TS ARCHIVE: Making Technical Studies more accessible Review

by Javier Castanon, Head of Technical Studies
18 February 2013 Architectural Association, London   Starting at the beginning of this term, all AA students now have access to a good few past examples of TS1, TS3 and TS5 because the most recent ones, of which we had a digital copy, can be seen on-line. To be perfectly frank I can’t remember whose idea it was but that does not really matter. What matters is that the students now have another resource to help them with their work. Up to now students could always come to the TS Office and have a look at past submissions. Some of you may even recall the days when you were asked to give me a hand to bring a selection of these to the TS3 or TS5 introduction meeting with the different Units. Thanks to Frank Owen and Belinda Flaherty, all that is now a thing of the past.   Having TS1, TS3 and TS5 examples on line available to all AA students is another manifestation of this desire to make Technical Studies more accessible to AA students. The idea behind it is that the work of past students contains a great deal of very good material that should be considered as a kind of specialized section of the TS library. This volume of work is not there to be copied, and even less to tell future students what we want their work to be or look like. The purpose of having it on line is to make it easier for the students to find technical information that may lead them to what they are looking for or help them to articulate areas of investigation.   We have never had to encourage students to present their theses nicely. I am always very impressed with the quality of the presentation. I do not need to encourage them but I will never stop them from presenting things well. I do remember trying to present my thesis as well as I could, spending time, effort and money. So I understand that if they are proud of their work they are going to present it as well as they can. But, whilst I will not stop them, I do have to admit that I prefer students to be looking at indestructible PDF files on line than thumbing through beautiful and fragile booklets that I know I will never be able to replace.  
TS needs to be constantly evolving. It is changing at both ends, as it were. I have noticed that, in the last two or three years, the attitude of the students joining the AA at Foundation or First Year has changed a great deal and therefore we need to change too. The desire to make Technical Studies more accessible as well as more attractive is leading us to experiment and look for new ways of teaching. I am constantly asking the course lecturers to review their course both in terms of their content, case studies, etc. as well as their methodology. Of course some lecturers take this challenge very seriously whilst others find it more difficult to change but by and large I think it is fair to say that the majority try to keep reviewing their courses. A few of them are trying out new methodologies where the students are asked to respond right through the course and not just at the end of it with the submission of a bit of course work.   The PLUS events are another example of the desire to improve the teaching of TS. We want to find ways to bring Technical Studies onto the drawing board, onto the very act of design. The Units that have seen the place of TS in the design process understand that TS1, TS3 and TS5 are moments in the students’ development where the opportunity of engaging in detail design decisions is offered to them. We make a big effort to work with the Unit Masters albeit with varying degrees of success.  We feel that when we work together this makes great difference for the students because they can enjoy this experience at such crucial moments. Engaging in detail design, developing your own ideas and concepts is extremely important. Some of us have drawn a great deal of confidence from TS5 because we have seen that we are able to materialise our very own design concepts. It is a question of striking the right balance. We could save ourselves a lot of trouble by not making TS1, TS3 and TS5 engage with the Unit work but we think that the students would be deprived of an extremely important experience within their time in the AA.
[caption id="attachment_767" align="alignnone" width="360"] The new online TS Archive is available to all members through the AA homepage[/caption]   For more information: TS Online Archive (sign-in required) Technical Studies TS PLUS Event 1 TS PLUS Event 2