Welcome to Transcultural Understanding of Designing with Climate Change (TUDC2): A Joint Design Research Studio Approach

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Welcome to TUDC2 Project funded by the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) Research and Development Scheme 2014. The founding members of the WUN+TUDC2 Network are as follows:

Chengzhi Peng, Ranald Lawrence (School of Architecture, University of Sheffield); Kevin Fellingham (School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, University of Cape Town); Prof Edward Ng (School of Architecture, Chinese University of Hong Kong); Prof Liu Yang, Limimg Kong (Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology); Kun Li (School of Urban Design, Wuhan University).

The WUN+ members are joined by Eclipse Research Consultants Ltd, Cambridge UK, as external advisor.

Project Summary

Climate change inaction remains entrenched in many parts of the world. In England, for instance, the independent Climate Change Committee warns that premature deaths from overheating could triple to 7,000 per year by the 2050s if new homes and public buildings continue being designed and constructed without regard to the impact of rising temperatures on an aging population. The realisation of projects that can contribute to sustainable climate change adaptation depends on acquiring the capacity for synthesizing different kinds of practical knowledge – knowing what to do and how to do it. Our network will conduct a novel pilot research programme exploiting the expertise of leading design research groups in the UK, South Africa, Hong Kong and China. The unique strength of our network is the joint design research studio approach, allowing comparison of the key parameters of designing climate change adaptation situated in different cultural and climatic settings, as well as furthering understanding of how climate change is approached in higher education in non-Western contexts.

This will be the first international network to investigate (a) what climate change data/models are taken as inputs to design, (b) how climate change science is used to evaluate design outcomes, and (c) how design outputs envision and enable user and community engagement. This will enable the network to establish an evidence-based transcultural position for developing further pedagogical research benefitting higher education institutions globally. In the long run, this will cultivate the knowledge and skills necessary to develop design responses that challenge conventional practices based on outdated preconceptions about climate and society.

The funding will enable early career and senior researchers to attend collaborative workshops, prepare research papers promoting the importance of transcultural understanding for climate action, and develop grant proposals to national and international funding bodies continuing to build on our exploratory work.

Programme Description

The University of Sheffield (TUoS) – University of Cape Town (UCT) – Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) – Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology (XUAT) – Wuhan University (WHU) network aims to maximise the potential for methodological innovation afforded by cross-cutting a number of research questions explored through a unique joint design research studio approach:

  1. What weather data and climate models are taken as inputs to the design process?
  2. Where is the current divide between scientific research on climate change and design practice?
  3. How can designers proactively engage with the community to affect changing realities on the ground?
  4. How climate change is approached in higher education in different cultural contexts, and can sharing pedagogical methods aid the development of global-regional research?

The network’s partners reflect different environments and cultures: For instance, Cape Town and the Western Cape is a tourist and agricultural hub, dependent on the landscape and weather for economic sustainability directly; Hong Kong epitomises a hi-tech urban micro-environment that is confronting many of the problems that will be faced by densifying mega city regions in China and South America over the coming decades; and Sheffield is a test-bed for the opportunities that are present in a post-industrial society to reduce the environmental impact of living and working across broad demographic sections of the population.

Running a design research studio, each partner will develop climate change adaptation design projects in response to the local context. The five WUN+ partners will conduct joint studio research and share methodological resources, supported by research visits and bi-monthly virtual studio conferencing sessions. The whole network will meet to review and present the studio outcomes at the first and second Designing with Climate Change (DDC) Workshops to take place alongside the Architecture and Resilience on a Human Scale (ARHS) international conference at TUoS in September 2015. The ARHS conference is considered a strategic and timely international event for the network to participate because of its central theme on climate change and building local resilience (this conference is fully funded and will not receive financial support as a result of this grant). CUHK will then host the third whole network DDC-3 Workshop in April 2016 to consolidate the project findings as well as to finalise submissions of joint journal papers and further research grant applications.

The network’s joint design research studio programme affords excellent opportunities for cross-cultural dialogues and understanding. Transcultural understanding of the compatibility and potential integration of different pedagogical and design thinking approaches is essential as the practise of built environment design is increasingly internationalised. Studying the manner in which contextual analysis (intrinsic to the architectural, landscape and urban design processes) is undertaken in each studio will raise important questions about what is valued and what should be prioritised in different environmental, social, cultural and economic situations.