Carolin Stapenhorst Copyright: © Tool-Culture

The junior professorship “Tool Culture” investigates the tools and methods used during the design process. Consequently, it can be assigned to the scientific field of design theory. Within Faculty II it is part of the Collaborative Research Field “Context and Form”.

As designing is an activity composed of intuitive and rational processes, tools can be defined in multiple categories: presentation tools, analysis and synthesis tools, communication and thinking tools, all helping with the discovery and organization of design-relevant knowledge. The combination and interaction of the different tools facilitate the creative, innovative and problem-solving moments, which in the end constitute the design.

The research – which is, as described, mainly research on design – can be perfectly combined with teaching, because the students try and describe the tools and develop their own tools. Additionally the observation of the student design processes can be evaluated scientifically. The central focus of our teaching is designing, which, as a core skill of future architects and planners, must be established, reflected upon, and cemented during their studies. The conviction, that designing is the most important competence – even if changes in architects’ job profile seem to marginalize this action – is based on the observation, that skilled designers can also solve complex problems. They do so by using an integrative approach to handle conflicting requirements, changing basic parameters, and the combination of rational and intuitive procedures, to then translate them into spatial indications. On these grounds, the skill of designing extends beyond the architectural disciplinary context.

In an academic context, designing can only be taught between theory and practice. This is due, in part, to the fact that the ability to design must be practiced using a variety of structured exercises at different levels of difficulty. However, students must also be taught how to reflect and theorize their design work. Students’ integration into research sensitizes them to design-methodical aspects, the variety and impact of tools and the need and potential of interdisciplinarity, and introduces them to the fundamentals of scientific work. The combination of teaching practical know-how and the ability to theorize aims to turn students into critical protagonists capable of reasoning and with a high degree of autonomy and a reflected design attitude so that they are able to find their own personal position in a hard, continuously changing professional field.


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