one hand, and on the other hand architectural design includes the science of process analysis and organization, of planning and methodology and of empirical reflection. Futures are being imagined or developed, through discovery or by articulating or focusing on a particular question or problem, by suggesting a concise design strategy, a functional programme or a spatial solution. Furthermore, future design solutions emerge by perceiving and adequately analysing and appropriating the existing site and cultural contexts. Complex conditions finally will be developed, described, explained, priorized and visualized in its full potential towards a concept – if necessary or possible, these ideas can be materialized as scaled mock-ups or within a physical context 1:1.

V:III_11.1.2 "Architectural Knowledge" (Architekturwissen) versus "Design Knowledge" (Entwurfswissen)

When the Roman architect Vitruvius wrote of scholarliness as a precondition for architectural practice,[2] the discipline of architecture with its richness in individual experience and objectivized knowledge faces the conceptual pair of design knowledge and architectural knowledge in the 21st century of a highly differentiated academic environment of design sciences. The experience knowledge gained through design practice and the reflection thereof constitutes the key discipline of the generalist practice and teaching of architectural design (Entwurfslehre). The expertise on designing is closely related to the knowledge about built architecture. In the following, I will use this differentiation as a starting point, to highlight the systemic particularity of the Master's Programme in the duality of research-oriented project work and reflexive phases about design [all about the Master's programme framework, >>>Vol:I_2.]. This very structural polarity inextricably balances the growth of knowledge about built architecture or design proposals and the increasing knowledge about design processes in order to amplify individual consciousness and to contribute to an increasing comprehension about architectural projects, design, processes and strategies.

[2] See his distinction between the terms fabrica and ratiocinatio – the two poles of design experience between mechanical exercise (experience) and analytic reflection about designing. 1st book and sentence of his 10 books about architecture: "Die Baukunst ist eine, mit vielerley Kenntnissen und mannichfaltiger Gelehrsamkeit ausgeschmückte, Wissenschaft, welche sich mit Geschmack die Werke aller übrigen Künste zu eigen macht." Vitruv: Baukunst. P. 12.

Architectural knowledge: Knowledge about the work

While the design knowledge is derived from the individual, practiced experience of design and often self-reflective systematization and ritualization, architectural knowledge stems from the historical and contemporary, multi-disciplinary know-how transfer and understanding of the built work, related to the biographical accounts of architects and their cultural context. Whereas, in the historic times of Vitruvius, i.e. medicine and astrology were regarded as necessary qualifications for the architectural profession, what counts today is a modified interdisciplinary knowledge about history, sociology, politics, familiarity with diverse architecture positions and urban transformation processes, with built typologies and heritage and a wide-ranging understanding of art, engineering and philosophy pertaining the canon of architectural knowledge.

The conditions of its production are one of the contemporary key concerns of the theory discourse in Germany: Multiple publications about Architekturwissen or the research Netzwerk Architekturwissenschaft, founded in Berlin 2010, demonstrate this interdisciplinary interest of architects, philosophers, cultural scientists or art historians about the interpretation or perception of space and production of architecture. Since 2009, the journal Candide - Journal for Architectural Knowledge considers the discourse through philosophy related articles which range from chapters about space and fiction or analyses of built work to critical examinations of architect's biographies.[3]

[3] Candide Nr. 1, Bielefeld 2009.

Design knowledge: Project experience and reflection thereof

While the interdisciplinary architectural knowledge canon today is deepened in many specialized, academic discourses and university departments of technical, historical, economic and social sciences, the design knowledge emerges from the interplay of practical design competences and the objectivizing reflection and theory building thereof. The young discipline on design research (Entwurfsforschung) enlarges the methodological repertoire on design sciences with a focus on design processes, enriched through qualitative research on experimental paths of solution finding through project work. The empirical investigation of individual experiences, perceptions and memories represents an important topic within a process-oriented model of design research (cf. Schnittmuster Strategie,p. 39f.; [DJSMS]).

The appropriation of design experience as disciplinary knowledge is interconnected to the exploration of interdisciplinary contents and time-based theoretical positions on designing. Growth of design experience, within a study programme, depends on various forms of practice and theory, such as: strategy comprehension and visualisation knowhow, communication and moderation skills, methodology of planning and aesthetic-tectonic education. In order to find specific solutions, it is needed to choose and apply adequate and at the same time individually experienced design tools, to identify suitable means within individual process choreographies and organizing principles, in order to create the dialogical mediation of making, perceiving, associating and thinking.[4]

[4] Cf. Elke Krazny: The making of Architecture. The research project investigates the multifaceted and specific, individually elaborated design strategies, tools and working environments of selected architects like Alvar Aalto, Yona Friedman a.o.

