Place-Based Design Inquiry

This workshop will critically and imaginatively engage design that is already embedded in the language of place—in maps, ecologies, histories, films, policies, plans, and everyday conversation.

We will focus on elements bound in their constitution to a dominant identity: the informal tied to formal, the invasive opposed to the indigenous, water contained by land, and waste that is not a resource. These ‘nonplace’ elements have come to disrupt and undermine habitation today in what are generally seen as problems that design is tasked to solve. However, before they become problems to solve, these nonplace elements must be seen for what they really are, namely, products of design, a design that tends to pass unquestioned in the ordinary and every day. This workshop will investigate this tacit design. What is its language and how does it operate to create the informal along with the formal, the invasive along with the indigenous, water with land, and waste with resource?

Each student will take a ‘lateral look’ at an informal, invasive, water and waste of their choice in a place of their choice, a place they are vested in exploring. They will enhance this looking through the pursuit of four simple ideas/crafts: splicing, layering, weaving, and folding. Inspired by incongruities and dissonances in the operation of nonplace elements and working with texts, images and materials like paper, wood, metal, and fabric, students will make analogous instruments that promise readings and sightings of new relations, identities, and languages of place.

The workshop will operate through discussions and making. Students will produce work that responds to ideas and prompts discussed in class in relation to their place of choice. The work itself will generate further conversations and trajectories of inquiry. These trajectories will take students to the archives, field, and back to their ‘work station’.