By exploring in detail spatial metaphors and narrative patterns in a case study drawn from an extensive archive of 369 first-semester architect students’ design work at NTNU, this essay will examine the relationship between spatial expressions and the learning process itself. Within the various branches of transformative learning, the approach of Boyd and Myers see the deeper learning process as a dialog between conscious and unconscious forces within the human psyche (Boyd and Myers 1988). Architectural design work is characterized by a combination of cognitive, rational, analytic processes and intuitive, imaginative, creative processes (Salama 2015, Snodgrass 2006). Unfamiliar with imaginative, open-ended creative processes, many first semester students are confronted with a certain amount of uncertainty (Barnet 2007). This experience of liminality is the core transitional stage of the transformative process (Thompson 2019, Turner 1996). Preliminary studies (Braaten & Hokstad 2018) have uncovered repeating spatial metaphors and spatial narrative patterns that neither the students nor the teachers were aware of. The central question is whether these partial unconsciously expressed spatial metaphors represent mediating means of the inner process of transformative learning? In the interpretation of the spatial and visual material, “The Journey” metaphor is central. Representing both a neurolinguistic image schema (Besold, Hedblom & Kutz 2017, Johnson 2015) and an archetypal narrative structure (Campbell 1949), this metaphor becomes a key to open up the understanding of the case. The findings provide new insight into a hidden dimension of architectural education and unconscious aspects of transformative learning.
Bjørn Otto Braaten is since 2002 associate professor at the faculty of architecture and design at NTNU in Trondheim, Norway, and been involved in all levels of the five years master program in architecture. He is at the present doing a doctoral thesis with the title “Spatial response to liminality. A study of first semester architect students’ design work”. This is done within the research context of TRANSark (Transformative Learning in Architectural Education), an interdisciplinary team of educators at the Faculty of Architecture and Design at NTNU, aligning practical experience in the field