A Conceptual Interdisciplinary Approach to Design Studio

Bernasconi, Claudia


This paper reports on the pedagogical themes, methods, and products of an interdisciplinary vertical design studio open to Digital Media Studies and Architecture students. The studio focused on the investigation of the theme of identity through the exploration of interactions and reciprocal influences between the digital image and architectural space. The studio approach strived to promote interdisciplinary learning through a form of inquiry that required an interdisciplinary answer with no compelling disciplinary focus. As suggested by Lattuca et al (2004), such form of learning can be defined as conceptual interdisciplinarity. Students worked individually and in interdisciplinary groups engaging into video-based research and creative writing, to investigate and represent the theme of identity, in its individual and unique aspects (i.e., the sameness and continuity of each entity with itself) and in its universal nature (i.e., the common features of what possesses an identity). The studio proceeded as a double-layered interweaved investigation: on the one level the research on identity, on the other level the experimentation with greater complexity in the interaction between projected image and architectural space with the recognition of the symbolic value embedded in the action of expanding images,stories, and thoughts from the screen to three-dimensional space. This process led to three video-architectural installations. Throughout the process students were encouraged to conduct thematic research broadening the search beyond the field of design to the fields of philosophy, literature, art, psychology and more. Self-directedness, and the building of comprehensive perspectives and of biunivocal relationships between subjective perceptions and theoretical frameworks were promoted in the studio. Selected student work will be illustrated in the paper, together with pedagogical themes and methods employed for each project, as well as perceived learning outcomes of the studio towards the understanding of interdisciplinary learning in conceptual investigations.