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TV Patrol September 07, 2022

Discourse on the importance of collaboration has entered into the larger academic realm across disciplines. In a broader society context, this phenomenon is not unrelated to socioeconomic, environmental, and political issues that are becoming increasingly complex and complicated while the domains of expertise are becoming more separate and specialized. Within this context, collaboration in academia refers to the essential need to interact and communicate with people in different disciplinary and professional fields. This is a core value that enables a holistic understanding of problems and integrative problem-solving in interconnected systems. Collaboration can be found in various forms depending on the level of formality, actors, and purposes. It can be simple networks, cooperative teamwork, partnerships, or strategic coalitions. In the context of cross-, inter-, and trans-disciplinary collaboration (Stember 1991), the level of effort and expectations for collaboration may be different in terms of the interchange of knowledge, discipline-specific collaboration methods, and desired collaborative outcomes.

In design disciplines, studios provide an important environment for collaborative learning. A design studio is a unique pedagogical format that has been widely adopted in the curricula of design fields (Forsyth, Lu, and McGirr 1999; Long 2012b; Crowther 2013). Students in studio settings follow curriculum sequencing to build skills and approaches. Unlike other types of studios (e.g., art and craft) where self-expression and individuality are encouraged during the product-making process (Taylor and Ladkin 2014), design studios in landscape architecture, architecture, and planning tend to pursue more collective and comprehensive projects and value design objects (e.g., landscapes, buildings, public/private spaces) to the shared benefit of others. Many landscape architecture studios, for instance, have adopted a service learning method as the framework for their design practices. These projects often involve communities and stakeholders as project partners (Forsyth, Lu, and McGirr 1999).

Although recent literature presents a new trend in the design pedagogical method, peer and professional critiques remain a primary pedagogical tool to support studio teaching and learning practices (Gul, Gunday, and Afacan 2018; Salama 1995; Oh et al. 2013). Critiques serve as an essential procedure to interact with students and evaluate their work. However, the way critiques are delivered in studios using an apprenticeship model has been criticized, especially in architectural education. Thus, recent research has focused on how to address these challenges (Schön 1987; Teymur 1992; Salama and Wilkinson 2007; Nicol and Pilling 2000; Hardy and Teymur 1996).

It is widely recognized that design studios are an ideal environment to teach design as a creative and artistic act (Salama and Wilkinson 2007) and to explore diverse design inquiries for studio projects (Cho and Cho 2014). While lower-level studios focus more on fundamental design principles and training for basic but vital analogue and digital technologies to address simple design problems on smaller sites, upper-level studios are often designed to solve more complex issues caused by either the extent of the project site or multiple concerns. For instance, studios for urban design or regional planning generally require a holistic and integrative design process through synthesis of collective learning from a wide spectrum of disciplines and professional practices (Kim 2009). In many cases, design studios involve in-depth (Bowring 1997) and a rich field of research (Salama and Wilkinson 2007) giving students opportunities to explore a specific design issue in detail in a broader research framework. In addition, urban design studios in landscape architecture have increasingly emphasized contemporary issues that characterize our environment and society such as climate change (Cerra 2016), homelessness, and the legacy of urban sprawl. Other parameters such as social relations (Dutton 1991; Boyer and Mitgang 1996) and the cross-cultural process of place-making (Salama, O’Reilly, and Noschis 2002; Hill 2005) add to the complexity of systems, issues, approaches and methods in a teaching design studio. As a legitimate constituent of a problem-based learning method, the studio method serves as a dynamic place where students learn to experiment on their own, teach each other, and use all studio members as resources in the research. In studio-based learning, students are expected to iteratively generate and refine design solutions, communicate effectively, and collaborate with others (Cennamo et al. 2011). Wilson and Zamberlan (2017) cite the studio setting as a critical dimension of creativity where what students identify as the phenomenon of ‘press’ – the vital part of an environment involving factors for creativity generation such as person (agent), process, and product – actually happens (Rhodes 1961). For students’ own design projects in a design studio, students learn experientially with periodic critiques and collective reviews from instructors and other members of the group.

