Recently, in conjunction with the presentation of Design Lab: An Open Sketchbook on Aurora, the University of Washington’s College of Built Environments hosted a series of weekly design intensives. Using Seattle’s Aurora Avenue as a point of departure, students and visitors publicly addressed issues of identity, place, and civic infrastructure through design. The sessions were offered as part of the new course “Critical Collaboration: Tools for the Contemporary Urban Environment” and held in the Henry’s Test Site.
Bryan Brooks and Holly Schwartz, two of the four graduate students who co-facilitated Design Lab, helped design and set the tone of the new course, creating a space as Bryan said that was:
“Ready to be colonized.” – Bryan
Each week a charrette was organized around a theme and it was up to students to bring in artifacts that would engage and drive discussion at the public events.
Holly spoke about why they were so passionate about creating this space for other students.
“A piece was lacking in our education, so we created this to fill in that gap. It was our theory — to practice connecting with other disciplines, like we would for a job.” – Holly
The piece they felt needed the most practice was collaborating, not only within their own discipline but learning to work with the different voices — from the public and other areas of expertise and fields.
“You don’t know the voices coming to the table and how well they will collaborate.” – Holly
“Collaboration starts with where you begin — it’s a guide to how you interact.” – Bryan
Starting from a similar beginning mindset was of key importance to the class design, and they facilitated that mindset by having everyone take the Myers-Briggs personality quiz. Holly reflected on the importance of the test to not just get them on the same page but how it would help them collaborate with others.
“Taking the test helps you self analyze. The students learn how and if they are heard. They might discover they need to change tactics to get others to hear a message.” – Holly
By all accounts the class was a successful experiment. You can read more student reflections on their blog. From their last Facebook update though it seems all ended well, especially if you like beer and cupcakes.