Panic quickly set in across the globe amongst those of us in the university community teaching in the design of the constructed environment. How, we wondered, in the remote learning situation wrought by the pandemic, might we transition the teaching of disciplines, which intrinsically deal with the physical presence of things, to digital platforms. In muddling through this shift, the panic assuaged as some unexpectedly positive discoveries surfaced, which challenged and even overturned previously held assumptions about the necessary means to teach effectively, as we gained new insights about how our students learn and how we can reimagine learning environments. Our preconceptions dissolved, as we made discoveries that ran counter to our preconceptions. Addressing social isolation brought into focus the usefulness of community agreements, open discussion about the learning objectives, and multimodal methods of instruction which could complement a wide range of intellects, from visual to tactile. A spatial design studio project engaging the sensory perception of environmental phenomena — like sunlight, wind and sound — which was initially hard to imagine students completing online, ended up yielding varied experimentation and sophisticated results. Meanwhile another project that seemed more aligned with digital learning platforms revealed shortcomings in addressing scale, materiality and construction. The fluidity of digital space enabled team teaching approaches hard to replicate in physical space, and highlighted the role of whiteboard apps as platforms that offer potential unmatched by materially-resistant, physical resources. Reflecting on experiences of navigating digital teaching through the pandemic from the perspectives of architecture, spatial design, and industrial design at three different design schools in both Australia and the United States, reveals insights and practices that will transform what we do as we return to campus.
Gyungju Chyon’s work focuses on relationships between materials and environments through engaging natural phenomena and exploring materialities. Through an experimental approach with a breadth of materials – from sunlight to textile, from E. coli to fog, from algae to ceramics – her work delves beyond technological performance, seeking deeper and meaningful connections between things, environment and people for our health, well-being, and ecological living. Through her design studio Little Wonder, partnered with John Sadar, she has collaborated with international companies such as Rosenthal (DEU), Interface (USA), Duravit (DEU), Emotis (FRA), and Lucifer Lighting (USA). Little wonder’s work has been globally exhibited in venues in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, and has been published both in design magazines such as I.D, Metropolis and Domus, and academic publications through conferences, journals and books. Prior to joining Spatial Design at Monash in Melbourne, she was an assistant professor of MFA Industrial Design and BFA Product Design at Parsons School of Design in New York. She earned her PhD at RMIT University in Melbourne, an MA in furniture and interior architecture at Aalto University in Helsinki, and a BA in industrial design at Hongik University in Seoul.
John Stanislav Sadar currently directs the Architecture program at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. He holds a BArch from McGill University in Montreal, an MArch from Aalto University in Helsinki, and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He previously taught in the MFA Interior Design program at Parsons, coordinated architectural technologies courses at Monash University in Melbourne, and coordinated undergraduate and postgraduate design studios at the University of Melbourne. In his writing, design work and teaching, John is interested in how the built environment mediates the relationship between the body and the natural world. He is a co-founder of the interdisciplinary design studio Little Wonder, whose work has been exhibited and awarded internationally, including Britain, Germany, Italy, Korea, Australia, Canada and the United States. He is a reviewer for the peer-reviewed journal Arts, a contributing editor to The Site magazine, and author of Through the Healing Glass: Shaping the Modern Body through Glass Architecture, 1925-35, published by Routledge.
Mark Bechtel is an artist, design educator, and writer whose research and practice explores the use of computational design tools to achieve more sustainable solutions for product and industrial design. As a member of an artificial intelligence research group, funded by the Provost’s Innovation in Education Fund, he is currently developing a machine learning design framework for the mass customization of bicycle helmets to reduce carbon footprint and improve protection to end users. Mark is an Assistant Professor of Product Design teaching in the MFA Industrial Design and BFA Product Design programs at Parsons School of Design. Recent works include an essay on the artwork of Jean-Luc Moulène published for a forthcoming exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania, and an art exhibition completed during his residency at LASANAA, Kathmandu. He holds an MFA degree in Visual Arts from Columbia University and a BFA in Sculpture from the Cleveland Institute of Art.