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Using Virtual Models to Teach Traditional Chinese Wood Construction

by Andrew I-kang Li and Jin-Yeu Tsou

In The Introduction of Technology: CAAD Teaching and Research Directions in Asia, ed. Thomas Kvan, 119-130. Hong Kong: Department of Architecture, University of Hong Kong, 1996.



In this paper we discuss our experience in using virtual models to teach traditional Chinese wood construction. Although our approach is technically simple--we use a kit of model parts made with the Solid Modeler of AutoCAD, Release 12 (now Release 13), and customized commands in AutoLISP--we have had excellent results. This is because of the remarkable match between the modelling medium and the highly systematized nature of traditional Chinese wood construction. It is this crucial--and interesting--characteristic that we want students to understand and appreciate.

In our first teaching experience, in the fall term, 1994-95, despite unexpected drawbacks, our approach succeeded. In fact, our students, all Hong Kong Chinese, were surprisingly enthusiastic and even took pride in the sophistication of this uniquely Chinese construction system. In 1995-96, we have used the same kit of parts in two courses: a introduction to Chinese architecture (spring term) and an advanced course in Song dynasty wood construction (fall term).

We first discuss briefly the theoretical basis for our approach. We then describe the assignments, the kit of parts, and supporting materials used in our teaching experiences. Finally, we discuss our findings and consider directions for the future development and improvement of our approach.

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