Studio pedagogy stems from French traditions associated with the Ecole des Beaux Art (Kim 2009) tracing back to the seventeenth century. Beaux Arts is characterized by order, symmetry, and formal design, and served as a solid foundation of formal architectural education (Salama and Wilkinson 2007). An alternative approach to formal design education was the Bauhaus model in Germany, which emerged in the late nineteenth century in response to the technological developments that resulted from the Industrial Revolution. Both classical systems dominated design pedagogy in the past and still influence studios emphasizing traditional principles of formal design. Other viewpoints stressing utilitarian, pragmatic, functional and social aspects of design have also been incorporated into the creation of the built environment and urbanization process. These viewpoints have strongly affected the approaches to the study and design of cities, towns, communities, and other physical environments today. Despite the substantial differences in these approaches, the design studio has become the main forum for knowledge acquisition, assimilation, and creative exploration and interaction (Salama and Wilkinson 2007).

Compared to theoretical academic courses, design studios require a significantly different setup to make them operational (Pak and Verbeke 2013). Since design knowledge is difficult to externalize and is more tacit (Polanyi 1966), a flexible learning environment such as the design studio can produce both explicit and implicit learning at different stages of the design process. Studio education can provide a desirable place to foster soft skills such as communication, decision-making, and collaborative performance among the various actors involved in design challenges. Thus, instructors have attempted to bring collaborative work into studios. However, collaborative work is often not the norm in many studio classes. Rather, individual and independent inquiries are prevalent in studios as a typical alternative to the collaborative problem-solving process. This is due in part to the easy adoption of the iconic ‘fine arts’ model for studios that accepts individual self-expression. It is also due in part to the frequent tendency to avoid collaboration in a studio as it can be considerably more complex and resisted by the students, even though real-life practice of design requires collaboration in the field. The mode of collaboration varies depending on the nature of the design project and the intent of the course instructor, but collaboration focuses mainly on being interdisciplinary (Harrison 2007; Jutraž and Tadeja 2014; Kim, Ju, and Lee 2015), encouraging community participation (Harrison 2007), and using technology (Del Rio and Levi 2009; Shaffer 1997) to promote collaborative outcomes. Aside from adding more design participants, it is also important to frame collaborative activities with a delicate configuration and calibration that can be adjusted and monitored as the project progresses and that can promote student learning.

Early design studios, and even modern design studios in certain fields of higher education, exhibit persistent traditions and unilateral relationships (Schön 1987) may hinder student-teacher interaction and collaboration among students. Thus, studio environments remain a powerful component of design education enabling students to have highly reflective experiences (Mewburn 2011). However, the challenges for design educators are to overcome the growing trends of an individualistic studio culture and overreliance on technologies, and to fully exploit the potential of peer learning and active collaboration in contemporary studios (Roberts 2016). This paper analyzes experimental design studios where incremental collaboration strategies were applied to enhance individual and group representation and reflection within a collaborative structure of the design process. Given that the potential of peer learning is not fully exploited in contemporary educational practices (Pak and Verbeke 2013), this paper seeks to develop a collaborative teaching model through a series of experiments using a new teaching method in urban and regional design studios.

Studio collaboration
Need for collaboration
The value of student collaboration in academic courses is not new, but it has been stressed more in contemporary design education as a core skill to better prepare students for the realities of the professional work environment (Lauche et al. 2008). The need and demand for collaboration in a design studio involve both internal and external factors. Internal factors include individuals’ characteristics such as the tendency towards individuality (Erbil and Dogan 2012; Fister 2012), personality (intro/extroverted characteristics; Jarl 2016), ways to reveal design intent, and the ability to maximize learning through synchronous collaboration. In addition, across disciplines in higher education (including design programmes), student demographics have become more diverse in terms of gender, age, and cultural background (Guest 2017; Hainline et al. 2010). This shift also requires studios to be a collaborative environment where diverse individuals can effectively communicate to enhance learning, improve design, and promote career outcomes.