Both, objective scientific methods of analysis and planning as well as an individual set of artistically experimented strategies of reception, conception and transformation, create the experiences of design or our scientific art. The practice of design interweaves seemingly contradictory and irreconcilable conditions of design. Insights from engineering and natural sciences as well as functional and architectural knowledge have to be integrated into design processes as well as the knowledge about human nature and its civilatory condition by transformative and thought strategies. Design knowledge evolves from the aesthetic and holistic engagement with architectural history, biography, space and stories. Design knowledge is created through the analytical understanding of a concrete physical and emotional need and through seizing spatial qualities and movement as part of a social and cultural context towards a new context of the resulting answer.

V:III_11.1.3 Rotation between Project Work and Reflective Periods

Within the Master's Programme of the Reiseuni_lab, it is of central importance to relate the reflection of design processes to the individual project experiences of the young designers (more about the general framework: >>>Jäger: V:I_2 European Architecture Dialogue + Master's Programme). The key components of the programme are the exploration of experience knowledge acquired through project work on relevant and open questions throughout Europe, the relating back to the experience through reflection of implicit knowledge and the anchoring within the theoretical discourses of the discipline. The rotation between these three main pillars lies at the heart of the programme.

The teaching of architectural design within the study programme takes place in eleven workshops: Eight workshops focusing on the architectural practice by research-based project work; three workshops focus on the empirical reflection of design practice. The workshop trilogy on design methods is conceptualized as a chorography and framework of the Master's Programme, to enable a stepwise knowledge growth of the students through process-introversion, dialogical process-analysis, and the design of processes. The individuals are encouraged to master the investigation of and the design and moderation of complex processes towards multi-faceted solution.

Design Reflection 1 takes place as a propaedeutic element of the study programme to analyse processes in the frame of a dialogical process-introversion; Design Reflection 2 at the end of the workshop cycle serves to analyse and reflect all proceeding project results, applied strategies and experiences; and Design Reflection 3 constitutes the starting point for the 5-month Master's thesis to develop the research concept of the thesis.[5]

[5] In the first period of the programme from 2010-2012, the titles have been: Design Methods: Propaedeutic, Reflection 1+ 2. The colloquium and workshop part Reflection 1 was situated at the end of the second semester. Second cycle's workshop title since 2014: Design Reflection 1-3; and the second workshop is placed at the end of the complete workshop cycle.

[Fig. 01] Diagram of the study programme 2015
[Fig. 01] Diagram of the study programme 2015.

Besides teaching disciplinary knowledge, the already acquired experience knowledge about design strategies of each student – since childhood as cultural practice and since their studies of architecture as professional experience - is activated as part of the subject matter during the full two years of the postgraduate programme.[6] The multifaceted experiences of the complete study group serves as research material of dialogical analysis and reflection, in order to open up an empirical reference frame from the beginning on. The exercises, experiences and results gathered in the workshops Design Reflection 1 + 2 become the primary methodological repertoire of analytic visualizations and knowledge about how to design processes next to theory investigation in the field of research about design. Resulting from this, the design knowledge is being conceptualized and widened by all participants.

[6] Susanne Hauser explores the dimension of designing as cultural practice in: Kulturtechnik Entwerfen.

The didactic model of the workshop trilogy Design Reflection 1-3 emphasizes explicitly the empirical and qualitative research approach in order to motivate perspectival thinking derived from individual experience and insights. Instead of prioritizing factual knowledge, the focus of the workshop programme lies on strengthening the active appropriation of knowledge and the reflection of the experiences through interaction between the students and their individual search for a statement of adequate design solution and an individual ethic and aesthetic position. The professors should facilitate this appropriation and the exchange of experiences.

V:III_11.1.4 Self-reflection as Integral Part of Architectural Design Research

Similar to process-oriented psychoanalysis, which first practices self-analysis and then external analysis, it is important to our discipline of design knowledge, to sensibilize and strengthen the individual cognition, perception, empathy and capacity of decision making – the personality – in order to be capable of discovering unknown aesthetic qualities, to penetrate this terrain and to connect the newly gained insights to the individual world of design, spatial experiences and own memories. According to Vitruvius' first book, finding an individual position occurs through engagement with philosophy. He characterizes this process of what we call today reflective learning as constitutive one towards the figure of a master builder.[7]

[7] Vitruv: Baukunst. P. 3. Cf. The concept of a self-reflective design practice has been elaborated in the design didactic of the author, Selbst-Reflexive Entwurfspraxis [DJSMS, 2008, p. 24f.].

