We had seven invited discussants, who had selected material, and prepared short presentations, addressing the questions:
- How is knowledge generated through the design?
- What characterizes the knowledge generated?
- How does the example support the progression of design skill within the landscape architecture program?
Malin Eriksson, landscape architect, lecturer, SOL
Marina Queiroz, landscape architect, lecturer, SOL
Bodil Dahlman, landscape architect, lecturer, SOL
Tomas Eriksson, landscape architect, lecturer, SOL
Vera Vicenzotti, landscape architect, PhD, associate professor, SOL
Victoria Sjöstedt, architect, PhD, lecturer, LAPF
Gunilla Lindholm, landscape architect, PhD, associate professor, LAPF
We summarize our discussions below. Speaking from examples, we seek to identify examples of student work generating knowledge through design.
How does landscape design contribute to knowledge generation?
From the design courses presented, we discussed the use of sketching and model making to generate ideas, and uncover and make visible ideas about a place. We spoke of sketching as an embodied way of exploring a site. Through drawing and model making, students develop an understanding of their sites. “Students draw sections and illustrate how the plants grow, and how the spaces change over time. Their capacity to imagine the dynamic transformations of the landscape matures. Students write reflections to articulate their experiences with the design process.” (Dahlman, 2022, workshop Ultuna).
To articulate the design process in words, and collectively discuss experiences of the often messy creative design process, was emphasized as an important social learning moment. Design skill develops in conversation and dialogue, within environments that are generous and permissive. The social context matters, in order to support students to learn to deal with uncertainties in the creative design process, gain the courage to follow ideas, dare to stay in the uncertain and try things out. We spoke of landscape design as a collective practice, based on personal responsibility, courage, independence and trust.
What characterize knowledge generated through design?
“The design process, within research, what does it mean? What sort of knowledge is generated through design? What kind of knowledge can design research produce? What status does this knowledge have? How does it relate to curriculum? What claims regarding knowledge generation can we make? What are the perspectives for the future?” (Vicenzotti, 2022, workshop Ultuna).
We discussed ontological, epistemological and methodological characteristics of design research. How does it differ from academic or scientific research? Design is future oriented, it is something that perhaps will exist (ontological question). Design generates knowledge about specific places. The knowledge is not generalizable. The character of design knowledge, is not a “knowing what”, but it is a “knowing where” (Ammon, 2017). In our discussions we spoke of knowledge generated through design as site-specific, embodied, experiential, poly-sensory, tactile, emotional, personal/individual, and to a certain degree non-verbal. We repeatedly returned to using words such as insight, understanding, familiarity and experience (epistemological question). Design involves the methods of the landscape architect, it involves artefacts, which themselves embody knowledge and have agency. Knowledge generation is practice-led and linked to making (methodological question).
What happens when we design? What happens when we draw? We spoke of the importance of studying what designers do, question mystification, and use writing in order to understand one’s thinking and doing.
Why is this knowledge important?
Design has capacity to deal with uncertainties and address complex problems. It is a synthesizing activity, it involves inter and trans disciplinary efforts, something much in demand by policy makers today.
Design can help establish better communication with society. Representations and artefacts act as affective arguments, with capacity to engage and involve people. Visual argumentation impacts discourses and narratives about what is important. Design can affect and be transformative.
Knowledge gained through design can give orientation to designers’ practice, and contribute to create understanding for what people experience, supporting careful actions, and carefulness with people’s environments. Design can cultivate, strengthen and expand empathy. For long-term sustainable development, ethics and empathy, as approach in practice, seem crucial.
Design and creative processes have capacity to reformulate problems, and open possibility for shifts of perspective. Design skill together with design research competence contribute to training “[..] more reflective, sensitive and critical designers” (Oles, 2014, p. 21), urgently needed, given our societal challenges.
Forum for reflective practice and design research
With this website we seek to collect arguments for how a forum, gathering teachers, students, researchers and practitioners, can support reflective practice and design research at SLU. We see this as in line with SLUs strategy document saying: ”Vi ska också bidra till att utveckla en fördjupad förståelse av hur vetenskapligt och konstnärligt baserad kunskap kan leda till förändringsprocesser i samhället.” (The SLU strategy 2021-2025).
Reflective practice and design research need a social context for vivid and open discussion. A forum can establish such conversations and discussions at the academy, and act to clarify and position reflective practice and design research at SLU.
A forum can strengthen the design subject at SLU, and be a face outwards to the professional field, attracting attention from outside of SLU, communicating the unique and diverse landscape design project portfolio that we have.
Sustainable development research projects increasingly involve design and art. These are research projects we have possibility to join, provided our design and design research competence is clearly articulated. A forum can support applications in this direction.
A forum can also help us gather strength and critical mass. We imagine the activities in the forum in the format of directed initiatives with concrete outcomes, such as for instance publications.
Ammon, S. (2017). Why Designing Is Not Experimenting: Design Methods, Epistemic Praxis and Strategies of Knowledge Acquisition in Architecture. Philos. Technol. 30, 495–520. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13347-017-0256-4
Oles, T. (2014). Go with me – 50 Steps to Landscape Thinking. Amsterdam: Architectura & Natura Publishers.