Unit C: Learning environments – Design Research Laboratory (LE-DR Lab)
The Learning Environments Design Research Laboratory (LE-DR Lab) aims to contribute to the field of university spaces and learning environments more broadly. The students are developing integrated design propositions that span spatial, digital, and organisational strategies. The Lab is a place for design-research exploration. The Lab infrastructure includes the physical studio, mobile studio, study tours, digital tools, Cardiff University campus as their site of investigation, and conversations with tutors, practitioners, peers and stakeholders.
The laboratory builds on Hiral Patel’s research on university spaces and offers an exploratory space for building design-research capabilities. The Lab aims to operationalise the idea of architecture as a socio-material practice. Throughout the year, we collaborated with various experts within Cardiff University and from industry to provide a grounding of students’ work within current debates around university spaces. Higher Education Design Quality Forum offered the LE-DR Lab students professional expertise through periodic reviews and tutorials. HEDQF will award a cash prize to the LE-DR Lab students with the best work, and those students will be invited to present their work at the annual HEDQF conference in July 2022.
In the Lab, the students have applied various approaches to develop their design-research practice while acknowledging that it is a messy and iterative process. In developing their practice, students have engaged in stakeholder workshops, user interviews and surveys, literature reviews, case studies, sketching, physical model-making, digital modelling, visualisations, prototyping, and creating personas and co-design games. With their critical and creative thinking, the students have created a stimulating environment for the emergence of exciting design propositions for university spaces.