Currently, sustainability is still often treated as a distinct topic separate from the design process or even its desired outcome. This thesis aims to identify approaches for the integration of sustainability in architecture education and by extension, architects’ work. This theme is observed through the perspectives of learning, interaction and the design process.
Architecture is complicit in the climate emergency, with the built environment and its construction accounting for nearly 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions, and the impact of architects’ work extending far beyond carbon-related issues to other social, societal, and environmental consequences, the “embodied injustices” of architecture.
The foundation of architects’ values, beliefs and professional practises is established during education. By continuing to teach and practice architecture through the same unsustainable pracices we always have, we will only further contribute to the climate emergency and enforce the vast social and ecological consequences of architects’ work. Hence, architecture education has the responsibility to critically evaluate and radically rethink its current unsustainable practices, pedagogies, and values.
This thesis is based on an interdisciplinary literature review combining research from the fields of design, management, systems thinking and formal- and non-formal learning. Insights from the literature review are then mirrored against the status quo of architecture education, especially the design studio, and best practices for learning and integrating sustainability.
It was discovered that integrating sustainability in the design studio calls for both, tackling the values and behaviour of students (and teachers) and delivering sustainability knowledge and concrete tools. Deep learning, i.e., self-reflective and critical learning, is necessary for the integration of sustainability. It can be supported by dismantling the current hierarchies between teachers and learners and the transmissive teaching methods that promote individual designer capabilities and creativity over collaboration, and external validation over self-motivation and critical thinking.
For students to think beyond the status quo, the development of critical thinking skills should be at the heart of all learning and doing. To help students understand their own values and behaviours and to introduce and integrate new, sustainable approaches to their praxis, the focus of architecture education should shift from product to process, with more room for reflective discussions.
Holistic thinking for sustainability requires deeply questioning the system one operates in. Hence, this thesis also raises the question of the fundamental purpose of architecture education in the era of the climate emergency. If architecture education truly aims to allow for students to be critical of the status quo and become transformational in their work, and to promote a new paradigm for practicing architecture, architecture education needs to break out from its outdated traditions what are unfit to promote sustainability. Instead of simply teaching students how to design certain types of buildings, students should be allowed to explore and define whether, for example, it is relevant to build anything at all, or what existing structures could be preserved. Students should be supported and given enough tools and possibilities for discovering, pursuing and celebrating alternative approaches.