The Roles of Narrative Thinking and its Potentials for Architecture Education at Design Studios

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Architecture and Urban Planning​ Faculty،Shahid Beheshti University

2 SADJAD University of Technology

3 Phd of Islamic Architecture, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tabriz Islamic Art University


An acknowledged approach in the design process aiming at conformity with the life of inhabitants and their attitude towards the built space is using narratives. With an action research approach, this research aims to study the role of narrative approach in the architecture education, and the potentials of narrative-based methods for upgrading the design studio practice for beginning architecture students. To this end, the theoretical framework of the research was first developed; the research was then followed through a practical survey on the beginning architecture students in Ferdowsi University of Mashhad. The survey was conducted through a number of studio tasks based on scenario writing. Data was gathered by examining the students’ scenarios besides their answers to a number of key questions about the effectiveness of the investigated approach. In this survey, the narrative approach showed to be capable of; helping to interpret the design problem, facilitating thinking about solution concepts, organizing a spatial narrative due to the events of life, provoking creative thinking by activating exploratory imagination, enabling visualization of spaces, clarifying the stages and steps of the design process, helping to uncover the clues to leap over hurdles, organizing data and constructing meaning out of them, facilitating effective communication of ideas, and evaluating the design throughout the design process by repetitive narration of the conceivable presence of the users in the built space. From the mentioned roles, the better understanding of the design problem at the beginning of the design process and activation and promotion of thinking about the solutions through scenario writing was most evident in the survey results. This was made possible by focusing on the role-players, activities and the scenes as the threefold aspects of the narrative event in the written scenarios. Shedding light on the stages of the design process was the second most mentioned role. ‌Besides the positive roles, there has also been some negative feedback and faults unfolded. Some of these are as follows: weakness of some at writing, to be solved by using non-literary forms of scenarios; discontinuity of the ideas created through scenarios in the further design levels which needs repititive use and reference of scenarios through the design process; and the lack of complete competence of design with the real life of the predicted users due to lack of time and facilities for precise field studies and limited and mostly personal narrative imagination of the students. The latter is the most important issue which needs the notice of the instructors to guide the students to more real and executable designs with more information-based scenarios. To summarize the findings, it can be declared that with guidance to avoid the flaws, narrative thinking does have a positive effect on the development of the design process. It speeds up and facilitates the design ideation for the beginning students and helps them to better explore and interpret the subject of design and finally, it can play different roles in various stages of the process, in accordance with the subject of design task as well as the competence level of the design students.


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