Architectural education, narrative, moral imagination, user/client, multigenerational housing
Recent research indicates that mainstream architectural practice is in a general state of denial about participation and client/user involvement. Within this paper we argue that this general denial is already acquired during architectural education. Given the fact that architects are influenced by this ‘academic experience' to such an extent that it influences their professional careers, we argue that it is acceptable to look to education for the root cause and potential alleviation of the problem. Framed within phenomenological thinking (Ricoeur) and pragmatic theory (Dewey), we develop narrative thinking as a basic design attitude which combines user based research and moral imagination. We implement narratives in the design studio to (re)connect designer and client/user. Our main objective is to stress the importance of narratives as a sustainable starting point for a real participatory process. Methodologically we link narrative thinking and research by design. More specifically, we develop a design assignment on multigenerational dwelling at our school of architecture. We challenge our students to find ‘real' client/users, to report about their narratives on the desired use of the multi-generational dwelling and to use these narratives during the entire design process. Most important outcome of our study is growing empathy and enthusiasm among our students towards their client/users. Narrative thinking initiates a participatory design process which brings about positive change and a more daring and less predictable design project in favor of all participants.