A Shift in Teaching Architectural Design Studio: Adaptative Reuse and Retrofit as the Main Focus to Prepare Students for Complex Challenges of a Changing Profession

Luigi Pintacuda, Nenpin Dimka, Thomas Trail, Monica Cherry, Beniamino Polimeni

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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“The greenest building is the one that already exists”, Carl Elefante stated in 2007). In the last few years, this statement has been strengthened and the approach to sustainability in architecture has been focused more on understanding and decoding the potential and complexity of the existing built environment. To confirm this trend, in 2021 the Architecture Pritzker Prize was given to Lacaton & Vassal, whose mantra is “Never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform, and reuse!”.
Considering this crucial shift in the profession, we need to adapt our teaching and equip students with specific tools to deal with this complex scenario. Re-use and retrofit are never an easy task and the constraints the existing building generates are an expression of the complex changing world. This new layer of complexity needs to be implemented in studio teaching to allow students to decode, investigate and take decisions after an existing artefact and contribute to the reduction of carbon emission and waste production.
Since 2018 the research/teaching group (made of academics and professionals) tackled this issue in an integrated way where design, sustainability and technology, run across the semester in an interconnected delivery. From the appraisal of the existing building to the final scheme, fostering their peer-to-peer learning, students are teamed up stressing the potential of this fully integrated approach. Their final resolution is a design proposal informed by this wider complexity and able to improve and decode the world we are living and alongside this preserving its cultural values.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2023
EventApplying Education in a Complex World - Sheridan College, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 26 Apr 202328 Apr 2023


ConferenceApplying Education in a Complex World
OtherComplexity theory, complex systems, complex strategies and a complex world. The range of concepts, practices, scenarios and metaphors through which we consider intricate, interconnected and changing phenomena is vast. The impact of this world view on how we operate is equally large. The education sector, like all those that make up the tapestry of contemporary societies and economies is not – and cannot be – immune.

The argument that the world in which today’s students will eventually work, will be different and more complicated that the one they currently know, has become a truism. It guides our thinking in multiple ways. In this scenario, education is becoming equally fluid. We not only prepare students to face the changes we see occurring today, but shifts and developments no one expects, or predicts. We are obliged to think outside disciplinary boundaries. We adapt constantly to changing methods of teaching. We address new and emerging professions. We negotiate the demands of learners, parents, industries and business.

While this scenario may be contested by some, it is also welcomed by others. This conference reflects on its implications from the perspective of its host institution, Sheridan College, Toronto. Here, the complexity of the world we operate in, is reflected in the complexity of teaching: interdisciplinary, engaged, embedded, creative and applied.
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