Learning Spaces for Sustainable Futures:
Encounters between design and rhetoric in shaping
Bruce Snaddon, Andrew Morrison & Andrea Grant Broom
Through a spatial and journey-based interface, this webtext embodies a multimodal, qualitative inquiry into ways to support dynamic learning for undergraduate students of design and explore their emergent roles as critically engaged and resilient designers able to transition toward sustainable design practice. The inquiry presents an exploratory pedagogical framework devised for and through a multidisciplinary design project based in a leading African school of design. The framework was developed to enhance learning practices, resources, and reflections as part of a wider pedagogical shift toward learning about sustainable design in the context of climate change. This learning took place in a move from the local and related practices of the design studio out into a shared journey between two regional cities. It crossed national borders, traversed climate zones, and engaged with local communities, all by way of situated knowledge. It involved a group of 36 students working across design disciplines on a physical and learning journey which included their design teachers in their roles as educators and researchers.
Overall, the exploration drew together conceptual, productive, and experiential design learning and design multiliteracies, along with approaches to situated and emergent reflection and knowledge building. This webtext is centered around stages and key events in the journey across a landscape. Methodologically, it takes up a diversity of modes of making, documenting, and reflecting on this shared learning journey, including photography, interviews, participant observation, and a documentary film. This is conveyed through a spatial rhetoric that is designed to evince and allow access to different thematics and elements in the interface so that readers—students, educators, researchers—may differentially traverse the multimodal account of the learning journey. We point to pivotal moments during the learning process which were found to have effectively altered students’ dispositions and cultivated attributes of thoughtfulness, self-awareness, resilience, adaptability, and self-reliance. These are moments that effectively connect design students more confidently to the process of building their learning identities consistent with the skills and agency desired for knowing and acting in a transitioning world. We offer a discussion around the possibilities of enacting a renewal of design curriculum through pedagogy that is responsive to the speculative, locative, and performative elements found in the experimental project under analysis.