Nexus of Ecology, Education, and Design – A new School of Design on an Island at Yangtze Estuary

This studio project touches upon two important areas relevant to our collective future— ecology and education. This is a future in which we must change the way we live as the threshold for climate change is about to be crossed and this future lies in the hands of our young people. The task at hand is the design of an architectural design school within a new college at Yangtze Estuary on Chongming Island, China. The studio will explore new modes of operation needed to face the complex and difficult, yet still hopeful, realities. Each student will transform seminal ideas to spatial ideals as they imagine their own design school.

We will approach this project with three primary considerations in mind:
     • Ecology as a Social Agenda
     • Architecture as Means to Gather and Connect
     • Education as Spatial and Cultural Interventions

Architects need to change our mode of operation and consider how design can encourage healthy lifestyles and form new communal relationships with nature. We will explore how we can ground ourselves, together with other species, on this carefully reserved small piece of land, which is surrounded by a beautiful yet danger-ridden ecological system.

As uncertainty is the only certain thing, in a complex system such as the education of multidisciplinary designers, physical and mental spaces that are flexible and adaptive to changes are needed. We must build resilience into the core of the future designers and discover new spatial relationships among different components of teaching, learning, and campus living.

The world is a complex system of elements, constantly interacting and in flux. Architecture is a vessel, a medium, through which we interpret increasingly complex issues at work. It is a means to gather and connect in tangible ways. The studio will search for architecture that connects us with people, to meet, exchange, and share; architecture that connects us with nature—trees and birds, sea and land, air, and light – and architecture that connects us with our inner selves.

Instead of didactic teacher-pupil relationships, we see a design studio as a constant dialogue, in which new knowledge and understanding form, new ideas and reflections emerge. We encourage our students to ask questions and seek solutions; heighten awareness and enact changes. We learn from each other; we learn from the world. We expect from each student, in way of a final product, to produce a piece of architecture that is genuine, in depth, grounded, with surprises, magical, touching—both radical and poetic—designs that are authentically born out of each student’s own interests.