The Vertical Studio: Re-imaging propinquity in Architectural Education

Martina Murphy, Courtney McIlkenny

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Historically, architectural education was based on a collective group structure wherein the ‘expert’ trains the apprentice in all aspects of design; practical and theoretical. This remained the established approach supporting many seminal influences of the early 20th century such as Bauhaus. The subject of architecture has the mandate to involve itself in many societal aspects such as sociology, history, business, style, craft etc and, as such, collaborative peer-to-peer engagement is an imperative in developing close and necessary relationships to establish and enhance thinking.
More latterly a level of comfort has been induced by teaching through a level segregated curricular which has seen the separation of critical aspects of the subject, such as history and theory or environment aspects, into taught modules distinct from the studio with an emphasis on competition and the individual project been valued over cooperation.
There is an imperative to re-imagine architectural education to reflect the changing industry it ultimately operates within. This combined with the challenges of teaching the subject in a pandemic environment further obscures the path of rediscovering the benefits of nearness and inter-dependency.
This paper proposes that collaboration and a return to propinquity of learning and relationships is being recreated in architectural education through the vertical teaching pedagogy. A pedagogy which comprises multi-year group teaching with the same studio master in which students of mixed age or skill level are taught together, embracing collaboration and working towards similar and convergent goals.
It is proposed that the architecture studio holds the potential to be an empowering learning experience nerved by the constant nearness of peers and tutors. Such an environment nurtures and develops the students cognitive thinking, promoting professional skills to comprehend, process and apply information. Such ambition is further driven by the demands of an industry which seeks greater collaboration through physical nearness of the project team.
The aim of this paper is to review the literature around vertical studio learning and collaborative working. The paper will consider the concept of propinquity in terms of enhancing student learning through engagement, socialisation, collaboration and professionalism. Limitations of the pedagogy will be considered as well as suggestions on how these can be addressed in new and dynamic contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 21 Jan 2021
Event10th annual All Ireland Architecture Research Group (AIARG) Conference: “Sharing Ground: Propinquity” - Ulster University, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Jan 202122 Jan 2021


Conference10th annual All Ireland Architecture Research Group (AIARG) Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Architecture, Propinquity, Vertical Studio teaching, Collaboration, Pedagogy


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