As our society becomes more diverse and digital-friendly, residential designers are likely to have clients and team members who are culturally diverse. Bringing this trend to residential design classes, this study will present learning outcomes and design process of shipping container home design for Korean, Mexican and Native American in undergraduate design studios. The purpose of multicultural design projects was to enhance residential design students’ awareness and understanding of diversity among consumers in homes, communities, and workplaces which elaborates upon a unifying value of higher education on inclusion and diversity. To create an active learning environment, the author adopted a learning contract with an individual student designer. The learning contract approach is a self-directed learning model which understands teacher as a project manager or facilitator. The project period was 6-7 weeks. All students had to meet the final project deadline. However, individual students developed their own tasks and interim deadlines by their learning style and checked with the instructor at least once a week. At the pre-design phase, students had to attend a bias training and group brainstorming sessions. Programming activities focused on meaning of home, cultural aspects with preparing food for celebrations and lifestyle, health and sustainable design ideas. As an outcome of the project, students created a display poster and did an oral presentation. Their outcome demonstrated greater knowledge of cultural norms, and visual presentation of design elements especially preferred color and pattern choices. Overall, the multicultural design projects strengthen university’s inclusion and diversity strategic plans and integrate diversity issues in course contents and assignments for other majors in the department.
Eunju Hwang, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. Her research interests relate to design for everyone, inclusive communities and cultural aspects of housing.