Form & Modelling studies

Recent Publications

  • ir. Jack Breen - The Model as the Method - Precedent-based architectural design exploration and communication

    As the disciplines of architecture involve the – projective and/or reflective – scrutiny and investigation of spatial concepts and structures that are not easily captured and conveyed imaginatively with words, designers and scholars of architecture are inclined to resort to visual modes of communication.
    Design-based imaging stimulates the sharing of information, offering different ‘actors’ in the design- or research process at hand conditioned insights into the subject matter, triggering individual and collective understandings.
    Such ‘visualisations’ tend to stimulate intellectual and/or emotional responses and lead to targeted (re)actions, which in turn may influence and even alter the composition or conception of the architectural entity under consideration.
    This bias towards visual modes of expression is arguably characteristic of architectural Practice and increasingly of design Research, but perhaps most significantly: the ‘in-between realm’ of design Education…
    The representational instrument that is frequently given a prominent status is the architectural Drawing, which is sometimes attributed an almost mythical status. Another ‘leading medium’ is undoubtedly the architectural Model, which in particular ways can be perceptually even more appealing than the drawing.
    In recent years the traditional distinction between these two fundamental ‘means of communication’ has increasingly become blurred, with the evolvement of various ‘crossover media’, such as digital 3D model ‘sketching’ and physical modelling involving digital manufacturing platforms. Design communication devices such as these tend to incorporate attributes of traditional modelling as well as drawing, whereby the emphasis may shift from the picturesque to the symbolic, from the analytical to the conceptual.
    The (inter)active utilisation of design media has become an intrinsic condition of the method in design driven enquiry, whether the focus of study is generating ‘form’ or understanding the workings of design artefacts.
    The intention of this papers is to explore the currently shifting design communication paradigms and discuss the opportunities of contemporary modelling approaches – physical as well as digital – for the benefit of architectural exploration, focusing on a case-based study carried out in an educational environment: the AA Variations project.

    The Model as the Method (PDF, 4Mb)

    Conference paper


  • ir. Jack Breen - Learning from ‘Tugendhat’…

    Architectural insight development; precedent based study; dynamic perspective; creative analytical representation; physical and digital visualisation modes.

    Learning to interpret and communicate architectural ‘form’ is arguably one of the most fundamental challenges of design education, particularly in the earliest years of study…

    How should one go about teaching ‘absolute beginners’ in the field of architecture to ‘see’? To develop the kinds of insights that should stimulate their curiosities and visualisation skills for the benefit of their design- and analysis expertise?

    Admittedly, there are various (more or less ‘recognised’) methods of early-stage design learning, which may be put to use, frequently in combination.

    One particularly fruitful approach, which is considered here, is to make a kind of beginning to the individual learning process of ‘reading and writing architecture’ through the focussed study of eye-opening precedents

    The idea behind this is that by selecting a sufficiently evocative, complex and indeed: unfamiliar architectural ‘exemplar’, students learn by doing and may become stimulated towards creative analysis of architectural artefacts further on in their academic (and eventually: professional) careers.

    The case-study based analytical study project discussed here gets first year students to ‘discover’ the spatial, functional and experiential qualities of one particular building: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Tugendhat House of 1929 in Brno, the Czech republic.

    This project formed an important ‘crossover’ point in the Architect’s career. It was built in the same year as his groundbreaking Barcelona pavilion, with which it is comparable yet at the same time uniquely different.

    For one thing, the spatial Tugendhat family residence literally turns architectural conventions ‘upside-down’. The house (set on a slope overlooking the city centre of Brno, which is ‘framed’ in the architectural composition) is entered from above and visitors descend to the free-form living level by following an orchestrated route.

    At the same time the house is innovative on the levels of structure (a steel construction organising the whole), service elements (including ‘hi-tech’ windows sinking into the basement), materialisation (varying upon themes explored in the Barcelona pavilion), and furnishing (including specially designed chairs and tables) to name but a few…

    In the developed ‘designerly’ study approach, which will be expanded upon in the full paper, students begin to unravel the dynamic qualities of the composition by ‘finding their way’, using series of photographs, subsequently delving deeper into the interconnected architectural layers of functionality, routing, building construction and aesthetics by making free-hand sketches, drawing schemes (making analytical use of colours) and learning to make elementary (layered) digital models.

    A rewarding learning experience, not only for the students themselves, but also for academics in the context of architectural research… 

    Learning from ‘Tugendhat’… 
    Case-based evolvement of architectural insights and visual communication skills (PDF 1,7Mb)


Selected Publications

  • Chair of Form & Modelling studies

    • 2005

    •  PDF (6,4Mb)                                               
  • Ir. Jack Breen

    • 2010

    • Envisioning Futures >>
    • 2009

    • Designing Design Communication - Considering the conditions, effects and opportunities for imaginative visual representation modes in architectural study initiatives >>