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CHCI Student Highlight: Sara Saghafi Moghaddam

November 14, 2022

Sara Saghafi Moghaddam

"Design is a way of inquiring, a way of producing knowing and knowledge; this means it is a way of researching"

(Peter Downton)

Sara Saghafi Moghaddam is a PhD student in the College of Architecture, Arts and Design under the supervision of Dr. James Jones. As a practicing architect, design researcher, and Graduate Teaching Assistant for the design studio in the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech, Saghafi has had the opportunity to observe, assist and work with various methods and tools that support the architectural design process and design pedagogy, especially in the ideation and site intervention stage, where the most impactful decisions are made. These observations led to the recognition that the current approach to using relatively small-scale physical models to study the site from a birds-eye view limits the architect's decision-making.  

The question that emerged was how can the architectural design process evolve by interjecting 3D immersive technology into the early stages of design? By merging Virtual Reality technologies into the early stages of design, the designer is better able to "see" their design proposals within the context of the site and surroundings. To transform the design process in this way requires that the most appropriate technologies be identified and the related knowledge (tacit, procedural, explicit, etc.) be understood and structured into a design process framework. Through the development of this framework, it can be shared with other educators or practitioners of architecture and subsequently significantly impact the future of architectural design.

Saghafi’s focus lies at the intersection of spatial design and technology, specifically, how technology can enhance and extend human understanding of the environment and help designers make more informed decisions in shaping them. CHCI creates a great platform at this intersection, promoting interdisciplinary knowledge and collaboration among researchers exploring innovative domains of study. Her collaboration at CHCI began with 3D immersive environments integrated with haptics and robotics, which led to several design inquiries. She is also passionate about literature and storytelling and sees every architect  as a storyteller who tries to create a story on a specific site, where technology can help envision future possibilities. She studies design strategies and evaluation, materiality and geometry, and design cognition from various angles, using qualitative and quantitative methods.