A Word About Design

“Education will then be concerned primarily with exploring to discover not only more about the universe but what the universe is trying to do, about why man is part of it, and how man can, and may best function in universal evolution”

Buckminster Fuller on the future of education “Education Automation” 1961

Some architectural educators have said “design can’t be taught” or “students either have it of they don’t” These educators look for students who already “have it” and often ignore everyone else. But many students who “have it” in school seem to lose it when they get into the working world. They can draw but they can’t visualize. They can present themselves well but they can’t solve the real problems of planning. They can build great models but they don’t know how buildings are put together.

It may add to the mystique of design to say “it can’t be taught”. And it’s true that people are born with varying aptitudes. But all of the skills of design can be learned and improved, and people have been doing so for ages. These skills include observation, analysis, conceptual abstraction, creativity, visualization, planning, problem solving, expressiveness, composition, 2-D representation, and 3-D modeling.

Creativity remains particularly mysterious to many especially since there is so little of it in the schools. Creativity has been difficult to nurture in most architecture schools for a troublesome three-part reason

1.  Creativity requires experimentation

2.  Most experiments don’t work

3.  Failed experiments don’t make grades

This has given students a choice as far as school is concerned. Be experimental and learn the skills of creativity, or submit work that makes good grades. SFIA encourages the widest possible range of experimental exploration in design, media and problem solving.

Architecture is above all a creative problem solving profession. Practicing creativity entails false starts and exploratory experimentation. Unfortunately, traditional methods of teaching tend to inhibit and penalize such efforts. Students thus miss the opportunity to fully explore, test, and understand their creative abilities. SFIA was established in large part to deal with this common educational problem.

The human mind naturally solves problems and creates original ideas and solutions. Unfortunately, many contemporary education programs do not support natural creative abilities and in many cases suppress them. SFIA offers its students a rigorous academic program, which supports a student’s natural creative abilities. SFIA’s courses present the mental and emotional processes that precede, precipitate and support the processes of thinking and design. We teach today’s most advanced methods for inducing inspiration, original thinking, creative design and problem solving.


Architects assimilate a staggering amount of technical know how. Once the technology becomes second nature, the architect can integrate dozens of essential technical needs and restraints simultaneously while designing a building. Prior to having that level of expertise, the early building designs will usually accommodate some important technical needs and ignore others. It all comes together in an architect’s mind through time, theoretical study, and trial and error working experience. At the same time, the architect learns to question tradition and develop creative new solutions to old technical problems. SFIA is seeking new and better ways to expedite the technology learning process and experimental technical classes, design studios, and ecological design and history courses.