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Introductory computer programming as a means for extending spatial and temporal understanding

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conference contribution
posted on 2000-01-01, 00:00 authored by M Burry, Sambit Datta, Simon Anson
Should computer programming be taught within schools of architecture?

Incorporating even low-level computer programming within architectural education curricula is a matter of debate but we have found it useful to do so for two reasons: as an introduction or at least a consolidation of the realm of descriptive geometry and in providing an environment for experimenting in morphological time-based change.

Mathematics and descriptive geometry formed a significant proportion of architectural education until the end of the 19th century. This proportion has declined in contemporary curricula, possibly at some cost for despite major advances in automated manufacture, Cartesian measurement is still the principal ‘language’ with which to describe building for construction purposes. When computer programming is used as a platform for instruction in logic and spatial representation, the waning interest in mathematics as a basis for spatial description can be readdressed using a left-field approach. Students gain insights into topology, Cartesian space and morphology through programmatic form finding, as opposed to through direct manipulation.

In this context, it matters to the architect-programmer how the program operates more than what it does. This paper describes an assignment where students are given a figurative conceptual space comprising the three Cartesian axes with a cube at its centre. Six Phileban solids mark the Cartesian axial limits to the space. Any point in this space represents a hybrid of one, two or three transformations from the central cube towards the various Phileban solids. Students are asked to predict the topological and morphological outcomes of the operations. Through programming, they become aware of morphogenesis and hybridisation. Here we articulate the hypothesis above and report on the outcome from a student group, whose work reveals wider learning opportunities for architecture students in computer programming than conventionally assumed.



Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture. Conference (2000 : Washington, D.C.)


129 - 136


Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture


Washington, D.C.

Place of publication

[United States]

Start date


End date







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Publication classification

E2 Full written paper - non-refereed / Abstract reviewed


M Clayton, G de Velasco

Title of proceedings

ACADIA 2000 : eternity, infinity and virtuality in architecture

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