The design reflective methodology has been developed in 2009-2010 as an integrative part of the pioneer study programme. The act of architectural self-reflection is considered as intrinsic part of an education on design processes. The choreography of the workshop trilogy focuses on the analysis and design of dialogical processes, so that students gain awareness about others' thinking and learning, in order to appropriate an analytical-methodological and knowledge-based repertoire as an architect. Through introspection in the beginning of the study cycle, the empathy and sensitization of the individual are supported, for then dealing with participatory open and transparent processes of design genesis, in student teams or later in low hierarchies of nowadays architecture production of Western democratic societies. The propaedeutic workshop of Design Reflection at first strengthens the individual awareness of the student's own richness in opportunities and reveals the treasure of professional and cultural experiences. And only in the following steps the individual is introduced to be engaged with the process of understanding the intentions and process designs of other individuals, to design processes towards solutions and to penetrate design (process-) theories and unknown design approaches in experimental settings.

The personality-based pedagogy intends to support a process of contextualization of knowledge and experiences within the individual self-development of the students. In dialogical and group formats, the individuals are supposed to experience themselves within their background and interests. They are encouraged to engage with their personal capacities, their individual repertoires, their specific memories of space and their cultural reference frame of design practice. Furthermore, they deal with lived processes of design and their own stock of individual, preferred design tools and solutions in a variety, consisting of mental strategies, three-dimensional and two-dimensional visualisations and investigations, mapping approaches, brain storming and group strategies as also verbal tactics and rhetoric capacities. These didactic goals and research approaches aim to increase the awareness of the student's own experience, to be critically reflected, widened and externalized in a dialogue which finally leads to an openness towards other design approaches, different aesthetic positions, other designers and undiscovered disciplines beyond one's personal background.

[Dagmar Jäger, Berlin, 2017]


Bibliographic Information:
Jäger, Dagmar, Design Research: Practice of Aesthetic Reflection. Key Terms. In: Reiseuni Report | The Making of. European Architecture Dialogue. Jäger, Dagmar (Ed.); Pieper, Christian (Ed.) et al.; Reiseuni_lab: Berlin, 2017; Vol:III_11.1, ISBN:978-3-00-055521-3, DOI:10.978.300/0555213,

The second chapter describes the specific didactic goals of each of the three workshops during a two-year-cycle of the Master's Programme, includes the workshop programmes, tasks and documents and shows selected results with short explanations of the students.[8] Quoted text descriptions of the students have been parts of the set of tasks of each workshop.

[8] The text of the second chapter bases on the study programme description (= workshop wise detailing of framework, objectives, content, assessment mode). First version, published on BTU study info system in 2010, second, modified version published on TTU study information system "OIS" in 09.2014.

Research about design: Super ordinated goals of three workshops

Next to traditional knowledge on project work, the handling of complex architectural tasks necessitates scientific, analytical, functional, artistic and creative methods to carry out the design of processes, to develop examinations, to select the adequate means of research, to filter complex conditions, to read traces and to programme the city, architecture, design and decision finding processes. Methods and strategies of communication and visualization, procedures of analysis and synthesis form the central tool box, the methodological repertoire of a team-generalist. All these capacities demand a high level of self-reflection and empathy as foundation for an increasing consciousness about individual and other positions and preferences, demand competencies of transfer in order to steer the problem-solving processes with involved people and disciplines.

Three research-oriented workshops about Design Methods (since 2015 Design Reflection) are implemented at the beginning of the 2-years-studies, in the midterm (since 2015 at the end) of the workshop cycle and as first part of the individual Master's Thesis elaboration.

The workshops are developed in a consecutive manner to:

  • enable an accompanying recognition learning process;
  • analyse the experiences and strategies of project work;
  • evaluate, document and reflect the project results in comparison;
  • contextualize and apply design knowledge and experiences by transfer strategies;
  • analyse and compare the different architectural schools' positions and workshop programmes;
  • develop the research concept and research portfolio of the Master's Thesis;
  • enable the research dialogue, reflection and knowledge transfer within the international group of students and professors of the programme.

V:III_11.2.1 "Design Reflection 1" – Research about Design Strategies

The first workshop prepares students for the research-oriented project and teamwork at the different design schools, strengthens their individual consciousness about their own appropriated strategies and the positions of others, so they develop awareness for and acquire a repertoire of analytical skills and tools for heterogeneous approaches for dealing with urban and architectural assignments, as well as for making theoretical and self-reflective observations.

