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The impact of CAAD on design methodology and visual thinking in architectural education.

Salman, Huda Shakir



Richard Alexander Laing

Anna Conniff


This thesis aims to explore the potential impact of Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD) as a conceptual design tool on the design methodology of final year students. Many design studies have focused on sketching and its relationship with creative thinking to validate CAAD programs as a design tool. On the contrary, this study argues that the continued primacy of traditional tools as the predominant conceptual tools needs more evidence in the contemporary design practices. That is to say, the relative importance of CAAD alongside other media, such as sketching, model making and verbalisation must be recognised before the forthcoming leap in CAAD programs development. To illustrate these ideas, the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment was used as a case study to explore CAADs role in the educational context, the studio in general and the final year studio in particular. A mixed methods approach was employed to carry out two studies: a case study and a protocol study. A case study approach was utilised to understand the modern context whereby CAAD is used by the students despite CAAD not being an integrated part of the project model. The case study was also used to document the reasons behind students tendency of using CAAD at the conceptual phases of the design process. Mixed methods were used to collect data at three different intervals of the two semesters; before starting the studio project, while working on the project and after submitting the final project. The methods used include a questionnaire survey, structured reflection interviews, and a focus group. A protocol study was conducted to understand the impact of CAAD on selfcommunication using the think aloud method under the same experimental conditions using CAAD program(s) as the only external representation. The case study findings clarified the effects of the traditional context of the studio and the project model on CAADs utility within students design processes and identified the lack of CAAD professional skills, and the integration of CAAD as a knowledge base. The protocol study findings provided a greater understanding of the cognitive processes in designing and design performance while using CAAD, as well as acknowledging the possibility of a cyclic conceptual process. The potential impact of CAAD on the design process was further categorised. The empirical exploration provides CAAD research with new insights, instigating more useful ways of teaching and learning by an appropriate integration of CAAD programs and design methods in a situated manner where students can enhance their design processes creatively. It is proposed that a more measured and disinterested approach is now required to investigate CAAD and their implications for education.


SALMAN, H.S. 2011. The impact of CAAD on design methodology and visual thinking in architectural education. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 1, 2011
Publicly Available Date Aug 1, 2011
Keywords Design process; CAAD; Design media; Media impact; Protocol study; Final year architecture students; Project model
Public URL
Award Date Jun 30, 2011


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