Skip to content | Accessibility Information

Cocchiarella, F., 2023.

Neighbourhood: More than_Human_Communities: How can design work with nature to steward new forms of communities, creating spaces and engagement where species meet?

Output Type:Chapter in a book
Publication:Teaching for Sustainable Futures: Community, Construction and Creativity

The premise of Chapter Two is the need to reconsider the concept of community in environmental design and design education today. It introduces a design teaching model that posits the formation of communities through the coming together of various species, encompassing not only humans but also other biotic organisms, plants, and fungi. Together, these entities create a delicate balance within living systems. Consequently, the model poses the question of how we can enhance our understanding of coexistence and reimagine, prototype, and test new models and initiatives for future urban spaces. The model under discussion was developed in Unit X, a collaborative unit at the University of Manchester that brings together different departments and provides students with a professional context linked to industry, organizations, and research partners. Pedagogically drawing on concepts from Alain Findeli's "Rethinking design education for the 21st Century: Theoretical, Methodological, and Ethical Discussion" and Paula Baron and Lillian Corbin's "Student engagement: rhetoric and reality," this model challenges conventional norms in sustainability-focused design education. The project documented in this chapter is one of several developed by Unit X in collaboration with the National Trust, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the design studio Standard Practice, and the research platform Unidentified Facility Onsite (UF?). Its aim was to create design provocations that enable biodiverse neighborhoods and offer communities spaces to gather in social, spatial, and ecological ways. The chosen site for the expanded creative community project, detailed in this chapter, was a former banking district that has undergone redevelopment. The focus of the project was to explore the social value of the site. Through design and gardening interventions, it was believed that the site had the potential to support coexisting human and natural communities. Students engaged in hands-on communal gardening activities within the site's green spaces to test this concept. Serving as an experimental model for expanding our understanding of community when considering sustainable futures, the project presented in this chapter is considered exemplary and reflective of emerging trends in sustainable design thinking and teaching.