Experiences and theories from the areas of design methodology, interdisciplinary and creative teamwork and architectural research are investigated. Strategies of communication, documentation and visualization form a central repertoire of design strategies. Student's experience with different tools, with artistic strategies and scientific methods of analysis is raised. Competencies of transfer of knowledge into the design process in order to steer the problem-solving processes with involved people and disciplines are intensified. The praxis of sharing the generated recognitions within the research group via different formats of presentation, exhibition, critical feedback and lectures is trained in multiple scenarios and the students get familiarized with the design research terminology.

Reflection on Action

The heterogeneous international group of students from different countries, diverse cultures and various architectural education backgrounds provides the foundations for taking a superordinate look at diverging perceptions, methodological positions, approaches and theories through process-introversion. Visual, spatial, graphic, drawing-based and text-oriented analytic methods and diagrammatic mapping are applied to analyse processes in different steps.

A set of consecutively biography-related or interacting exercises, dialogical analyses, feedback sessions and presentations serve to elaborate the intercultural and objectifying exchange. The investigative part of the workshop combines the reflection of individual design strategies with the analysis of design methodological experiences from fellow students and positions from architects of the 20th century until nowadays by lectures of students, professors and guests of different disciplines of architecture, urban planning and art. The documentation and review of the semester workshop results serve for all participants – professors and students – to reflect on the experiences within the study programme. The growth about professional learning processes and the contribution to a theory about design knowledge is a core and integrative part of the workshop approach (cf. John Dewey, purposeful learning).

[Fig. 02_1-4] Design Methods – Workshop programme 2011
[Fig. 02_1-4] Design Methods – Workshop programme 2011


First 24h task: "Voyage Diary 1"

Journey diagram 1: Experimental approach to the artistic topic of journey sketchbook. Biographical architects journey diary, self-observation, self-reflection.

Output: scientific bio-geographical voyage mapping 1x1m

[Fig. 03_1-18] Design Methods – Voyage Diary 1, Class-01 + Class-02
[Fig. 03_1-18] Design Methods – Voyage Diary 1, Class-01 + Class-02


Second 2-days task: "Space of Remembrance"

Individual spatial memories to be selected, visualized and interpreted in 3D.

Output: Imagery narration, atmospheric model without scale, technical drawing

[Fig. 04_1-11] Diashow: WS 00 Design Methods – Task 2: Space of Architecture, Class-01, 2010
[Fig. 04_1-11] Diashow: WS 00 Design Methods – Task 2: Space of Architecture, Class-01, 2010


Third 2-week task: "Design Process Analysis"

Presentation and analysis of an individual, exemplary design project with focus on the process, in dialogue with a fellow student of the group (e.g. undergraduate theses) in the fields of architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture. An experienced reference to be objectifying reviewed and reflected.

Output: (3.1) Lecture (3.2) Visual, spatial, graphic, drawing-based, text-oriented analysis, diagram 1x1m

[Fig. 05_1-25] Diashow: WS 00 Design Methods – Task 3/4: Analysis of an individual design process, Class-01/02, 2010/11
[Fig. 05_1-25] Diashow: WS 00 Design Methods – Task 3/4: Analysis of an individual design process, Class-01/02, 2010/11


Last task: "Voyage Diary 2"

Selected important architects of the 20th century of greater Europe – ranging from le Corbusier, Friedrich Kiesler, Adolf Loos to Fernando Tàvora – are the starting point to a series of historic-biographical mapping of voyage, tracing working and voyage experiences as strategy of research about spatial and architecture production within the 21st century.

Output: Diagram 1x1m

[Fig. 06_1-10] Diashow: WS 00 – Task 5: Voyage Diary 2, Class-01, 2010
[Fig. 06_1-10] Diashow: WS 00 – Task 5: Voyage Diary 2, Class-01, 2010



The workshop introduces the students to the two-year accompanying research tool "Sketchbook" and to the architectural and town planning context of the first hosting city. Exploring architecture and city qualities of each country and its regional surroundings – guided by the professors onsite or of students – the onsite tours are deepened by individual observations through drawings, sketches, mappings as means of documenting, understanding and analysing of built architecture. The sketchbooks serve as permanent mean of an individual visual diary and supportive tool of knowledge growth via reflection, interpreting impressions and safekeeping of processes of mind.

