Design Fieldwork

Reclaiming Affect and Experience as a Primary Locus of Design Knowledge and Expertise

  • Brett Milligan

Abstract

 This paper presents a series of design experiments that are used to introduce and prototype a form of research I call design fieldwork. Design fieldwork is a hybrid practice of fieldwork and design intervention in which each informs and is embedded in the other. This method builds knowledge and understanding of landscapes through immersive encounters, actively intervening in the landscape and observing the events and novelty that unfold. In each of the experiments, the designer’s own sensing and affective physical body is foregrounded as a primary medium for exploratory research, either as prelude to design or as the design itself. Two claims are made based on this research. First, the aesthetic and performative experiences of the designer/researcher should be a primary concern in any design research method, as they are pivotal to how sites and landscapes are perceived and constructed, which in turn lead to qualitatively different research outcomes. Second, design fieldwork is positioned as an iterative technique of engaging landscapes that provides unique access to indeterminate formative processes, novelty and serendipity. This embodied exposure to landscapes’ elastic range of becoming can serve as a productive counterpoint to highly conceptual, abstracted and overly determinate design methods in research, teaching and practice.

Published
2018-08-22