Sanderson, L., Stone, S., Lee, SJ., 2020.
A Future for the Already Built, Portfolio
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This research unpicks an emergent pedagogic approach in architectural education, through the case study of a series of projects undertaken by the Continuity in Architecture atelier and Manchester School of Architecture. This new pedagogy applies the 'design thinking' that occurs in the atelier to the 'Wicked' (Rittel & Webber, 1973) problem of the 'already built', revealing the outward facing potential of Problem-Based Learning (Barrows, 1985, 1986, 1992) and a new form of Live Project.
The research addresses four important questions:
(1) How can research-through-design projects inform the future of the already built?
(2) How can the 'design thinking' that takes place in the academic atelier be utilised in solving real and 'Wicked' (Rittel & Webber, 1973) problems?
(3) Does this outward facing Problem-Based Learning, present a new form of Live Project?
(4) Where does this approach sit in the 'Research : Teaching Complex' (Haslett, 2009)?
Continuity in Architecture have been working on commissioned projects (2014 -) with local communities to create sustainable futures for the already built. This practice-based portfolio presents their emergent pedagogy, contextualised in key literature on Design Thinking (Buchanan, 1992; Plomp, 2013), Problem-Based Learning (Barrows, 1985, 1986, 1992; Banerjee & DeGraff, 1996; Bridges, 2006), Research-Through-Design (Schurk, 2012, 2015), Wicked Problem Theory (Rittel and Webber, 1973) and the Research : Teaching Complex (Griffiths, 2004; Roberts, 2007; Haslett, 2009).
In the foreground of this portfolio is a specific funded (£15,000) project conducted by Continuity in Architecture atelier in the Heritage Action Zone in the large town of Rochdale, the birthplace of the Cooperative Movement. The project drew upon 25 years of research-informed teaching and focussed on the problem of the redevelopment of a disadvantaged post-industrial conurbation, especially focussing upon the Historic High Street. This was in collaboration with the Local Council and Rochdale Development Agency.
The research is original and presents a previously unexamined, outward facing mode of Problem-Based Learning and its application to 'wicked' problems (broadly) and the Future of the Already Built (specifically). Most notably, the project in Rochdale generated new and useful ideas about place, these have been presented to the council, and have directly influenced the future policies for the development of the town. This has, in turn, led to a further innovative collaboration on the Heritage Schools Project (2019), which explored design thinking in local school children, scaffolded by the earlier work of the architectural students.
The insights presented are significant and useful to audiences beyond academia. On a local level the students Problem-Based findings have been presented in important exhibitions and published into design guides, guiding the community to cherish what is loved and local through an approach which is appositely Cooperative. This has, in turn, led to further invitations by the Local Authority to judge the Rochdale Borough Design Awards (2019) and to collaborate with urban planners Broadway Malyan on a project to redevelop land around the Borough's five Railway Stations to create 7,000 homes, 2.5m sq ft of commercial space and an £11m cycle corridor (2020).
The rigour of the research has been tested in a series of peer reviewed conferences (AMPS Derby, IPM+MSA Manchester, ReHab Braga, AMPS New York), leading to published chapters (2017, 2018) and the recent invitation by AMPS + Routledge to edit the upcoming book titled 'Bridging the Gap: Emergent Ideas on Architectural Pedagogy and Practice' (Stone & Sanderson [eds], 2021); a pertinent publication which introduces new thinking in architectural and design education, evidenced through a series of international, peer reviewed case studies. Furthermore, the research has been cited in an article published in 'Discovery, Innovation and Science in the Historic Environment Research' (Issue 14), published by the Heritage and Policy Body, Historic England.