Comprehensive Design Studio I & II

Comprehensive Design Studio I & II

Comprehensive Design Studio I & II

Darwin on WritingThe act of repetition is an act of mastering form.


Professor: Andrés Mignucci, FAIA
Included Designers: Antonio López & Carol López & more…
Studio/Date: PEP1.5 / 2012-2013
TOS[er]: Nitza Y. Ayala Fontánez
Posted: May 2013


  • Develop design abilities of students with Bachelors degrees in other fields through an intensive architecture agenda.
  • Diversify the school’s student profile through students with different backgrounds and fields of expertise, such as Engineering, Fine Arts, Visual Design, Fashion Design, Biology, etc.

Mignucci’s Teaching Strategies:

  • Teaching design through skill building exercises that use creativity and creation, he calls “design plays”.
  • Expanding students’ design knowledge through theory and history.
  • Instead of a single big project, small exercises are assigned to develop one skill at a time.
  • Each exercise is performed 4 times each week.
  • Each class ends with a group review.
  • In 2 months, the program develops the students’ skills in the following areas:
    1. transition zones
    2. articulations of building exterior
      • additive elements
      • subtraction of elements
    3. working with longitudinal sections
    4. working with transverse sections
    5. architectural systems
    6. combination of systems
  • Once all students have full domain in those areas, the next two months concentrate on projects that combine the different skills.
  • Exercises begin with a base form. Prior to play, Mignucci gives the dimensions and the basic “rules of play”, without further details.
  • The project’s definite path is after they all sit down and discuss their first attempts.

Inside Mignucci’s Mind:

  • As a pedagogical system “Design Plays” are the tool used in Mignucci’s new book titled “Conversations with Form” written with John Habraken, and Jonathan Teicher (Routledge: December 2013).
  • The act of repetition is an act of mastering form.
  • Along with each assignment, students must apply their understanding and analysis of precedents in order to see and analyze what has been done and is being created.
  • It’s not about what the professor pictures as an end result, but the process the students go through. After all, they are all, including the professor, learning while doing.

At the Students’ Point of View:
ANTONIO LÓPEZ: “Creativity is a piece in the ‘game,’ […] each student has the opportunity to bring his/her background, essence, and personality into the design process”.

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Arts
  • Design is a game of experimentation, creativity and ideation.
  • He thinks, Mignucci’s teaching lets them (students) play as if they were kids, stating that they can express themselves, reflect, explore, and experiment in each project. Therefore, it transforms into a better motivation to design.
  • His poetic view on this process combines art and games like when he thinks, “Each move generates the other, like in a game. It is as the first brush in a white canvas… what you can experiment from that.
  • After our conversation, he concluded that maybe they are taught an effective inverse design process: go from the details to the whole: “Like going from analyzing, in detail, a hole in the wall to developing a macro urban design.”

“Each lesson is like a piece to the puzzle. It’s not all about what the professor wants”.

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts
  • Associate Degree in Fashion Design
  • Working in the Fashion industry for 13 years.
  • The assignments are tools that prepare them in techniques and design.
  • She likes the group critiques they have in each lesson because “everyone has the same opportunity to learn”.
  • In her case, she uses patterns, just like in fashion, to develop her design process. That’s why, for her, she’s continuously working with pieces in both careers, making them one.

TOS[er] Reaction:
PEP1.5 is an interesting way of mixing architecture with other disciplines, enriching the diversity within the School of Architecture. This education method transforms the intensive program into a game. This game is more about how to move the pieces in a creative and authentic way, each addressing the design process in their own way. It’s a program for everyone to learn, the students from the professor and vice versa. This puzzle integrates elements from all players, including their knowledge in other areas, so that the final outcome flourishes along the way. The discovery is part of its charm and the experimentation is an exciting way of revealing another side of architecture education. As the students repeat each exercise at least four times, perfection is achieved and they excel in their skills. Their maturity and knowledge in other areas is the key for this program’s effective outcome. Their continuous hard work allows them to dive into the assignments more intuitively. Not everything is what the professors want to get from his/her students, but what they all can discover along the way.