Experiential Learning in Basic Design Studio: Body, Space and the Design Process

Caner Yüksel Ç., Dinç Uyaroğlu İ.

International Journal of Art and Design Education, vol.40, no.3, pp.508-525, 2021 (AHCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 40 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1111/jade.12364
  • Journal Name: International Journal of Art and Design Education
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, Periodicals Index Online, Art Source, Design & Applied Arts Index, EBSCO Education Source, Educational research abstracts (ERA), ERIC (Education Resources Information Center)
  • Page Numbers: pp.508-525
  • Keywords: architectural education, basic design education, body and space relations, design process, experiential learning
  • Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University Affiliated: No


Basic Design is the beginning of design course series in architectural education which initiates architecture students to both architectural education and the profession. First-year design curricula have generally common goals of students’ acquisitions about design knowledge, skill and competence; however, ways of teaching may vary. Here, we discuss our approach to teaching basic design during the second semester focusing on a particular phase of the curriculum. The aim of the article is to evaluate our teaching method, which is based on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory and targets at developing students’ comprehension and internalisation of body and space relations. Experiential Learning Theory underscores a four-stage learning cycle: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation. Referring to this cycle, we prioritised real-life experiences to encourage students to explore various ways, modes and stages of designing. The cycle begins with lived experiences of body movements and space through ‘contact improvisation’ which simultaneously involves discovering movements of one’s body in relation to other bodies and space using basics of sharing improvised touch and movement consciousness. While practising contact improvisation in groups, students reflect on their experiences through sketches, photographs and videos. Based on their reflections, they produce three-dimensional abstractions, which later transform into spatial designs. By the end, we state that these experimental exercises positively contribute to teaching/learning ‘body, scale and space’ within the basic design curriculum and question how future studies can be articulated to enhance design learning.