Teaching Urbanism, Landscape Architecture, and Geomatics
The department of Urbanism is involved in various degree programs – in and outside our faculty building walls – educating ‘our’ students about our integrated ‘Urbanism’ way of design, engineering, and planning (DEP) the built and unbuilt environment. Shared key values in our teaching approach are:
- Seeing and addressing students as owners of their learning trajectory via a (relatively) non-hierarchical relation and open communication between students and staff. Students are asked and expected to share their experiences and views on things in the classroom and actively contribute to debates, discussions, and peer reviews.
- Teaching design, engineering, and planning approaches and methods which aim to study and solve socio-spatial challenges in our cities and regions. Our alumni will work in a volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, digital, and urbanizing world. Society asks for professionals who work responsibly, entrepreneurially, and inter- and transdisciplinary and can adapt to and take a position in these changing contexts. Therefore, challenge-based learning in a studio setting is important for our students to explore real-world problems.
- Teaching our students design-driven data approaches using FAIR data and Open Science. We address questions such as: What is data-driven, data-supported, or data-informed regional, urban, and landscape architectural design? What knowledge is needed to (responsibly) apply open data and open science approaches in design, planning, and decision-making processes?
As a department, we are in the lead of three graduate degree programs – MSc Urbanism, MSc Landscape Architecture, and MSc Geomatics – and an open online professional certificate program Sustainable and Inclusive Cities. We contribute substantially to the faculty’s Bachelor ‘Bouwkunde’ program, including two 15EC minor programs on Sustainable Urbanism and Cities, Migration & Socio-Spatial Inequality. Additionally, Urbanism staff contribute to MSc MADE, MSc GIMA, MSc Industrial Ecology, MSc Environmental Engineering, and the minor programs Heritage & Design and Integrated Infrastructure Design.
An important building block of our teaching approach is project education in our so-called research & design studios. Our research & design studio learning is based on six principles.
- Seeing the urban landscape as a multiscale, interdisciplinary research object; to intervene wisely, cities and regions need to be understood from various perspectives simultaneously; in terms of time (past-present-future), scale (local-regional-(inter)national), stakeholders (private, public, civil society), and perspectives (spatial, technical, social, economic, political, cultural).
- Gaining a theoretical understanding of design, engineering, and planning, and improving frame creation; designers, engineers, and planners need to understand what they do as professionals to convincingly argue their approaches, methods, and processes, and frame their ambitions, concepts, and solutions.
- Dealing with unpredictability via design; a design is a proposal for a desirable, possible future. A design is a future in the making. Exploring and developing plans for an uncertain future is only partly based on hard, empirical evidence, and much more on interpretations of current situations, design explorations, narratives, imagination, envisioning, and strategy making.
- Working at and across a variety of scales by visual thinking; visualization is not only pivotal for designers as ‘language’ to explore and experiment, but also for audiences who need to understand and assess spatial plans.
- Exploring the various relations between research and design; our students need to get grip on the relationship between scientific research and academic design and develop their problem-solving skills for these ambiguous contexts. Simply put, one can do research for design, on design, and through design.
- Boundary crossing skills; to realize the integration of diverse bodies of knowledge continuous communication across disciplinary boundaries is needed to recognize, seek, and appreciate friction arising from different perspectives and positions.
The research & design studio makes these six principles operational and is a platform for cooperation and exchange as it is the physical place where students get together many hours during the week to work on their assignments and projects. The studio space stimulates a non-hierarchical, constantly developing collaboration between students, teachers, researchers, industry, governmental practitioners, and civil society. It enhances social cohesion and informal learning. The low threshold for collaboration improves students’ intrinsic motivation, autonomy, self-regulation, and personal development. Design, engineering, and planning assignments tend to be open-ended and the (design) process is not pre-scribed leaving freedom of purpose and choice. Students are typically asked to re-interpret their assignment based on thorough research and design experiments, consecutively defining process steps themselves. Schön refers to such a professional as a ‘reflective practitioner’, who learns via reflection on, in, and for (design, engineering, planning) action.