_COURSE PEDAGOGY

As the traditional third studio in the UMN|MLA sequence, LA8201  builds upon your foundation of basic design skills and professional standards while introducing you to advanced design theory, precedents and methods well suited for challenging post-industrial "problems" found in professional practice.  The course offers an intentionally rigorous pace that focuses upon a singular project location that you will investigate at a variety of scale and detail.  

All assignments, or “Submittals”, will be work products that directly relate to the project context, professional precedents and the larger issues of the Anthropocene.  The supporting lectures, precedent projects, work examples and readings are provided for your reflective analysis and creative application in your own work. Many students often overlook the readings as too time consuming- yet at the end of the semester they comment that they wish they would have done more of the readings. Please take their previous experience as a guide to your learning.

 

COURSE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

The course's learning objectives, pace and theme are intentionally structured so as to situate your learning within the design methods that approximate the "real world" context of critical design practices. 

  • research and examine issues emerging from the Anthropocene and consider their potential application in planning and design
  • analyze current landscape patterns and processes of human modification of the environment and evaluate potential new patterns and processes based upon emerging issues of global concern (climate change, environmental justice, climate migration, food equity, etc)
  • comprehend and demonstrate fluency with critical design discourse, specifically the intersection of scientific, humanistic and design theories and their resultant influence on the landscape.
  • research and interpret socio-ecological landscape systems thorough the lens of prevailing or emerging Anthropocene paradigms and reconstruct this data into assemblage maps, scenarios and site-scale design proposals
  • apply design theory and criticism to formulate creative inquiries through an iterative design methodology that establishes the critical theoretical foundation and rhetorical praxis for your work
  • evaluate and analyze emerging design discourse (ecological urbanism, post-environmentalism, resiliency, etc) and site conditions to articulate site-specific programming 
  • synthesize project programming into design concepts as means to strategically position project proposals
  • synthesize programmng and conceptual design strategies into compelling schematic design that considers spatial form and experience, ecological process and aesthetic expression.
  • utilize effective verbal and visual communication techniques to provide clear and compelling presentations of your work

 

EXPECTATIONS for YOUR LEARNING:

You may note that the Goals and Objectives described above include a range of increasing cognitive complexity that utilizes advanced skills of analysis, evaluation and idea generation. You will find that this course places considerable amount of the responsibility for learning on you, a graduate student in a professional program. You will be required to utilize not only the basic skills of remembering, understanding and applying but also more advanced skills of structuring and deconstructing, critiquing and hypothesizing, especially as it relates to exercising a critical design process (and design criticism). This is active learning that requires your reflection and creation. And time.  Notably, the complexity and depth of the course problems are situated within pedagogical objectives that focus on higher order thinking skills required of critical design practice. Therefore, you will find that the course learning has less focus on recording factual or concrete knowledge and more focus on applying abstract types of knowledge. For example, you will find the course readings to focus less on factual standards (say, typical street widths or tree characteristics) and more upon conditional or contextual knowledge arising from contemporary scientific scholarship, design theory and cultural criticism, which you will need to critique, analyze and test within your own work.  

My instruction methods are intended to encourage the development of critical thinking skills as applied to the design process.  In my experience, the strongest design proposals arise from in-depth contextual research at the onset of a project and ability to reflect and critically analyze so as to creatively re-frame "problems" with new or different questions. You will find that I place significant importance on the role of iteration and critical reflection in the design process.  Therefore I encourage you to actively engage deep thinking skills and to reflect upon and synthesize your own project strategy necessary to cultivate and pose new questions to design problems.  

You will often hear me modeling analytical skills in the verbal feedback you receive. For example, you may hear me respond to your question with a set of new questions for you.  I am not being evasive or condescending; rather, I am encouraging you to "think along" as a designer. Based on past experience, desk critiques that start with you asking "What should I do?" with little or no evidence of work effort often result in very short discussions;  on the other hand, desk critiques that start with evidence of design work and brief explanations by you that are the basis for design criticism typically receive more of my time.  My style of feedback is that of design criticism and it is quick, to the point, honest and direct. Some may find this new or perhaps unsettling, particularly if you are not accustom to direct feedback that is commonplace in design practice  Please listen carefully to any design criticism that I or others may provide so as to guard against confusing design criticism of the work with a critique of the person. If you are having difficulty with receiving design criticism, please let me know and let's find a time to discuss.  But read this first.

The studio learning environment engages multiple learning styles and formats and a variety of different design instruction techniques, including case study presentations, instructor demonstrations, individual and group readings, instructor and student led discussions, desk critiques, “public” presentations, peer review, small team collaboration and brainstorming, and of course individual work.  Each of these has varying degrees of formality and require some flexibility and adaptation on your part to various instruction techniques. If you find yourself struggling with any of the course materials, please contact me and let's discuss; likewise if you something is working really well for you!

Finally, I believe the course is an important pivot in your graduate studies as it builds upon existing knowledge while creating opportunities for you to explore a project direction that is largely informed by your own decisions. I believe the learning you achieve in this course provides an opportunity to build upon the initial skills and knowledge you have developed and to experiment and advance your own interests in landscape. I strongly encourage you to use the studio to reflect upon these interests and to be strategic about the topics you research, the processes and phenomena you record, the scenarios you explore and design proposals that you generate. The course is also an important opportunity to develop a more advanced design portfolio, design process and capacity to articulate and receive design criticism that is required to be competitive in the marketplace. I have high expectations for your work because I have seen amazing student work produced in the course.