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As we approach the dawn of a new millennium, it is essential that we equip our students with the necessary skills to cope with the challenges of a knowledge-based economy. In this issue of CDTL Brief on the theme of ‘Preparing Students for the 21st Century Workplace’, we present several perspectives of how various NUS departments have modified, or perhaps should modify, their curricula and teaching methods to achieve this goal.

November 26 1999, Vol. 2 No. 5 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
The Importance of Teaching Technology Subjects to Today’s Architecture Students
Assistant Professor Lim Guan Tiong
School of Architecture
Faculty of Architecture, Building & Real Estate

Architecture: A Multi-disciplinary Career

Early architects were able to design and run building construction projects with little or no support from other professionals. But buildings have, in recent years, become much more complicated and contain more sophisticated systems and employ ever-increasing levels of technology and engineering. This has resulted in ‘division of labour’ where specialists are required to be involved in handling different aspects of building construction projects.

Today for an architect to be able to co-ordinate and ensure a high standard of construction projects, he/she must have knowledge of the general principles of technology and engineering. An understanding of the implications and opportunities which technology and engineering offer can help the designer to ‘shape’ a building at an early stage in the design process. This is an essential skill, which comes from familiarity with physical constraints and technical possibilities.

Teaching Architecture Students

More than ever before, architecture students need to experience this multi-disciplinary nature of the construction industry in a realistic manner throughout their university education by working with multi-disciplinary staff, including in-house technology specialists. The aim of these technology1 teachers include:

  • Encouraging students to explore and understand technological and engineering possibilities and

  • Imparting techniques of operation and practice in system and building design and construction; and

  • Fostering the practice of interacting productively with other professions.

Design is indisputably regarded as the most significant subject of an architectural course. Although both design tutors and technology teachers agree on the importance of incorporating technology subjects as part of the core curricula, they debate on how much relevant technology/engineering knowledge and how such knowledge should be imparted to the architectural students.

For instance, considering the nature and expectations of the architectural profession, the traditional approach of focusing on formal scientific knowledge and mathematical techniques in technology and engineering teaching can be counterproductive for architectural students. Consequently, the mathematical content of subject lectures has been reduced in recent years; instead pragmatic issues are emphasised and students are encourage to form alternative designs and prototyping.

To address the concern about the difference between technological teaching and design, there has been a valuable trend towards teaching technology and engineering inputs in an ‘integrative’ manner both in lectures as well as in the studio. For truly ‘integrative’ teaching, and higher valuations by students, it is necessary for technological issues to become intrinsic requirements of current design or assignment projects; hence the timing and concurrency of inputs with design challenges becomes very important.

In other words, by integrating the teaching of technology subjects to architecture students within the studio using technology staff well-versed and sympathetic to architectural design/philosophy and real-life considerations, there results in greater success in bridging the gap between the fundamentals learned in lectures and the application and integration of them into projects. Students also gain crucial realistic exposure to working with construction professionals other than architects, an experience that will stand them in good stead when they have to work closely with many other professions in their future careers.


1 In this paper, ‘technology’ is used to refer to the key subjects of Building Structures, Building Services and Environmental Control (e.g. acoustic, lighting, thermal environment) and not to Building Construction.

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Inside this issue
Need For Structural Reforms
Teaching Pharmacy Practice
The Importance of Teaching Technology Subjects to Today's Architecture Students
Wither Cross-Disciplinary Classes?