Finding Ways to Cross the Spatial and Visual Divides

By David B. Hewitt.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Wayfinding was the metaphor applied to a collaborative design studio charette whose objective was to inform students how human factors and behavior determine design judgment and choice. The second phase of a comprehensive senior studio structured to engage, the mall as commerce and space and experiential and theoretical investigation of visual problems, that require visual solutions, the charette based on practice based pedagogy, was an attempt to form collaborative relationships between design disciplines and client-center design imperatives.

Aimed at broadening the scope of possible contexts for design activity and as a means to develop student’s confidence to initiate design activity by extending ‘communities of practice,’ the charette challenged discipline specific zones of knowledge and empowered students to generate divergent design solutions in fluid expanding collaborative contexts.

Visual Communications and Interior Design students analyzed and proposed solutions to officials at Dubai’s Lamcy Plaza. Expanding the context of traditional studio design, the CO and administrative assistant of retail development, discussed the problem of client anxiety and disorientation caused by retail configurations, circulation pattern and directional signage at Lamcy Mall.

Visual communication traditionally focuses attention on an iterative process that explores tangible solutions to a brief, defined by clearly determined parameters. As doors to new possibilities present themselves, opportunities emerge for innovative studio interaction, action that needs by necessity to parallel the designers’ ability to engage decision-making in complex cross-disciplinary contexts. Students challenged by negotiating the boundaries that divide preconceived patterns of response to design briefs, may discover new patterns that emerge which transform habits of mind. The students' capacity for the acquisition of knowledge requires reflection for assessing growth and development. Interdisciplinary design studio can enrich applied discipline-based knowledge through cross-discipline-based design and problem-solving activity. Listening to visual/spatial propositions that emerge at nodes of interdisciplinary activity helps students objectify their discipline specific limits.

Keywords: Cross-Disciplinary Contexts, Collaborative Design Processes, Decision-Making

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.27-34. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 535.004KB).

Assoc. Prof. David B. Hewitt

Associate Professor Design/Foundations, Design/Foundations, American University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Most tourists visiting the United Arab Emirates first ask to see Dubai’s, icon of postmodern architecture the Burg El Arab the only seven star sail shaped hotel in the world. As an associate professor of design I teach in the Emirate of Sharjah, which is a 45-minute drive against Dubai bound traffic. My creative work explores issues pertaining to travel as self-knowledge and art inspired by travel to auratic destinations, and the production and reception of art objects inspired by auratic sites. Other topics of research include autobiographical re-encounters with architectural settings that have inspired auratic art, social and cultural frames, how art production and collecting enters into and affects these processes and museums as reliquaries of sublime landscapes once destinations for travelers. By 1978 I had talked, theorized and worked my way through Cornell University as a graduate fellow in the School of Art and Architecture. It was there in Ithaca, New York, in the late spring that I had to decide between becoming a professional teacher, or going to Ecuador, a small Latin American Republic. When I disembarked from the Ecuatoriana flight into the thin, early morning air, and walked across the tarmac to immigration, I knew I had made an adventurous choice. Compelled to travel outside of the industrialized north, I began my serious work as an artist, removed from the politics of discourse and post modernism. Living beyond North America has had a tremendous impact on what and how I paint. In 1981, my painting turned against previous “American” art influences. Following a trip to Madrid, enamored by Catholic Baroque painters, contemporary Spanish Realism and the work of Antonio Lopez Garcia, I returned to paint in Ecuador. My painting, a silent art, is an example of visual reflection and retains “remembrances of the places” I visit. My identity is shaped by studio practice, my knowledge of the traditional genre of landscape painting and its limitations, travel, both real and electronic, a sense of place and one of dislocation, and traditional and secular culture. Attracted by the aura of exoticism attached to the Levant, in August of 2000 I moved to the Middle East. What and how I teach evolves by visual/reflection where existing knowledge and experience coexist with changing perception. I am interested in making my students aware of the process of learning, is a critical ingredient to successful learning. It is important that freshman learn the importance of monitoring their progress as they learn, and make changes and adapt. Self-reflection, self-accountability and self-reliance and methods for realistic goal setting and time management are crucial to studio success. The discipline of art forces me into an imaginative/speculative realm where multi-disciplinary fields as diverse as contemporary culture, art theory and criticism, engage and inform pedagogy.


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