06.07.2020 Barbara Zettel

Completely Disconnected: Studying Architecture from Home

Foto: Alamy

As it is at many other postsecondary institutions, the 2020 summer semester at TU Berlin is taking place on the digital level. For the study of architecture, which has always involved work with a broad range of media, this has meant a greater degree of experimentation with digital possibilities. Teachers and students communicate primarily via live streaming and video conferences. According to Ralf Pasel, this works well in lectures and seminars. In order to stay in contact with students, chats and digital office hours are also being offered.

However, all this cannot replace classroom-based studies; in fact, enormous effort is required to meet the need for communication, above all in design subjects. “The students are working entirely on their own, almost like autonomous study,” he reports. “The togetherness and the intensity of the atmosphere that can lead to new, creative ideas is simply missing.”

Digital programs for developing drawings and 3D models can complement, but not replace, physical models for which direct, material components represent a vital factor. Many students also face a spatial problem: a small flat or a bedroom in a shared apartment often lacks room for larger working models.

Ralf Pasel asserts that the lockdown has also influenced design-build projects, for which in-situ participation is generally indispensable. “These projects live from on-site participation, from the social, intercultural exchange, from connectedness. The transfer of knowledge takes place via direct experience. This doesn’t work on the digital level. This is why, unfortunately, these projects have now come to a complete standstill.”

The architect is pleased about the loosening of restrictions, for this will again enable direct communication with his team and colleagues. Looking ahead to the coming winter semester, which like the summer semester has been moved back several weeks and will therefore not start until November, Pasel says it will be necessary to wait and see how the pandemic develops before anyone knows just how things will continue.

The entire interview, in which Ralf Pasel also comments on his position as architect and working with clients and contractors, is available at www.sto-stiftung.de

Portrait Ralf Pasel, Foto: Marc Lappien

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