Ever started off with a project that didn’t end up where you expected? That was the experience of a group of Canadian researchers working on placemaking and community building. They found that designers often left design school without the tools to do the job. That is, they weren’t equipped with the skills to involve communities. Consequently, stakeholders were being left out of the design process and outcomes.
The research project has raised more questions than answers. This isn’t a bad thing. It means that it has started conversations about how designers are educated. Changes to curriculum design are needed. Time to bring educational research and practice together. That is one of the findings from the article about working with people, not for people from an educational perspective. The research group suggest that the design community build their own “ethics protocols that define responsible behaviour for design”.
Building “Working with, not for” into Design Studio Curriculum is a participatory action research project. It challenges assumptions and underpinning values of educators. Working with participants and collaborators they found that the community was treated as a group of outsiders. Past experiences with community consultations left them distrustful of processes. In some cases participants thought researchers exploited them for their own purposes. It’s a long paper, but tells the research story well.
A related postlooks at the issue of designers not always having the two skill sets required these days. Not only do designers need technical know-how, they need to relate well to those they are designing for. The same could be said for their tutors and lecturers.
Abstract: Design ManifesT.O. 2020 is a Participatory Action Research project currently underway in Toronto, Canada and is working with communities to uncover stories of grassroots placemaking and community building done through creative practice. An unexpected discovery during data collection highlighted how communities are still being left out of decision-making processes that directly affect their collective values and living conditions and are being disrespected by designers and researchers — exposing very large gaps in the education of designers in terms of values-based learning, design ethics, and informed methods for working with communities. This paper interrogates design pedagogy and practice in order to stimulate further discourse and investigation into how to successfully integrate ethical and responsible protocols into design curriculum to support co-design practices where social justice and equity becomes normalized in practice. In other words: giving students the tools to “work with, not for” communities. Demonstrating social conscience is ethically desirable in design education but if students are not given the tools required to work with communities through respectful and collaborative processes then we are training the next generation of designers to continue a form of hegemony in design practice that is undesirable.
Taking a universal design approach to architectural practice requires a change in attitudes in architectural education. Continuing professional development (CPD) is one way to achieve this. A joint project by the University of Limerick and the IDeA Center at Buffalo resulted in some recommendations and guidelines to help. These were derived from engagement with Irish and international professionals, educators and client bodies. “One of the most important findings of the research is a demonstrated need for new CPD in UD that moves beyond a focus on interpreting regulation and accessibility. It was found that CPD in UD can have a broader value than just helping professionals meet regulatory requirements – it can also provide information and resources that increase design agency, or the intervention in wider societal structures with the aim of benefiting others”. The title of the article is, “A Review of Universal Design in Professional Architectural Education: Recommendations and Guidelines”.
Abstract: There is a growing understanding of the widespread societal benefits of a universal design (UD). To achieve these benefits, architectural professionals must have the knowledge and skills to implement UD in practice. This paper investigates UD in the context of recent architectural education. It traces changing attitudes in the culture of architectural education, and the evolving perception of UD as an important aspect of architectural practice. Specifically, continuous professional development (CPD) can advance knowledge of UD within a human-centred design paradigm. An overview of courses and resources available to architectural professionals in a number of countries in Europe and the USA is provided. Specific recommendations and guidelines are presented that were derived from a process of engagement with Irish and international architectural professionals, architectural educators and client bodies through online survey, workshops, interviews and CPD prototypes.
Penelope Dean discusses how boundaries among various fields of design emerge, what they do, and how they behave, and then proceeds to argue that there are no real boundaries, only discipline based notions of boundaries. She takes six perspectives including, how they erupt from within, how they are extrapolated, and how they evolve from shared principles. She concludes by saying: “Design is no longer the sole property of disciplines or professions… [d]esign is now public domain appropriable by anyone.” She goes on to say that we all have the freedom to design and “rethink how we choose and designate new worlds.” Isn’t that what universal design is all about?
Part IV of the book includes chapters on socially inclusive design, and socially responsive design among others. You can download the Table of Contents from Amazon.
Penelope Dean is Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she teaches, theory, history and design, and serves as coordinator for the Masters of Arts in Design Criticism program. Her research and writings focus on contemporary architectural culture with a particular emphasis on recent exchanges between architecture and allied design fields.