Integrating Web-based Visualization with Structural System Understanding to Improve the Technical Education of Architects
The relationship between structure and form has become an important topic of educational research in architecture. The new trend in architecture is to create elegant and efficient designs that are adequately responsive to environmental conditions such as various applied loads. This has created a challenge in architectural education to train architects who are aware of the relationships between structure and form. This paper provides the results of a collaborative effort among the schools of Architecture and Design, Computer Science, and Education at Virginia Tech to develop a web-based learning tool called "Structure and Form Analysis System” (SAFAS). SAFAS consists of a “Knowledgebase” and a “Structure and Form Experimentation” module, both of which were used in an undergraduate structures course as supplemental learning materials. Evaluation of the results of several assignments given to students demonstrated that the developed educational materials were effective in helping students (a) gain a better understanding of spatial structures and (b) comprehend the relationships between structure and form. From this study, it is concluded that the SAFAS and the associated educational tools could be used in undergraduate architecture and structures courses to foster a better understanding of various structural concepts.