External factors impacting design collaboration include a changing society where newer and more intricate urban problems continue to emerge (Fisher 2005). To address these design challenges entangled in a complex urban system (Roberts 2016), collective knowledge through the collaborative process is inevitable for students to acquire appropriate skills (Kendall 2007). Collaboration training and reflection-in-action (Schön 1987) are also important in design studios because they mirror the professional design practice where designers across disciplines work together alongside non-design experts to solve ever-changing challenges in real-world environments. Jutraz and Zupancic (2018) stress active collaboration involving various actors especially for integrated projects. Collaborative teamwork from the early stage of the design process facilitates knowledge synthesis, produces innovative work, and enables all players to deliver an integrated project.

A recent survey (2017) shows that professional landscape architects work with many collaborators with diverse expertise. Respondents indicated that 60% of their collaborators were engineers and 34% were architects. It also revealed that a number of other disciplines including horticulturists, environmentalists, artists, and ecologists played important roles in their projects. Other partners involved in the process include planners, developers, development consultants, archaeologists, forestry consultants, lawyers, policymakers, municipalities, infrastructure engineers, and geotechnical consultants. Many other disciplinary experts may also contribute to the collaborative process in pre-, present, and post-project periods. Some of these disciplines, especially artists and scientists, are often not tied to the constraints of clients and project managers but represent one dimension of a project, which can be an important challenge in collaboration with landscape architects. In addition, collaboration leadership plays an important role as there needs to be a discipline that can pose an interesting challenge in cross-, multi-, and trans-disciplinary work. In participatory design projects, landscape architects even work with stakeholders such as citizens, site neighbours, community organizations, site users, and any group of people who has an interest in the project. This last type of collaboration differs from interdisciplinary collaboration and requires a different set of collaboration skills to create effective and efficient communication with lay people and to understand stakeholders’ capacity for successful collaboration.

Landscape architects undertake a wide variety of planning and design projects that require varying degrees of collaboration among many different entities. While collaboration has become a principal value for different strands of practice and scholarship, strategies remain elusive for bridging education and practice in our efforts to affect change towards more sustainable design. Since collaboration is the only way to understand incredibly complex and layered projects that require various aspects of knowledge and training, having students experience collaborative education can foster appropriate skills and attitudes towards collaborative projects in professional practice. Allied design disciplines such as planning and architecture also emphasize the importance of collaboration in education. The Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) cites collaboration as one of its profession’s core values along with stewardship, communication, and leadership (http://www.planningaccreditationboard.org). Likewise, the American Institute of Architecture Students (Koch 2002) report indicates that design students are cognizant of the values of studio collaboration and regard the lack of collaboration as a needed area of improvement in their academic settings. Kim (2009) also argues that urban design educators need to bring social components into design studios through increased collaboration. These disciplinary standards and expectations are a manifestation of the academic efforts to train future design professionals (e.g., landscape architects, architects, urban designers, and planners) and create a shared form of practice. Whether it is an urban or landscape project, instructors must make contemporary design education relevant in actual contexts and realities that often require hybrid practices (Corner 2006; Sargın and Savaş 2012). It is important, however, to acknowledge that collaboration practices in an academic setting and a real-world professional design setting are critically different. The main goals of academic studios are learning and skill-building whereas project outcomes are pre-eminent in professional settings. Therefore, collaboration in academic studios are promoted only as one of the skills students need to develop through learn-to-fail and fail-to-learn processes (Long 2012a) in contrast to the collaboration practices required to produce and benefit project outputs in professional settings. It is also notable that the scope of collaboration in academic setting is often limited to experiencing the dynamics of collaboration leadership as in professional settings.

