Decommissioning the expert solution and architectural education.

Michael McQueen, Jenny Russell, Hisham Elkadi, Peter Geoghegan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This paper contextualizes and evaluates investigations by architecture staff and undergraduate students within a community-based research project, carried out on the Brandywell/Fountain Interface in Derry/Londonderry between 2006-2008.The project began with a local resident group’s request for advice in determining a community-centred approach to the development of a key riverside site, adjacent to a long-standing sectarian interface. This triggered a fundamental re-examination of the value and validity of conventional ‘expert-led’ approaches to architectural education and practice when working in contested social space; a significant issue in increasingly socially diverse urban contexts.In this project, reference to contemporary theories in the diverse fields of urban planning, public art, and conflict transformation (Fainstein 2000; Healey 1996, 1997, Murtagh 2004, Innes 1995, Kestner 2004, Lederach 1995) converged meaningfully on issues of engagement. It further became clear that legitimate mutual understanding, and authenticity of transaction, between participants and across diverse stakeholder groups, would be a prerequisite for genuinely shared and community-centred outcomes and therefore a required attribute of the architectural investigation.The project pointed the way towards an iterative engagement process, highlighting the limitations of conventional architectural education models rooted in the Beaux Art studio tradition. Schön (1984) has famously extolled the virtues of ‘The architectural studio as an exemplar of education for reflection-in-action.’ Reference to Kolb’s (1984), theory of ‘Experiential Learning’, however, builds on Till’s (2005 p.3) critique of this view, identifying omissions of opportunities for, in this case social, ‘reflective observation’ and ‘concrete experience’, in architectural education and practice, particularly significant omissions in a cycle requiring the learner to become an effective agent in multi-stakeholder participatory practice. The paper illustrates participatory outcomes achieved in testing a proposed ‘co-influence’ approach to urban development and concludes by proposing that, through participatory approaches, architectural operations can be instrumental in generating alternative cultural value systems, essential in resolving complex issues of contested space and sustainable urban diversity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherUlster University
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)ISBN is 978-1-85923-245-3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 22 Jan 2010
EventAll Ireland Symposium on Built Environment education - Belfast
Duration: 22 Jan 2010 → …


ConferenceAll Ireland Symposium on Built Environment education
Period22/01/10 → …


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