[Fig. 07] >>>Poster EAD Kiel Sketches 2012
[Fig. 07] >>>Architectours

[Fig. 08] >>>Sketchbook Dagmar Jäger
[Fig. 08_1-9] Sketchbook Dagmar Jäger


[Fig. 09] >>>Sketchbook Maria Bello
[Fig. 09_1-38] Sketchbook Maria Bello


[Fig. 10] >>>Sketchbook Mehdi Pamsari
[Fig. 10_1-19] Sketchbook Mehdi Pamsari


[Fig. 11] >>>Sketchbook Sebastian Seyfarth
[Fig. 11_1-15] Sketchbook Sebastian Seyfarth


Students' perception of workshop "Design Methods 1"

The two following extracts of students give an insight into the perception of the first weeks, written some 5 months after the first workshop. The texts are part of the analysing task of the workshop "Design Reflection 2":

Michal Baroz, postgraduate student of Haifa, 2011

"The first 5 weeks were focused on the personal process discovery in different aspects within architectural projects' analysis. That kind of method was completely new for me. At the beginning I did not really know how to handle those kinds of tasks. I tried to use the tools that I have my background from. After a while, I understood that the best way to go through this kind of Master's Programme is to look, to listen and to understand the background of my colleagues. The "Design Methods" workshop 'forced' us to discover different ways of planning, researching and implementations. The four tasks, which were given, include some personal parts and some objective analysis process at the same time. The mixture between those two parts helped to understand the choreography of the process in different ways. Today it is easier to understand the value of this part in the programme. The way to introduce ourselves towards the place that we are coming from in different scales and afterwards introduce our colleagues, was a very successful way of reflection as individuals and as a group."

Nabila Aftab, postgraduate student of Bangladesh, 2011

"A key factor of this Master's course is the diversity of people who joined this unconventional ride. It is truly a journey – a journey through time, place and people. However, it is not as joyous and merry as it sounds. It is steps of cultural shocks with people we meet and most importantly with people we live – within the group. A deep introduction to each other within the group of seventeen was the main motive and the result of the propaedeutic session.

I was a late starter to this…with a late visa and not-to-mention a missed flight in the Turkish airport. During this hectic time through the Dhaka traffic between the Dhaka-German embassy and last-minute shopping errands, my going-to-be new friends in Cottbus had already started their journey with a personal "Voyage Diary 1".  As I walked through the university corridors looking at their work, it gave me an insight into their inner journeys as individuals.

As I arrived finally with a lost luggage and a heavy head, I came across the presentation of a very personal project – a "Space of Remembrance" [Task 2]. It was yet again an insight to these people I was going to be with for the next two years. They were all different from different parts of the world. They dressed differently, they talked differently, they thought differently.  I myself at the end of the presentation tried to flip through my sketchbook opening a window to where I come from and what my emotional space is.

The real journey for me began after that (…) – an assignment to understand and explain a colleague's work, and vice versa. This was the first opportunity for us to work with each other and try to communicate through our personal works.

Finally, we pursued a "Voyage Diary 2" of an Artist [Architect]. It was also an interesting way for us to go into someone's voyage and experience, something that we also might encounter through our roller-coaster ride through Europe for two years."

[Fig. 13_1-3] Design Reflection-2: Workshop Programme
[Fig. 13_1-3] Design-Reflection-2: Workshop Programme


[Fig. 14_1- ] Design Reflection-2: Selected Works
[Fig. 14_1- 9] Design-Reflection-2: Selected Works


[Fig 15] Reflection-2, Exhibition at CBU 2012
[Fig 15] Design-Reflection-2, Exhibition at CBU 2012

[Fig. 16] >>>EAD Kiel
[Fig. 16] >>>EAD Kiel

V:III_11.2.2 "Design Reflection 2" – Reviewing Documentation and Reflection

The second workshop "Design Reflection 2" serves to analyse and evaluate the experienced design strategies, educational schools, programmes and project results of all preceding workshops in an objectifying and self-reflective manner. During four weeks, the students develop a portfolio, documenting and analysing all results of the study programme. Possible options for the Master's thesis topic are to be discussed. A colloquium and exhibition serve to review the conclusions with professors of the Reiseuni_lab.

Students apply scientific methods and artistic oriented strategies of critical evaluation and reflective documentation, experimenting diagrams, text-based analysis, graphics, sketches or interviews to present, to review, to visualize and to re-think their heterogeneous experiences and results. Different methods of documentation in text, film and image, visualization concepts of mapping and critical self-reflection are experienced. The course aims to strengthen the individual positions and experiences throughout the process of reviewing own results. The students are invited for research by learning participation – the international group of students of each academic rotation works together with the team of professors and guest lecturers. The praxis of sharing the generated recognitions within the research group through different formats of exhibition, round tables and lectures is part of the seminar part and of the colloquium in multiple scenarios.

