by Antony Brown, Founder and Director
EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABILITY:
An operational model for teaching sustainable design
How is the role of the designer essential in contributing to a more sustainable world?
What fundamentally matters in educating designers?
What does "the designer as a leader" look like?
How can the design profession counter its tendency towards marginalization, fragmentation and specialization?
Only by bringing a very different approach to architectural and design education can we do more than pay lip service to the notion of sustainability in its broadest manifestation. Ultimately we need to educate design students not only in the technical skills essential to the practice of their profession, but also to imbue them with an understanding of a greater goal that must eventually be shared by our whole culture - that of creating a sustainable society. This necessitates going beyond the aesthetic to address questions of social and environmental responsibility which can then provide guidance for a new philosophy of design.
Complexity is an innate attribute of this new philosophy– it is inherently messy, ambiguous and in many ways the antithesis of architectural education. Developed through a long history, the teaching of architecture is still, in the most part, based on the Beaux Arts model. The design of the building is the central focus of the learning process and, while in some instances this has broadened to include other aspects, the project is generally the central locus of design education. The project is theoretical, the budget rarely considered, and the client is the professor whose central criteria are the formalistic success or failure of a particular design aesthetic. An architectural student from turn of the century Paris suddenly transported to many of our architecture schools would feel right at home. It is in this climate that we are attempting to introduce a whole new way of perceiving the world.
In my view, the current form of architectural education must be completely restructured. This is a ‘radical’ suggestion, from the Latin for ‘root’, as we are attempting to understand the cause of our problems. We are a society that busily band-aids symptoms rather than sorting out root causes. An obvious example of this tendency is our transportation system. A road becomes congested (symptom) so we add more lanes (solution) then more cars are attracted and we return to congestion (the symptom gets worse). The root causes are the wrong urban patterns coupled with the wrong transport system, yet any attempt to change the causes is viewed as a radical position. One tenet of sustainable design is to solve the real problem and not just the symptoms. Only by solving these root problems will we be able to permanently resolve the symptoms.
Want to read more? Download the Ecosa Institute Educational Philosophy here (PDF).