In Gehry Partners’ practice, digital tools have been fully implemented into the design process - a strengthened, deep-rooted working process - without upsetting it. They have been successful in redefining what traditional, analogical working process can accomplish if fully supported by digital tools. They are able to place the typical reiterative steps of the design process indifferently in the physical or virtual world, showing the ability to go back and forth from one to the other without losing, worsening or approximating all the pieces of information. Since the contribution of digital instruments is so revolutionary that usually deeply changes not only the process, but also the way of thinking the process, this is an astonishing result that should be made visible and subject to extensive study. From a deep analysis of Gehry Partners' working process could be derived a methodological didactic path aimed at minimizing the interferences of digital tools into the design thinking process, in order to improve architecture students' ability to choose and control their instruments. To test that methodological path, this paper suggests the adoption as a suitable assignment the design development of a tree house, because of its small size and its geometric complexity. In this assignment, the geometric complexity of the tree would subvert any traditional design method, promoting during the design process copious transitions between physical and digital, and would therefore foster the adoption of tools like 3D scanners and 3D printers in order to optimize it. It could encourage students to build up a brand new design thinking , extremely task oriented.
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