European Architecture Dialogue – Colloquium

The second workshop of the sequence "Design Reflection" and the colloquium at the end serve to present, analyse and evaluate all precedent workshops and individual results of each student and participating universities of this academic rotation, to discuss the experiences gathered in all different universities and cities and the resuming documentation of all proceeding workshop results together with the professors of the programme.

The colloquium is an integral part of the Master's Programme and research discourse between the universities, professors with the students, which serves for all participants – professors and students – to learn from each other, to compare and reflect the research results: European architectural key challenges and the specific regional differences, the variety of didactic and research approaches and diverse problem-solving-strategies. The discussions about and selection of the results in the exhibition form the basis to focus the key topics to be examined in more depth as superordinate issues for the research oriented Master's Thesis.

V:III_11.2.3 "Design Reflection 3" – Master's Thesis Research Portfolio

[Fig. 18_1] Design Methods Reflection-2 – Portfolio-Master's-Thesis, Mindmap: Sebastian Seyfarth
[Fig. 18_1] Design Methods Reflection-2 – Portfolio-Master's-Thesis, Mindmap: Sebastian Seyfarth

[Fig. 18_2] Design Methods Reflection-2 – Portfolio-Master's-Thesis, Timetable: Kaisa Lasner
[Fig. 18_2] Design Methods Reflection-2 – Portfolio-Master's-Thesis, Timetable: Kaisa Lasner

In order to develop a research concept within a team cluster, the four-week workshop Design Reflection 3 serves to prepare the focus, to organize the research period and to progress self-opposed questions, contexts and design framework of the Master's thesis elaboration. In a number of sequenced preparatory steps, round tables and brain storming sessions, the candidates propose their relevant topics and motives for the Master's thesis in coordination with the professors. On the basis of the resuming colloquium of Design Reflection 2, one of the topics from the previous workshops is developed in detail and prepared for in-depth dealing with from both a practical and a theoretical point of view, or one of the superordinate issues developed in the workshops is dealt with in-depth from both a practical and a theoretical point of view. A schedule details the preparing period and lecturer's supervision.

Students have one month for developing the research concept in dialogue with the complete group and under the supervision of the responsible professor in order to design the process of the half-year research period and to independently develop the Master's thesis' results:

The motivation and justification of the Master's thesis research focus, the selection of the implemented methods, the shaping of the topics and questions, the research of relevant literature, the defining of relevant interdisciplinary research contexts, the selection of needed plan material and finally the choice of the supervisors [Master's Thesis Portfolio]. The professors support each student to carry out the thesis in team clusters sharing a collective and super-ordinated topic, at the same time strengthening individual approaches, positions and results.

Final symposium "European Architecture Dialogue": Evaluation and dialogue

The public presentation, final examination and exhibition of the Master's theses take place as part of an evaluative symposium attended by all of the university lecturers participating responsibly in the theses and study programme to enable the research dialogue within the international group of students and professors of the European cooperation and network. The location for the final event rotates between the countries and partners involved.

>>>Vol:III_12. Master's Thesis – Cultural Transfer
>>>Vol:I_2.2. Research platform European Architecture Dialogue

Bibliographic Information:
Jäger, Dagmar, Design Methods: Three Workshops – Decoding the Process. Goals & Programmes. In: Reiseuni Report | The Making of. European Architecture Dialogue. Jäger, Dagmar (Ed.); Pieper, Christian (Ed.) et al.; Reiseuni_lab: Berlin, 2017; Vol:III_11.2, ISBN:978-3-00-055521-3, DOI:10.978.300/0555213,

The third and last chapter contextualizes the key concepts of the design reflection workshops as intrinsic part of architectural research by design within the interdisciplinary discourse landscape and explains the specific knowledge production from within the discipline: the generalist-oriented architecture education is rooted in the pedagogical tradition of the concept of "social learning".

V:III_11.3.1 Architectural Research from within the Discipline

Today, the interest in design knowledge and the systematization thereof has remarkably increased. Numerous disciplines such as cultural studies, industrial design, communication design, systemic and learning psychology, pedagogy, diverse artistic disciplines, engineering sciences (especially mechanics and systems research) or philosophy (about creativity) are engaging in discourses about research on solution-finding processes for complex spatial arrangements, which up until the mid 20th century used to be a mostly exclusive theory discussion within the discipline of architecture. Over centuries, this discourse has been a traditional architectural reflection from within the discipline, about the discipline's methodology and education, terminology, means, order and elements or positions.

