INTRODUCING HUMANITARIAN CO-HABITATION AS FIRST DESIGN ASSIGNMENT
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Vandenhende, Karel; Stevens, Jeroen
Institution: KU Leuven, Belgium
Section: Professional perspectives for design students in a pluralistic future
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.27
Given the contemporary upheaval of climate and war refugees around the globe, the cosmopolitan scale of architecture and its increasing caregiving agenda can not be ignored. How could the first design assignment for students embarking on an architectural education, integrate this critical context already from the outset? This question seems especially pertinent because one tends to mainly remember the first and last experiences that mark learning processes. The primacy effect indeed ensures that one will not soon forget the very first design assignment that kickstarts an architectural education trajectory. For new students, our school organises a ‘starters afternoon’ as an introduction to our education in architectural engineering. During those 3 hours, students work in groups of 4 on their very first design project. And as we want to introduce co-habitation on a cosmopolitan scale in design education from the very start, we ask them to a work on an emergency shelter. We challenge them to design this with a model on the scale of a ‘Playmobil’-figure. Only basic materials are provided, primarily wooden sticks, plasticine, rope and paper. Intermittently, and also at the end of the workshop, all models are collectively reviewed with students and tutors from different architectural fields (eg. construction, theory, design). Here, fundamental architectonic elements of design such as form, function, and construction, are put in dialogue with societal debates around social inclusion, justice, human dignity and care. The 'shelter model assignment’ introduces thereby care as an important value, already during the first contact of young students in their training as an architect. This workshop is now also further developed as a STEM assignment for even younger scholars in secondary schools. This will introduce these youngster at the age of 16 or 17 to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics with a design experience that interlaces technical decisions and solutions with urgent social and societal considerations and co-habitation.