Practical models for studio collaboration
Early modes of studio teaching, which were mainly observed in early architectural education, followed the master-apprentice model where instructors had heavy control over the progression of students’ work, and individual work was promoted more than collaborative work. In some circumstances where design ideas and values were being taught by laissez faire leaders, collaborative activities among peers occurred more frequently in fluid settings (Kim 2009). In 21st century academic design studios, no single studio pedagogy model is predominant but plural, open-ended, and student-centred approaches are often employed and implemented. These approaches are designed to support active learning (Poerschke et al. 2010; Carpenter et al. 2013).

Aside from the studio instructor’s role, the mechanisms of how intellectual processes are formed affect dynamic, interactive communication in similar ways. As an approach to design thinking in a collaborative studio, one can consider the need for both divergent thinking processes and convergent thinking processes. A divergent approach allows as many different ideas as possible and is frequently employed as a method of collaboration. Conversely, convergent thinking is needed to effectively synthesize those ideas into creative design decisions (Erbil and Dogan 2012) by generating patterns that are not only new but also have utility in terms of the problems they address (Lang 1994). In a studio with student collaboration, the question becomes how to apply both approaches so they are aligned with different stages of a holistic design process.

Collaboration and creativity
Another key priority in successful studio learning is to develop students’ creative capacity in their design processes (Robinson 2000). Creativity is developed as a confluence of different dimensions. Rhodes (1961) proposed four components (i.e., person, process, product and press) as integral factors in building creativity. In this 4Ps theory, the terms are defined as follows: (1) person: cognitive abilities, personality traits and biographical experiences; (2) process: the methodology that produces a creative product; (3) product: the communication of a unique, novel and useful idea or concept; and (4) press: the environment where creative ideas are produced. In design and planning studios, educators begin to recognize the importance of both the process and person in creative studio practices. (De La Harpe et al. 2009). Although the relationship between the embodiment of creativity and the extent of collaboration may not be completely linear, the creative process and outcomes that are organically formed through collaborative work have the potential for innovation and serendipitous learning outcomes.

The importance of creativity development in student groups has been stressed by many scholars who view that creativity is both a function of innate individual talent and collaborative exploration through the co-creation process (Wilson and Zamberlan 2017; Zamberlan and Wilson 2015; De La Harpe et al. 2009; Matheson 2006; Nussbaum 2013). The notion of co-creation is generally used as a wide umbrella of activities in various disciplines. In a design studio context, it is defined as a process for joint creation by project participants allowing them to co-construct the work experience to suit their context. It also helps identify a more specific type of value-based collaboration. Physical models are usually good tools for co-creation with professional stakeholders. Co-creation is essential to understand the dynamics of collaboration and creativity in the expanding field of design. Integrating co-creation into design practices adds value to a defined design development process from ideation to production (Nussbaum 2013). As a part of a co-creation activity, co-design is practiced by collaborating designers and non-designers, which allows individual creative ideas to be transformed into creations that have greater value (Wilson and Zamberlan 2017). This is in line with the notion that creativity in contemporary design practice does not result from a sole idea of a ‘lone genius’ (Nussbaum 2013); rather, it increases productivity through idea-processing as collective creativity. In this sense, collaboration is also characterized as ‘collective intelligence’ (Grosse-Hering et al. 2013; Strauss and Fuad-Luke 2008) that allows creativity to surface and be driven by collaborative and interdisciplinary interaction. Wilson and Zamberlan (2017) argue that creativity can be optimally achieved as a product of connectivity, for which we deliberately encourage the cross-fertilization of ideas by actively connecting different facets of practice and bridging them through collaborations. Thus, when teaching design, it is important to provide a collaborative learning environment where social knowledge can be built through design actions and reflections among students in the form of conversations about design situations (Schön 1987; Chiaradia, Sieh, and Plimmer 2017; Pak and Verbeke 2013).

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