Teaching spatial and conceptual thinking in architectural design

Jerolim Mladinov is a professor of practice in architecture

Editor’s note: Duck of the Week is a new section in Around the O Workplace that highlights UO employees and their work. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.

Jerolim Mladinov

Professor of Practice, Architecture

How long have you worked at the UO?

I'm starting my third year.

Tell us about your work:

I think most of my courses could fit in two categories. One would be the architectural design studios and the other would be media courses or media for design.

Basically architecture education revolves around what we call design studio. It's a format where the instructor selects a topic of their interest and then a building site, usually a hypothetical program like designing a building for education, housing or a workplace. I’ll help students develop a thesis and then try to answer to those questions through a building design.

For the media courses I teach, the teaching goal is twofold – to equip students with tools and skills for architectural representation and visual communication, but at the same time to develop spatial and conceptual thinking. Basically, we understand drawing or any visual material that we produce as a thinking process not just as a way to represent our thought or reality around us. It is fundamental to any architectural project.

What does your typical day look like?

I usually teach every day, but my classes are mostly in the afternoon. In the mornings I do my professional work. Currently, it's working on some small housing projects – single family houses and small developments. Then I go to school and I teach until nine at night. With studios, you are in class for four hours, three times a week so it's a lot of contact with students and I really enjoy that. No studio is the same. Every person is different so every project is always different. It's intense, but at the same time it's fun and it's never the same so it's very dynamic.

What do you like about working at the UO?

I like really the students. They are very creative and they have great ideas, but at the same time they are humble and also the idea of helping each other and the community. There is always a little bit of competition which is very healthy to get better work. But it's not just about the competition. It's really doing things together and sharing, and there is an idea of community and collective effort. So that's what I like here.

How have you stayed connected with friends and family during COVID-19?

Having a big part of my family on a different continent or in different states of the US, there is a bright side with all the technology. Everyone is starting to use all those digital platforms whether they used it before or not, so in terms of connectivity with people who are not in the same place it spiked. Now you're able to invite colleagues from Boston or Europe very easily to class and students get exposure to ideas, people and connections that they wouldn't have otherwise.

With family or friends, we just used to text. Now, I think there is a little bit of introduction of what used to be a phone call but now it’s through a screen. Who would ever, a year ago, pick up the phone and talk?

Jerolim is a part of the School of Architecture & Environment in the College of Design.

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