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Take Action! Teaching and Learning for Sustainability

Current social, ecological and economic pressures are creating completely new challenges and responsibilities for the society of tomorrow. But how can alternative solutions be uncovered and what can the field of design contribute to make human ways and styles of living more intelligent and sustainable? Design education plays an important role in providing students with abilities and suitable methods. As young designers, they will then be able to apply these professional skills in a positive and sustainable response to societal developments. Drawing from three modules of the Bachelor Design course at ZHdK (2016–2018), we will present and reflect upon selected topics, approaches, requirements, conditions and specific projects:

Take Action – Contemporary Design Activism (2016)

The study module in 2016 was entitled Take Action! and focused on contemporary forms of activism and action zones in design. In the 21st century, current issues in society are negotiated on a global level. Yet, the common strategies of globalisation alone are unable to generate sustainable solutions. There are highly complex topics (e. g. migration/integration, global food security, demographics) waiting to be translated into proactive and successful design projects, which makes it necessary to think and act smartly and target the right group. The notion of local sourcing becomes increasingly important and direct implementations are very much in demand.

Hic et Nunc
Lecturers: Antonio Scarponi, Karin Seiler in co-operation with Asylum Organisation Zurich AOZ

The design project Hic et Nunc which is shown as part of the exhibition springs from the belief that in an emergency situation designers can literally act Here and Now and make a difference in a short space of time and with limited resources. Since 2016, students of the Bachelor of Design at ZHdK have been given the opportunity to meet regularly with residents in transit centres, and to personally reflect on the challenges in the context of migration as well as contribute to an improvement in the daily lives of these refugees through participation processes and practical solutions.

Reflect, Reform, Reset (2017)

Reflect Reform Reset was the motto of the study module in 2017, which took its inspiration from the historical institution of the Black Mountain College. The module focused on alternative forms of teaching and learning. It was based on the notion that, in the Anthropocene age, issues and challenges both present and future require different forms of teaching and didactic models than those practised today.

Terranautic Processes and Instruments
Lecturers: Roman Kirschner, Clemens Winkler

In what ways are landscapes and thinking connected? And what kind of an influence does this relationship have on the institutional framework of an arts university as well as common forms of teaching and learning? In the design project Terranautic Processes and Instruments lecturers and students went on an expedition in the manner of the Black Mountain College, spending several days in the active volcanic areas in the south of Italy. The group explored the landscape experience of non-permanency and translated it into other areas of creation and knowledge. Individual projects were developed with the participation of the students and the landscape itself.

Hot Hot Hot! Climate Change in Switzerland (2018)

Proactively facing climate change is and will be one of the biggest challenges of the future for our society. Design plays an important part in this context, as a mediating discipline between the concerns of natural sciences and those of society, but also as a field of great innovative power. In the 2018 study module entitled Hot Hot Hot! design students of the ZHdK tackled this highly topical subject. Using their specific competencies, they developed projects in diverse areas such as mobility, everyday life, energy use and raw material consumption, as well as nutrition, health and political activism.

Ready for Dystopia
Florian Faller, Margarete Jahrmann, Maike Thies

The design project Ready for Dystopia cast an eye to a dystopic future and speculated how climate change might affect and challenge our daily lives. Taking as a starting point fact-based alterations that climate change will bring, the project developed playfully dramatised dystopias which could be experienced as Playful Spaces. In a kind of boot camp, guests were able to actively immerse themselves into parts of these future visions and thereby practise for future challenges, learn adaptation strategies or test whether they were quite yet «Ready for Dystopia».

Team Take Action:

Martin Bölsterli, Flurina Gradin, Martin Bölsterli, Karin Seiler, Antonio Scarponi, Corina Zuberbühler

Team Reflect, Reform, Reset:

Flurina Gradin, Andrea Roca, Bitten Stetter, Corina Zuberbühler and several others from the Department of Design at ZHdK

Team HotHotHot!:

Flurina Gradin, Andrea Roca, Stephan Wespi, Corina Zuberbühler

© Take Action!. ZHdK. Bachelor Design, 2016.
© Take Action!. ZHdK. Bachelor Design, 2016.