Fit for purpose? Sustainability and the design studio

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The design studio is the primary means of educating architects. Since its emergence over a century ago, the pedagogy of the design studio has remained remarkably consistent despite changing demands placed upon the built environment. Preparing architects for the global challenge of sustainable design must be of primary importance to educators and requires critical and deep learning due to its holistic and interdisciplinary nature. The design studio seems the ideal environment for encouraging deep learning for sustainability through its potential to foster independent and deep learning. Despite this, sustainability is often viewed as additional, optional or even neglected entirely. The study examines a RIBA Part 2 design studio architecture course in the UK and considers whether the design studio pedagogy is fit for purpose in the context of contemporary architectural challenges. Conducted over two years, sampling two consecutive cohorts of students, the research adopts an ethnographic approach to reveal the structural and pedagogic issues that inhibit sustainable design. The findings suggest that the design studio, in its current incarnation, is not fit for the purpose of training practitioners to effectively engage with sustainability. Its introverted focus has led to a self-referential environment in which good design is defined by a “hidden agenda”. A lack of effective interdisciplinary working, limited pool of teaching staff and an absence of meaningful exposure to attitudes beyond the profession are all contributing factors. As a result, sustainability is not viewed as synonymous with design quality, but additional to it.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2018
EventInternational conference for the sustainable design of the built environment 2018 - The Crystal, London, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Sept 201813 Sept 2018


ConferenceInternational conference for the sustainable design of the built environment 2018
Abbreviated titleSDBE 2018
Country/TerritoryUK United Kingdom
Internet address


  • Sustainable architecture
  • Design studio
  • Sustainable pedagogy


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