Assistant Professor, Architecture
158 College of Design
Ames, IA, 50011
Phone: (515) 294-8711
Office: 486 Design
Ph.D (candidate), University of Michigan, 2010
SMArchS, MIT, 2005
B.Arch, Iowa State University, 2003
Computational literacy, computational craft and workflows, design education research, foundation design pedagogy
Nick Senske researches and teaches in the area of computational design with an emphasis on beginning design education and the cultivation of computational craft. A key concept in this agenda is the notion of computational thinking.
Computational thinking is an idea that originates from the discipline of computer science. In practice, it means understanding how computers work, what they are good at, and what they cannot do well. It is a “way of thinking” that affects how a person uses any piece of software or computational device. It also involves the ability to program and/or modify software, as a means of expressing oneself computationally. This perspective is valuable because the fundamentals of computation and how these relate to the principles of good design will remain constant – no matter which software or methods are in use – for the foreseeable future. Thus, computational thinking provides a skillset and mindset that prepares students to design, critique, and innovate with computers well after their formal education is complete.
Prof. Senske’s research focuses on studying and improving how architecture students learn computational concepts and skills. In order to make the subject more accessible and engaging to students, Senske develops course designs that combine empirical findings from cognitive science, computer science education, and educational psychology. In his previous position at UNC Charlotte, Prof. Senske helped launch and assess a new architecture curriculum that integrated computational design with traditional subjects. As part of this curriculum, he created and taught a required introductory course in computational methods. The development process and findings from this course have been widely published and the online course materials created for it have been used by several architecture schools. In 2016, ArchDaily cited his online tutorial collection one of the top YouTube channels for architects.
Senske continues the development of computational curricula and courses in his current position at Iowa State University. His current research concerns the theoretical basis for “computational craft” in architectural design: understanding the quality and aesthetics of computer code and other immaterial procedural artifacts. Prof. Senske also teaches foundation design studios and design communications courses with an emphasis on integrating digital design thinking into early architectural education. As a co-founder of the Computation + Construction Lab, Senske collaborates on research and pedagogy to democratize access to computation and advance the state of the field.