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A collaboration between deaf and disabled artists and interior architecture students

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The difficulties for students

Image - tutorials2.jpg

Two students discuss their projects with Noemi Lakmaier.

A problem of translation

For some of the artist participants the the shape of the project raised big issues about whether they were willing or interested to go on working within the limiting constraints of mainstream university education. Others, though, became interested in how students’ beginning awareness of sensory experience of space, and their willingness to listen, might better impact on their design work.
Some dived right in and some just dipped their toes in and some shuffled around like moles…’ ‘Some got inside their building design, emotionally others couldn’t achieve this.
Artists feedback May 11 2007
Some got inside their building design, emotionally others couldn’t achieve this.
Artists feedback May 11 2007

The educational context

Three different difficulties were identified here.

  1. The fact that students were at different levels in their overall understanding of design, which affected how much they could absorb from the artists.
    Some students coped with the set of circumstances and some were just busy coping with whole premise of the project and the course.
    Artists feedback May 11 2007
  2. There was what one participant called ‘a problem in translation’, that is, that many second year undergraduate students struggled with finding ways of translating their awareness and feelings about the qualities of space – and about these new ways of thinking disability – into design. They are, after all, only just beginning to explore how to interpret personal, social and cultural relationships with material space and to respond creatively and appropriately with designed interventions. They could recognise the artists’ different insights but had very few tools to take these forward into a design method or realisation.
    They weren’t used to the way we were talking about how to change things creatively and make it better altogether weaving the access in through use of, for example, different materials.
    Artists feedback May 11 2007
  3. Finally, students were all too aware that this element of the project was not officially assessed; and therefore felt insecure or split about whether to engage completely with the artists, or to rely more on what they conventionally understood as a design project. A small minority of other tutors were also not supportive of incorporating deaf and disability issues into the design studio; which made students confused about how they should respond.
    It felt hard to battle what was obviously the academic agenda and the way things are organised for the students.
    Artists feedback May 11 2007

This added extra layers of complexity – not just about disability and design but also about educational experiences and levels, about design education frameworks and about what risks students felt they could take during their studies.

  Next: The risks for tutors
Arts Council England University of Brighton, Interior Architecture and Design

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