Innovation and Research for Architects

This is a course in innovation and research methods for third year students at the Architecture department of the University of Johannesburg. The purpose of this course to generate a sensitivity in spatial practitioners regarding the association of architecture with broader disciplines, by exposing the participates to a range of interdisciplinary innovation and research processes.

The course starts with a reinterpretation of the mapping process, drawing from Kei Miller’s (2014) poem The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion.  Maps are seemingly objective because they are so useful for orientating us in a place. A map can show something real, but it can also show something of the imagination. So much of what we experience and believe in our world around us cannot be seen or explicated through language and argumentation. Cartographers of the city that make maps on aspects of the city, however, can be blind to these ephemeral aspects to a city. The cartographer, however, can negate much of the multiplicity of postcolonial lives. This could happen because of the cartographer’s interest in seemingly objective aspects of the world, and his/her use of diagrams, maps, flow charts, and plans. The cartographer, who looks at the world through an objective and rational lens, can miss things that are more ephemeral or may be invisible, yet are no less true to a place. What if, however, a map could stake a claim for the things that may be ephemeral to a space? What would happen if the architect becomes both a cartographer and a rastaman? What if the cartographer learns from the rastaman, and starts mapping in a more poetic sense?

The course is built around the idea of a sensibility of interdisciplinary design and presentation in architecture and the creation of expressive forms.  We employ media from the arts and from architecture, and consider these within a framework of material thinking, and practice led research. Workshop-based classes take students through an ideation processes that assists their architectural production. We employ frameworks such as Design Thinking and Action Research to ensure output is contextually sensitive and relevant. Students work towards group projects and they have individual projects. The course assists students in deep diving and immersing themselves their research in their primary architectural design subjects.