Critical learning for sustainable architecture: Opportunities for design studio pedagogy

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Embedding sustainability within building design programmes should be of primary concern for educators. This research identifies opportunities to enhance learning for sustainability within a design studio pedagogy. The design studio is the primary means of educating architects in Europe, however, integrating holistic and critical approaches to sustainability is often neglected. The research adopted a qualitative approach in which a leading RIBA Part 2 architecture programme in the UK was chosen as a case study. Prolonged engagement revealed underlying pedagogic barriers and opportunities for sustainability integration. The research was conducted over two years, sampling two consecutive cohorts of students. Data were collected through interviews with staff and students, observations of teaching practices and analysis of course documents. The findings show that although students exhibited motivation for sustainability, implicit architectural values undermined holistic approaches to sustainability. However, the studio presented opportunities to overcome these barriers including: mainstreaming sustainability within assignments; embracing critical pedagogies; grounding learning in existing experiences; and focussing on the process of design. The research has significance for all design led pedagogies. It provides transferable recommendations to design educators as well as providing insights for the wider profession to enhance sustainable practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101876
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalSustainable Cities and Society
Early online date21 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Sustainable architecture
  • Design studio
  • Sustainable pedagogy
  • Deep learning


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