Transdisciplinary Practice: Using Futures Studies to Envision Innovative Design

By Christine Edstrom O’Hara.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The 21st Century will require a transdisciplinary approach to solutions with systems design as the direction of new practice. Futures Studies offers a methodology that bridges a transdisciplinary approach with innovation. Defined as a systematic and rationally grounded exploration of change, the process studies historical and contemporary changes, aggregating and analyzing the sources, patterns and causes of change, in an attempt to understand the ideas, and influence them (Galtung & Inayatullah 1997, Ventura 1998, Isserman 1985, Staley 2007). Ideally, this methodology requires one to be both transdisciplinary and a systems thinker. Unlike interdisciplinary study, transdisciplinary scholars dissolve the boundaries between disciplines, tracking patterns of change across trends, events and issues (Groff and Smoker 2000, Cole 2001, Thompson Klein, Grossenbacher-Mansuy, and R. Häberli 2002). Theory and research fuse into practice in a case study discussing how the author used outside disciplines and topics to envision innovative future solutions for a theory course in landscape history. Topics were examined through the lens of historical and contemporary theory and models including: art, music and literature, fashion and industrial design, architectural design, social justice and urban design, politics and economics, systems design of the environment, science and technology. Broader value of this paper highlights a heuristic method not typically used in undergraduate education. The specialty of applying Futures Studies to design in both quantitative and qualitative data and ideas is a potentially underdeveloped area for new method and theory development.

Keywords: Foresight Frameworks, Futures Studies Theory, Pedagogical Methods, Transdisciplinary Methods

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.185-194. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.685MB).

Asst. Prof. Christine Edstrom O’Hara

Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, USA

Christine Edstrom O’Hara received her BA from Stanford University in English and Art History and MA from the University of Washington in Landscape Architecture and Preservation Planning. Prof. O’Hara has lectured both nationally and internationally on landscape preservation as well as its application to sustainable landscape design and construction. In addition to teaching, Christine practices landscape architecture and historic landscape restoration. She is a principal of m + o landscape architecture which concentrates on contemporary design in sustainable and green infrastructure solutions. Prof. O’Hara views history and contemporary design as companion ideas where history provides the framework for understanding the direction of the field of landscape architecture.