Learning Power: The Impact of space to inform, perform and reform design scholarship

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


From 1919-1933, the Bauhaus Art and Design School revolutionized design pedagogy through its radical and pioneering approach to studio and workshop teaching, embodied by Itten's 'preliminary course’. The ‘Masters’: Gropius, Rohe and Breuer proposed teaching styles that explored architecture and design theory. Moholy-Nagy developed new understandings of spatial abstraction through photography and sculpture (Droste), and, in more extreme conceptual forms, Schlemmer (Schlemmer) used the theatrical measurements of man to map and define space.

In the Autumn of 2018, we initiated an open studio at the Dessau Bauhaus (https://www.bauhaus-dessau.de/en/programmes/bauhaus-open-studios.html) with a cohort of 20 interior design students that developed new pedagogical insights into the relationships between space, architecture, furniture, product design and the human form. This paper describes a series of experimental workshops which advocate new pedagogic models of design education using environmental volume, human interaction and spatial immediacy. Using the iconic building as a backdrop, the workshops ruptured and reinterpreted the spatial principles from the great masters in a newly-defined context, exploring transitions and alignments in design pedagogy (Tovey) that enrich knowledge and empower an evolution in creative learning.

The workshops explored the ‘death of geography’ (Morgan) through mass digitalization and how this impacts the development of pedagogic constructive alignment (Biggs and Tang). This specifically emphasises a new relevance for spatial dimensions, enabling an examination of physical proximity (Hall) versus organisational juxtaposition (Dovey). This experimental pedagogic paradigm used geography and human proximities to re-define the learning relationship within an environment using territory, place and surface.

Two key pedagogic themes influenced by Bauhaus; spatial standards and experiential qualitative space, were examined during two interconnected studio workshops, where students mapped the Bauhaus environment through digital contouring, interpretive drawings and 3D explorations. The workshops tested the paradigms of geographic learning and investigated how human proximities form unique and powerful learning situations through exploration. The paper outlines series of new spatial standards which are developed between architecture, interior space and the human occupants. These themes widen through the analysis of learning productivity and spatial relationships and how their potential modification impacts upon the effectiveness of design communication. In addition, the studio explored, through qualitative analysis, the value of reinterpreting the constituent parts of design pedagogy using, arguably, the most famous of all design schools.

The Bauhaus studio forms part of a wider design educational project under the title of 'Building: Future: Learning:' that uses the environment as a catalyst to form new harmonies between the pedagogic landscape and a spatial context. The themes ultimately contribute to an overarching investigation of how the impact of space, both 'within' and ‘without’ the design studio can inform, perform and reform the knowledge experience. By identifying how proximity can modify the perception of spatial territory, we hope to trigger new styles of design anthropology (Clarke; Smith et al.) and scholarship underpinned by the philosophy of Gropius to 'conceive, and create together the new construction of the future'.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2019
EventInternational COnference on Pedagogy and Educational Sciences - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 20 Jun 201921 Jun 2019


ConferenceInternational COnference on Pedagogy and Educational Sciences
Abbreviated titleICPES 2019


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