If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Architectural education often perpetuates a feud between the mind and the hand. To one side we find thinkers, enamored with the idea of design as an intellectual act, whereby the obstinate realities of materials and construction are displaced by the heft of words and concepts. In opposition stand the builders, who cherish the bruised knuckles, scrapes and scratches that bear witness to a kind of undeniable, unteachable knowledge. Between these two are located the vast majority of studios, where the struggle to find balance between theoretical motivations and constructional realities is a recurring and persistent debate.
To reflect on this issue, we offer a unique moment between two Solar Decathlon houses, one nearly complete in its final rebuild, the second just underway. Through this lens we will examine the role of solar decathlon in architectural pedagogy the lessons learned as seen from the vantage of student participants and lessons offered to the architectural academy through which the decathlon finds its voice.
This paper was authored by Mark McGlothlin with assistance from Bradley Walters. It was first presented at the 2014 conference of the Association of Architectural Educators in Sheffield, UK. It was subsequently published as:
McGlothlin, Mark and Bradley Walters. 2014. “Ends and Means: Inquiries Into the Role of the Solar Decathlon in Architectural Education.” In Living & Learning: Proceedings of the Second International Conference of the Association of Architectural Educators, edited by Rosie Parnell et al, 30-34. Sheffield UK: University of Sheffield.