Timelines: Engaging with Critical Thinking through Visual Contextualization

Alice Vialard, Peter Holgate, Shaun Young

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


In architectural education, the use of precedents to inform studio design process is recognized, supported and mandated by many professional architectural accreditation boards. However, the study of precedents in taught history and theory courses may not automatically lead to application in architectural design. Too often, the relationship remains superficial, and primarily visual or formal. The rise of online sources means that websites have become a major source for students’ collections of architectural precedents. Platforms, such as Pinterest, provide a repository of alluring images, allowing access to a burgeoning array of precedents. Such ease of access may however reinforce superficial readings of buildings through images that mitigate against deep analysis. Architectural educators seek to teach students to interrogate examples beyond the immediate image, and to instil critical thinking in order that precedent analysis becomes meaningful when making informed decisions during the design phase.
This innovative proposal builds upon architecture’s visual bias by introducing evaluative analysis in the form of a pictorial timeline that seeks to contextualize a specific building within a larger set of precedents as the starting point for a critical framework. This provides students with a tool for critically organising visual knowledge in order to create new design applications. This timeline assignment, which has developed over 4 years, has evolved from a method to select and organize precedents into a comparison tool that can practically shape and define architectural strategies. When this knowledge is transferred to studio design projects, such architectural strategies enable deep evaluation of buildings towards facilitating justified design decisions.
Employing critical thinking to assess architectural precedents in terms of relevance and transferability thereby aligns the teaching of history and theory to application in the design process within architectural studios.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2019 ACSA/EAAE Teachers Conference
Subtitle of host publicationPractice of Teaching | Teaching of Practice: the Teacher’s Hunch
EditorsRichard Blythe, Johan De Walsche
PublisherACSA Press
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781944214234
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Event2019 ACSA/EAAE Teachers Conference, Practice of Teaching | Teaching of Practice: the Teacher’s Hunch - Antwerp, Belgium
Duration: 28 Jun 201929 Jun 2019

Publication series

NamePractice of Teaching | Teaching of Practice: The Teacher’s Hunch


Conference2019 ACSA/EAAE Teachers Conference, Practice of Teaching | Teaching of Practice: the Teacher’s Hunch
Internet address


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