Design Comments; a visual, dialogue-based approach to facilitate transdisciplinary collaboration and holistic solutions in climate change adaptation projects

19:00 Tuesday 28 May




Katrina Marstrand Wiberg (Denmark) 1

1 - Aarhus School of Architecture

Climate change adaptation (CCA) is a ‘wicked problem’ (Rittel and Webber, 1973); a challenge without one ‘right’ solution, which is likely to benefit from transdisciplinary collaboration and designerly thinking(Cross, 2001). However, the indispensable scientific methods for calculating waters flow, dominate early-phase CCA, whereas design methods tend to come in at later phases. This research suggests that the natural sciences can benefit from being exposed to designerly thinking in the early phases of CCA-projects – as a means to support knowledge exchange between different professions, functioning as a mediator to open up for holistic solutions, qualified through the combined body of knowledge.This design research explored opportunities for creating multiple benefits in CCA-projects with emphasis on pro-actively using unlike bodies of knowledge and methods as found in transdisciplinary contexts. For example, measurable knowledge from the natural sciences together with more methods from landscape architecture.

This PhD-research focused on flood-risk caused by increasing cloudburst events in Denmark, using three, on-going, early-phase-CCA-projects as its case studies. The research employed action-research and landscape architectural research methods (research through design), for example, visualising relationships between flood risk, historical terrains, settlement patterns and ‘softer’ values such as aesthetics.

The case study insights were conceptualised into ‘Design Comments’, as a method to mediate different bodies of knowledge and seek holistic CCA solutions in transdisciplinary contexts.The Design Comments consist of four elements;

  1. the production and use of landscape architectural products such as visual, tangible mappings
  2. a formatting of these
  3. a dialogue-based facilitation of transdisciplinary collaboration using the products from landscape architecture
  4. a ‘bridge of relevance’ as the shared concern for all actors. In this research context, the bridge of relevance was specific, geographic locations and flood maps.

In the case studies, the Design Comments served as a mediator for exchanging different bodies of knowledge. For example, ‘soft’ knowledge such as the common good for a neighbourhood or a sense of place, and ‘hard’ knowledge such as flood-risk calculations and soil conditions.

At a methodological level, this research explored how to promote holistic CCA solutions based on different bodies of knowledge. The action-research showed how the visual methods of landscape architecture were capable of facilitating informal, in-depth exchange of knowledge between different professions.The results of the three case studies pointed to using the visual and open-ended design products as Design Comments could contribute to transdisciplinary collaboration and inform the overall CCA projects.