The Third Teacher
Architecture as enabler of Active Learning

Carolyn Tam

Brandon Clifford

Caitlin T. Mueller
Deborah Garcia

“ There are three teachers of children: adults, other children, and their physical environment.”
-Loris Malaguzzi

In the industrial era, schools were designed as highly controlled environments to instil discipline and conformity to thrive in a machine age. Today, as architectural education evolves its mission away from producing factory workers and towards producing creative contributors, the buildings that house education’s mission have remained stagnant – our learning environment is still rendered passive, utilitarian designs of the factory model, reinforcing the unhelpful boundaries between space and active learning.

This thesis challenges the manner in which architectural education work in pedagogy but also through the built form. Rather than fixing a same batch of learners in a rigid container, this thesis proposes a series of deployable systems that can plug into various urban conditions to form dispersed learning environments. Learning is not separated from daily life - it could occur in a park, on the street, or in the most unexpected of spaces – fostering greater diversity and creative possibilities.

A key concept in active learning that can extend to architecture is the wilderness education, where students are taken outside the classroom and use full-scale tools to create, play and test boundaries with their environments. This thesis asks – what if - learning opportunities found in these instruments can be expanded to architecture. Architecture can be structural and systematic, but at the same time playful and engaging, and cross many disciplines from geometries and surveying, to physics and assemblies. Instructors and books are no longer the only teachers; the hands, the ears, the eyes, in fact the whole body and the architectural space itself, become sources of information. Viewing students as active constructors of knowledge, the proposed architecture encourages students to use their spaces and full-scale play instruments to imagine and create their own environments to open up new learning discoveries.