Prof. H Martin Edge






Necdet Teymur, Magda Sibley, Sandra Horne, Ashraf Salama and Martin Edge

People in Design Education: Emerging Paradigms and Cross-Cultural Visions

in Environmental Design Research Association - edra32 Edinburgh 2001

Old World, New Ideas - environmental and cultural change and tradition in a shrinking world


Most people who attend either the EDRA or IAPS conferences and work in a design environment, particularly within universities, express some delight at finding themselves amongst so many like-minded individuals.  Many bemoan the fact that they feel isolated amongst their peers back at the University, as one of only a very few people doing environment-behaviour research. Again and again we hear the view that such research, and indeed any rational consideration of the role of people in the design of the built environment, is considered to be a marginal activity amongst the mainstream of architects in education. We have heard views expressed, by studio teachers, such as - “Oh, participation in design, that’s so sixties” - as though whether or not one designs for people were merely a matter of fashion. A session at the IAPS conference in Paris in 2000 concluded, more or less, that environment-behaviour research had made no real advances in becoming accepted into the mainstream of the architectural studio in the last 25 years.


Many views have been expressed about the reasons for this bias, but whatever the details, it is clear that they reside in the tradition of architectural education as it has evolved over the centuries, primarily in Europe. The old idea of architecture as craft and the architect as master builder gave way to the Beaux Artes tradition and romantic ideas about ‘creative genius’ and high art. This fundamentally western approach has not lent itself well to the detailed consideration of the social and psychological consequences of design decisions.


Whilst the problem might thus be said to lie in a paradigm deeply embedded in European and North American approaches to architectural education, attempts to address it have also largely come from people working in the same areas. Attendance at EDRA and IAPS conferences is dominated by people from developed, mostly western countries. When people from the developing world do attend it is perhaps with the implicit assumption that they have come to learn, in one way or another, from the more ‘advanced First World’. This is not specifically a criticism of EDRA or IAPS, it is the predominant approach taken, in many disciplines, by people from richer countries to people from poorer countries.


In the case of environment-behaviour studies in design education however, the irony is that it is the paradigm adopted, and aggressively exported, by the west, which creates the problem in the first place.


This Plenary investigates whether in this area the developing world may have something to teach the developed world. In parts of the world with less of a tradition of architecture as ‘high art’ and a pragmatic need to deliver liveable, affordable built environments, are there different paradigms in operation which can inform the improvement of the situation in western architectural education?


The four presenters are from Turkey, Algeria, Brazil and Egypt. Each has experience of introducing a human, social dimension in design education. More general conclusions for the educational process can be drawn from their specific examples, challenging Western thought on architectural education. The Plenary presents a critical analysis of studio teaching practices of the west and their impact on the design studio in the developing world.


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