It is yet to be seen how this comparably young theoretical discipline Research about and by Design of architecture (in Germ. Entwurfswissen, Entwurfsforschung) will be received by the academic and interdisciplinary research landscape (see more detailed about the tradition and discourse landscape: >>>Jäger: Volume II_0: Theory _ Research by Design. Introduction).

Its approach to knowledge differs from purely research-based disciplines in that it includes the personal engagement and the richness of the growing design experiences for the involved individuals. Text-based investigations range below mostly representational strategies, visual methods and artefacts of research. The individual access to knowledge by design experience is created through a subjective perspective of interest and mental imagination towards future, which is then objectivised through process introversion towards systematization or also individual ritualization – the introversion is a necessary pre-condition for first self-reflection, then qualitative research.

In order to construct new design theories for architecture, the specific methodologies, the individual positions and the multifaceted mix of strategies which have been integrated from other disciplines, have to be extrapolated from within the discipline's experience based perspective as fruitful contribution to a vivid and interdisciplinary research dialogue with the humanities, arts and engineers.[9] In the academic landscape, it is important to strengthen the methodological diversity of research about design and to support the independence of the theoretical foundation of building culture, which is anchored in practical experience – as opposed to liberal arts oriented or other scientific disciplines – in terms of its relevance for research.[10]

[9] >>>Vol:II_1-3 Architecture Research. More about the qualitative and diverse characteristics of architectural research you will find in three different approaches as perspectives and chapters about the specifics of architectural research throughout the 20th century until today.

[10] Cf. D Jäger: Creative Processes*X. Interdisciplinary Dialogues; Schaffensprozesse *X. Interdisziplinäre Dialoge. In Generalist Research, Nr. 02, 2010. P. 53.

Talking and doing versus understanding of doing

Because saying and doing and understanding the doing cannot find common ground without effort, empirical know-how cannot, by any means, be directly verbalized or translated towards theoretical models. Reflection of design processes, qualitative evaluation and finally the public dissemination of design knowledge in the art of architecture respective science of architecture should be heterogeneous, methodically inspired by multiple disciplines and open to experimentation. The university-level commitment to production, reflection, discourse and explanation of architectural design knowledge as intrinsic part of theory building – of the artistic and scientific design research and exploration – is permissible along diverse paths and expertise.

For the architecture education and research by design projects in universities, explanation means self- and external reflection, means process-analysis and engagement with mostly intuitively experienced project work and individual learning processes. The appropriation of external knowledge from the theoretical fundament of our design theoretical discipline and the accompanying feedback from others serve to develop a consciousness raising of own experiences and to systematize the knowledge for all participants of a design team, of a workshop as also of the academic community within the university sphere.

The experiences from the decision-making processes accompanying the design of an architectural or urban assignment to develop a solution, are allowed to be illuminated, bared and transferred to the surface, deciphered and brought into the realm of objectivity; or they are allowed likewise to be veiled or codified, fragmented, demonstrated incompletely, dismantled or deconstructed. The interdisciplinary scientific dialogue about design knowledge profits from this artistic freedom.[11]

[11] More: Creative Processes*X. P. 51-59.

Density of knowledge growth and experience growth

In the Master's Programme, the appropriation of architectural and of design knowledge and the transfer thereof – in order to create strategies to deal with open questions and to develop site-specific solutions – and the reflection and systematization of design experiences emerges from different design schools and takes place in different localities, life worlds and their respective architectural culture. These qualities constitute the core of the design and architectural knowledge generated in the 11 workshops of the European Master's Programme.

At each new stage of their studies, the students are confronted with a new social phenomenon, a different design strategy as well as another kind of individual workshop choreography of didactics and problem solving. Students appropriate a specific repertoire of architectural knowledge about European cities, their built heritage, history and urban fabric as well as about contemporary architecture, the built typologies, architectural positions and discourses from art, culture, politics and social life.

The newly gained knowledge and the wide-ranging experiences and understanding from the fields of design and architectural knowledge are used to tackle future unknown, site-specific, local and spatial challenges. Equipped with this grown individual reference frame, the students of the programme are dedicated to face current problems of European architectural culture and urban development with the awareness of particular, local differences and with the required understanding and open-minded perspective towards unknown needs and approaches. This philosophy of architectural education intends to activate a socially responsible architectural practice.

