|Differently, perhaps, from other research fields, design research is not an activity which is primarily academic in nature. Indeed, the Art and Design department at Free University of Bozen-Bolzano sees research as an integral element of teaching, that is of the work with students as part of their project studies. |
This approach, with a close synthesis between teaching and research, dates back to the ideas and principles developed by the Swiss sociologist Lucius Burckhardt (1925-2003). At the start of the 1960’s - and in complete contrast to that which was practiced in design schools of the time- he postulated an important distinction in relation to the heritage of the Bauhaus approach of teaching: instead of the torturous process of acquiring a more or less encyclopaedic knowledge of the fundamentals before finally getting to develop a real project, students tackled concrete planning issues from the start. Furthermore, the working groups were not divided into separate years, but were made up of students from all stages of the course.
The things which schools previously sought to impart with the so-called “fundamentals” is nowadays presented through a process-based approach, with theoretical lessons and workshops integrated together in the project studies.
As in the professional world, this type of teaching seeks to propose work themes in every project which are always new and up to date. On this basis, research, taken as the development of innovative solutions and procedures, is directly integrated in the students’ development work. Furthermore, students learn to take a creative approach to the range of different relationships, perspectives and ends of each new project as long as the project is tackled with curiosity and a spirit of exploration with which go well beyond traditional briefings given at the start.
It is evident that the subjects and themes which are formulated and proposed are fundamental to the quality of this interactive teaching approach - which is conceived as preparation for the professional world. Of course, this situation is not limited to teaching, but also extends to the discussion surrounding the culture of design in general.