Transforming Design Studio Learning and Teaching through Real World Projects

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Interdisciplinary design courses featuring communitybased projects create opportunities for students to understand pressing social issues and gain a sense of the concepts of civic responsibility and ethical practice relevant to their disciplines. They also apply specialized knowledge in the context of working with a real client, on a real site, to develop a built environment response. Through a variety of tasks, students must also demonstrate and integrate their capabilities in independent, scholarly enquiry and reflection while moving between individual and group work. Students from four undergraduate programs in UNSW’s Faculty of the Built Environment – Architecture, Interior Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Planning and Urban Development – planned and designed a unique community facility for people with schizophrenia. This Faculty elective was conducted within an action research framework with all key participants contributing to critical reflective moments. The qualitative feedback revealed a significant potential for interdisciplinary design studios to provide integrative and personally transformative learning experiences for students and community members. The products of the studio elective demonstrate the possibilities for institutions of higher education to productively interact with local communities and creatively address serious social issues and, indeed, transform individual lives within multiple contexts.
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Corkery, Linda
Roche, Ben
Watson, Karin
Zehner, Robert
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UNSW Faculty
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