Tempting Tools of the Trade


All tools come with inherent biases. This is especially true in architectural education, where so many tools such as modeling software, fabrication techniques and materials not only exist, but influence design decisions. Because of their inherent bias, design pedagogy should be interested in, and critical of, the role tools play in both producing and reproducing received, sanctioned, and authoritative architectural designs. Within my teaching and research, I have started to dismantle and interrogate the connections between users, tools and their ‘intended’ products. This has both promoted critical thinking of current design practices and produced new collaborative design strategies altogether.  Often, this method includes a weird and intentional “misuse” of tools to produce innovative and progressive architectural designs.  This presentation covers two courses taught in 2022, a graduate elective (Danger of Defaults) and a graduate studio (Time for Timber). Both courses challenged the stability and uniformity of our design pedagogy by foregoing expected results in favor of collaborative exploration and productive misuse of design tools. Software, representation standards, material tectonics and maps are challenged (in their respective courses) with assignments and readings that promote collaborative investigation rather than individual production. The end result is both innovative design techniques and novel forms of design for a dynamic and diverse world.


Tyler Swingle
Emerging Scholar, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin, Texas, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design Education


Tools, Misuse, Collaboration

Digital Media


Tempting Tools of the Trade (pdf)