Our third guest for our April ECR profile is Waldemar Jenek. Waldemar is a full-time PhD candidate in the School of Architecture and Built Environment and a part of the urban informatics group within QUT. His background is in architecture and media architecture, and his principal research interests are how architects can utilise software to design interactive architecture and how to teach new technologies to the next generation of architects and designers. Waldemar believes that design should not be limited by software, and he is fascinated by interactive architecture and how architectural design can be linked with the environment and people. New technologies and media are increasingly finding their place in the design process as well as in the actual urban environment, and these relationships are also included in his research interests.
Waldemar presented his research in more than 30 talks and events, including paper presentations at academic conferences, invited talks at symposia and public exhibitions. He has given talks in Europe, Asia and Australia (e.g. at Tsinghua University China and Australian-German Science and Innovation Day 2019).
Below Waldemar shares more information about his work and some insights into the ECR life.
Your research in keywords?
Architecture, Media Architecture, Education
Why is your research important?
Virtual design environment tools such as virtual reality can refine the methods and tools of existing design processes of media architecture. Architecture does not have to be static anymore. Architecture designs can be interactive and temporary and capable of shifting in a short time to address different problems or needs by incorporating media into architectural structures. Media architecture can be understood as materials or objects with dynamic properties, such as interactive sources of light or moving elements, which embody the physical space on an architectonic scale. Most media architecture installations allow dynamic interaction or show interactive content. Traditionally architecture is designed with static design tools such as sketches, drawings and physical models. However, there is little research about how to employ design tools to capture interaction media design in an architectural context. Besides, in the higher education context, virtual design environment tools can refine traditional teaching approaches while discovering new ways of design thinking and creating design solutions in architecture schools. With my research, I proposed a scheme for a design course, which I implemented and evaluated in an architectural design studio setting based on a literature review of architectural education, media architecture and interaction design, and virtual design environment tools.
What ultimate goal/key issue is your research contributing to achieving/addressing?
From my background in architecture and my personal experience, I believe it is essential to acknowledge and embed technological development into the education of architects. Technologies and methods such as augmented reality, virtual reality and Building Information Modelling are becoming everyday aspects of architectural practice. Nonetheless, in terms of educational processes using such new tools, students are often required to teach themselves about these technological opportunities rather than receiving professional guidance or instruction in their degree. Indeed, even basic design principles can be taught more efficiently for better understanding; new technologies allow design thinking in a non-traditional way, allowing new design solutions, such as parametric design. Architectural problems can quickly become overwhelming and hard to handle for an individual designer, but technologies can support a practitioner through many issues that arise in architectural practice and allow the quick scaling of solutions to a new level.
What is your research ‘top-tip’?
Ask your Librarians for help!
What is your best/favourite research story?
I was part of the conference student volunteer programs at Media Architecture Biennale 2018 and Siggraph Asia 2019, which were great experiences. I connected with many like-minded people from different countries and with diverse backgrounds. As a result of engaging in these student volunteer programs, I was Student Volunteer Chair of the Media Architecture Biennale 2020/21.
What is the biggest challenge you face in carrying out your research?
Publications are not everything. Writing a paper and getting cited might be good for a promotion, but the research impact should come from the research and not from the number of publications someone has produced. It is sad to see that many PhD students put much pressure on themselves to get published when their intention to start a PhD was to conduct research.
What has been your proudest achievement in your research to date?
I received several recognitions and awards for my work as an educator, including a CSIRO DATA61 Top-Scholarship for my PhD research in the field of architecture education. I have achieved the Associate Fellow (Indigenous) and the Fellowship of Higher Education Academy in recognition of attainment against the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and learning support in higher education. My teaching expertise has been recognised in the Vice-chancellor Award nomination for several categories.
Recent/best publications (or publications you are most proud of?)
As part of my PhD research, I supervised undergraduate architecture students in Germany to design media architecture structures. One of my students did an exceptional job, and the project was accepted at the Media Architecture Bienalle Student Exhibition 2020 (you can see the project here)