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At the heart of design is a curiosity in the world, and the will to identify, and solve problems. Drawing-making-talking is a critical component in this mix. It is how designers think. It is how they integrate. It is how they create. Yet, it is not the only active part of their complex design process.

The purpose of this learning content is to generate a sensitivity in spatial practitioners regarding the association of architectural design with broader disciplines. The learning content exposes the participant to a range of disciplines, presentation methods, innovation methods, design frameworks, and thinking processes. The learning content is built around the idea that the material processes of architecture are critical and rigorous forms of knowledge production, and that this type of work can create solutions-based interventions in the world, but that good design solutions require clear social thinking. By doing this course participants also improve their ability to present well structured, informative, and persuasive messages about their contextually situated research and design. That is, through a presentation focus on the assessment of work, participants improve their ability to link practice and theory whilst speaking to specific contexts and design solutions.

The content in this course draws from the arts, design, social research, business, facilitation, communication, and project planning. It also draws from my long-term interdisciplinary spatial thinking, and from my research into arts-based and design-based research methodologies and problem-solving approaches. The slide decks presented here document my thinking around spatial relationships as it applies to art-design-social research, and problem-solving through design thinking.

Make better presentations that have structure and buy-in

Presentations are often saturated with information, but often in a confusing way. This course provides you with an approach to plan a presentation that delivers a key message to your chosen audience. Structured thinking, and planning towards generating buy-in are critical factors of successful presentations. Once presentations are understood as critical meaning-making activities, the presentation itself can be understood as a site of knowledge production. This leads to the notion of presentation as research process and output. The approach in this course is to employ multimodal forms in a coherent ensemble. A presentation planning template is provided which integrates the varied details that need to be considered in an effective presentation: audience analysis; presentation purpose; key message and sub points; presentation content; media and modes; narrative structure; coherent ensemble.

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Innovation and problem-solving through design-research and disciplinary cross-pollination

This is a course about innovation and problem solving through design. Architecture is about solving problems. In doing so it factors in a wide range of other disciplines. Creativity and innovation in architecture stems from its ability to incorporate other disciplines. Becoming proficient in disciplinary cross-pollination is a crucial element of becoming a good designer. Disciplinary influences can be termed multiple-disciplinary combinations, or disciplinary cross-pollination. It is through these disciplinary combinations that architects can develop a nuanced view of site: one that works beyond a physical location, but incorporates among others, geography, biology, technology, culture, society, economics, politics. The site of architecture is also that of process, and of thinking through the handling of material. Contextually relevant design is possible when practitioners understand site as a relationship of thinking practices in design and research, and of design as iterative problem solving process. Critical in this thinking process is sketching, a core disciplinary mediator driven by embodied-convective processes, and arguably the primary mode of thought for architects.

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Download project briefs with their rubrics
Here is a selection of project briefs. Some of the briefs are for earlier iterations of the course content, not captured in the slides

The context of the project
This project stems from my time working with FADA at the University of Johannesburg teaching 3rd year architecture students a course in the application of practice-based research methods and methodology. My goal in this project, from my first conversations with colleague and line manger Alex Opper, was to support and extend the design activity in the students’ main design subjects within the broad fields of interdisciplinarity, design and presentation. I have found that a high level of flexibility and adaptability within my projects allowed students to explore widely and creatively in ways that assisted their design activity. This meant that projects were conceptualised to closely track and support the students’ design activity. The course was a link for my students’ to the social sciences, the humanities, the arts, and the natural sciences, and a way for them to explore their design problems through these adjacent fields.

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