Developing a body of knowledge

Our 7th sounding panel session connected participants from across Australia and the USA to explore how tertiary and workplace learning can lead to new ways of practice and how emerging forms of practice can inform design education.

Although participants trajectories toward integrative briefing practices were diverse, characteristic of many formative experiences were opportunities beyond traditional architectural training and practice. Some participants had worked in other design and creative fields, such as set design, curatorship and exhibition design, exposing them to a range of other types of people, professions and practices. Working with mentors such as Mary Featherston, Frank Duffy, Shirley Dugdale, James Calder and John Worthington featured strongly in helping people learn about briefing in practice.

It was widely acknowledged that briefing is rarely taught in architecture schools with the only known dedicated briefing course in Australia at the Melbourne School of Design, which comprises a one-week elective on briefing. Many architecturally trained participants queried their tertiary education as a typically reactive and narrow approach to design lacking broader purpose within a wider system. In fact, acquiring an integrative briefing mindset and approach was described as a process of ‘unlearning architecture’.

Architectural design studios have traditionally tended to focus on a building design response from the outset, and it was felt that exposure to other disciplines, organisations and clients would enhance student’s understandings and curiosity around human experiences. With this in mind, it was noted that an inherent skill required to engage with integrative briefing was the ability to communicate with people beyond the architectural profession. Enabling students with opportunities to engage with a diverse range of people and professions would foster the development of this skillset. One suggestion was whether design studios could be re-framed and instead of typically designing a pre-defined project from the outset, instead “spend 10 weeks defining a project and two weeks designing it”.

A concluding comment was the need for terminology to define the role of integrative briefing specialists giving them a more visible identity and supporting others to understand the value proposition of such a role. The session highlighted both the importance of professional learning in developing the field of integrative briefing, as well as the opportunity for formal design education to consider how best to introduce principles and concepts around briefing to students.

Thank you to A/Prof Ben Cleveland and A/Prof Rory Hyde for facilitating this stimulating discussion.

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