V:III_11.3.2 Scholarliness (Gelehrsamkeit) & Architectural Education – a Contradiction?

There is no consensus – neither within Germany nor within Europe – which contents should be considered as the basis of a knowledge canon relevant to architecture theory and practice, which students should master at the end of their architectural studies (beyond the UIA/UNESCO charter's consideration and recommendations). This issue remains a value-laden dispute. The individual treasure of knowledge – based on Vitruvius' idea of scholarliness, or as we have called it the architectural knowledge – as well as the individual treasure of experiences – the implicit and explicit knowledge about design – will accompany every student in their future careers and be developed in processes of lifelong learning and throughout each new project.

The contextual repertoire of knowledge, which is needed to develop specific problem solutions, is highly dependent on the respective site-specific conditions, values and the preferences in decision making of the involved parties and individuals.

The self-sufficiency of the students – the independent orientation of designing as learning process – to create a specific repertoire of knowledge, has to be supported to enable them to choose adequate methods, strategies of synthesis and formats of dialogue or communication, as well as enabling them to choose the relevant knowledge of contexts needed for a particular problem solution. This kind of independence trains students to set priorities and to transfer interdisciplinary and intercultural knowledge – a tremendously important ability for all kind of challenges under pressure of time, economic and contradicting interests – and to balance complexity, substance and value-driven phenomena and finally, to establish an ethical attitude towards a multi-layered context.

Generalist versus specialist: Strong personalities instead of working ants

An academic education that intends to provide its graduates with a wide-ranging generalist practice of their profession cannot focus solely on the isolated transmittance of expertise. Instead, this form of education needs to include the intense experience of designing within an atmosphere of collective life-experimenting and the active and dialogical appropriation of knowledge during two years and with the whole study and life group, as well as the capacity to focus own, individual intentions within the group processes, to select from potentially multifaceted, relevant knowledge fields, methods and strategies. Re-iterated phases of individual and collective reflection – within and after processes of design – are necessary to contextualize the intuitive experiences of one's own repertoire of memory. All these capacities will lead to the creation of knowledge and enrich already existing social contexts, cultural and architectural discursive spaces.

The reform pedagogical concept of social learning remains virulent. The appropriation of knowledge in our discipline should be rooted in the context of real life experiences as requested by Walter Gropius for the Bauhaus School already 100 years ago,[12] in order to support headstrong characters with a sensible recognition and empathy for the diversity of perspectives and people's worlds, that are able to "see life in its totality ['complexity' or 'relationality'], instead of getting lost in the narrow channels of specialization".[13] These characters play a crucial role in the development of new architectural research, pioneer projects and horizons for a social life.

[12] Wick, Rainer: Bauhauspädagogik. Köln 1982 (1988). P. 74.

[13] Gropius: Architektur. Wege zu einer optischen Kultur. P. 16-17: "(...) das Leben in seiner Gesamtheit zu sehen, statt sich zu früh in den engen Kanälen der Spezialisierung zu verlieren."

[Dagmar Jäger, Berlin, 2017]


  • Dewey, John: Experience and Education, New York, 1938 (1963)
  • Gadamer, Hans-Georg: Hermeneutik I, Wahrheit und Methode. Gesammelte Werke. Bd. 1, Tübingen 1960 (6. Ed. 1990)
  • Gethmann, Daniel; Hauser, Susanne (Ed.): Kulturtechnik Entwerfen. Praktiken, Konzepte und Medien in Architektur und Design Science. Bielefeld 2009
  • Gropius, Walter: Scope of total Architecture. New York 1955
  • Jäger, Dagmar: Die Schnittmuster Strategie. Eine dialogische Entwurfslehre. Berlin 2008 [DJSMS]
  • Krazny, Elke: The making of Architecture. Wien 2008
  • Vitruvius Pollio, Marcus: Baukunst. Erster Band. Bücher I-V. [De architectura libri decem]. Basel 2001
  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques: Bekenntnisse [Les confessions], Genf 1782
  • Vitruvius Pollio, Marcus: Baukunst. Erster Band. Bücher I-V. [De architectura libri decem]. Basel 2001

Bibliographic Information:
Jäger, Dagmar, Interdisciplinary Discourse about "Research by Design". In: Reiseuni Report | The Making of. European Architecture Dialogue. Jäger, Dagmar (Ed.); Pieper, Christian (Ed.) et al.; Reiseuni_lab: Berlin, 2017; Vol:III_11.3, ISBN:978-3-00-055521-3, DOI:10.978.300/0555213,