Based on the work presented, we developed a discussion on how we approach design within teaching and research at the LAPF and SOL departments. We had nine invited discussants, who had selected projects, and prepared short presentations, addressing the questions:
- What is the significance of design in the project?
- How is knowledge generated through the design?
- What characterizes the knowledge generated?
- What possibilities and challenges do you see in the ways we support knowledge generation through design?
- What contributions to creating sustainable urban landscapes can you identify? How does embodied, lived, affective understandings of landscape, expressed through design, contribute to creating sustainable urban landscapes?
Peter Dacke, artist, lecturer, LAPF
Malin Eriksson, landscape architect, lecturer, SOL
Johan Wirdelöv, architect, PhD, lecturer, LAPF
Gunilla Lindholm, landscape architect, associate professor, LAPF
Marie Andersson, artist, lecturer, LAPF
Victoria Sjöstedt, architect, PhD, lecturer, LAPF
Zara Persson, landscape architect student, LAPF
Monika Gora, landscape architect, artist, GORA art&landscape
Lisa Diedrich, architect, PhD, professor, LAPF
Below are summarized some of the themes that emerged in the discussions and questions raised following the presentations.
What do we mean when we speak of design research? What is the design research aspect? How to understand artistic development work and research through design? In our discussions we realized that we operate with a broad palette of approaches, ranging from reflective practice to design research. This broad span of approaches we identified as a strength, and keeping heterogeneity we identified as something in need of careful attention. Here continuous discussions, articulating our different positions and understandings of design research, seem vital.
Knowledge, insight, experience
How to characterize knowledge from artistic and scientific practice? Knowledge, insight, experience were terms brought up in the discussions. Clearly we operate with different kinds of knowledge, as for instance expressed by: episteme: theoretical-scientific knowledge; techne: practical knowledge, skill; phronesis: practical experience/insight/ethical judgement (Krupinska, 2014).
“[..] artistic research seeks not so much to make explicit the knowledge that art is said to produce, but rather to provide a specific articulation of the pre-reflective, non-conceptual content of art. It thereby invites ‘unfinished thinking’. Hence, it is not formal knowledge that is the subject matter of artistic research, but thinking in, through and with art.” (Borgdorff, 2012, p. 44).
Tensions and disagreement
In our discussions, tensions surfaced between the different approaches and positions represented in the group. The reflective practice side expressed skepticism towards design research, as they saw research, theory and theorization as “academisation” of design and artistic practices, restraining artistic expression. On the other hand, academia also tends to treat design research with skepticism, expressing anxiety about the results of such research. Design research operates in the borderland between art/design practice and academia. While this relation is uneasy, the tension can also (potentially) be productive, and influence how we think about both domains (Borgdorff, 2012).
A specific tension seems to involve practice-theory relations. How to establish a dialogue between artistic experience and academic theorization? The way practice-theory relations are understood, seem crucial in terms of positioning oneself in relation to design research (see Borgdorff´s categorization of practice-theory relations, from instrumental, interpretive, performative to immanent perspectives, influencing our beliefs about art-science relations and our perception of research in the arts). Academia sees a need of theory to open up the material and reach broader relevance. The reflective practice side expresses anxiety that theory interferes and shuts down and disrupts artistic processes. This risk of closure seems important to discuss and verbalize, as well as ways to reach openness, following practice/following literature.
Progression of design skill
How do we support students’ development of design skill? How do we ensure progression through our courses? How do we encourage students to integrate design in their bachelor’s and master´s projects?
To enable and encourage students to integrate a design component in their bachelor’s and master’s projects, design skill, is crucial. In our discussions, we identified some weakness in the way we ensure progression in students’ development of design skill, such as gaps between courses, and gaps between bachelor and master level. Links between master level design courses and master’s projects could also be strengthened. Studio courses provide a rich setting for formulating and exploring research questions, with potential to support master’s projects involving design. Encouraging students to publish their master´s projects in publications outside of SLU, was also mentioned as a way to support students’ development of design research skills.
Practice-led bachelor’s and master’s projects
The bachelor projects discussed, involved sketching as an explorative method for site specific investigations and careful site readings. The master´s projects discussed were more elaborated, setting up frames for making repeated observations, collecting site impressions and experiences from site visits in nuanced ways. Clearly the artistic experiences gained from fieldwork oriented the literature search. The explorations were practice-led. In an open and critical way, artistic experience oriented the projects.
How artistic experience and academic/scientific theorization interact, guide and influence one another, we also discussed. Site specific experiences have capacity to guide theoretical formation of knowledge. And “[..] theory born from reading thinking debate gives direction to artistic experience. Otherwise the scientific and artistic experiences remain either detached or completely mute to one another.” (Hannula et al., 2005, p. 59).
To support knowledge generation through design
Questions were raised about the format of the bachelor’s and master´s projects. Is there enough space and acceptance for design explorations and use of artistic methods? Is the frame too narrow? The exhibition format was suggested. Without exhibition space, it is difficult to fully appreciate visual material and design artefacts. With our current format, visual material tends to get hidden away.
We also discussed evaluation and assessment. The lack of consensus among teachers assessing projects involving a design component, was brought up. Students need guidance. They take risks when using artistic methods. To support knowledge generation through design, critical assessment needs to be developed.
Towards a FORUM for reflective practice and design research
In the workshop we discussed strategic ways forward towards a “Forum for reflective practice and design research”. The work has already started with this website, displaying and communicating design work, addressing questions such as: How do we get quality? What do we see as quality? What do we perceive as valuable? What is forward looking? What do we see as our strengths and assets?
As we are building up this website, starting mainly from teaching, we are gradually collecting our arguments, articulating how design, and the knowledge gained through design, can contribute to address societal challenges. Landscape architecture as an interdisciplinary field, operates within established power structures, in which the science perspective still dominates. Objective knowledge, seen as neutral, has been given status in society, while subjective experience, has not been given the same weight. To address our societal challenges, however, artistic reasoning also needs a place.
Borgdorff, H. (2012). The Conflict of the Faculties. Perspectives on Artistic Research and Academia. Leiden: Leiden University Press.
Borgdorff, H. (2012). The production of knowledge in artistic research. In: M. Biggs and H. Karlsson (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 44-63.
Hannula, M., Suoranta, J. and Vadén, T. (2005). Artistic research – theories, methods and practices. Helsinki: Akateeminen.
Krupinska, J. (2014). What an architecture student should know. New York and London: Routledge.