An Integration of Collaborative Learning and Haptic Senses: A Cross – cultural Approach in Architectural Education

Contemporary architectural discourse exhibits that current scholarly foci have shifted to the influences of our bodily experiences and haptic senses in understanding the built environment. In January 2015, the pedagogical practicality of the said theoretical premise was explored, when a group of faculty members and students from King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology, Ladkrabang, and University of Colorado, Denver, organized workshops and field trips to investigate artistic and architectural heritages in central and northern Thailand.
Informed by Kagan’s methodological approach in collaborative learning, the entire program was devised to foster cross-cultural learning among the participants. Operating in small teams, the participants conducted joint inquiries on many topics — ranging from architectural symbolism and iconography to materiality and building typologies — utilizing several techniques, media, and methods of representations.
A public exhibition of these project-based learning assignments essentially revealed that the partakers relied on their corporeal experiences and sensibilities to construct the perceptions of the places in which they had visited. Not only did the aforementioned finding provide a ground for this research to: (1) illustrate the significance of the haptic way of learning; but also (2) demonstrate the value of collaborative approach in architectural education, especially in a cross-cultural setting; and (3) further examine a number of crucial questions. For instance, how could studying the arts and architecture of other cultures advance an appreciation of the built environment as a constituent element in the shaping of cultural identity and vice versa? How could it help a person to reflect upon his/her own identity?