Field/Work, Site, and other Matters: Exploring Design Practice across Disciplines

Anne Pirrie, James Benedict Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores educational research and theory in the area of the built environment by reflecting on the challenges of interdisciplinary enquiry and the prerequisites for successful interdisciplinary practice. The genesis of a particular example of interdisciplinary collaboration is explored, and the authors come to the deceptively simple conclusion that taking time is the sine qua non for engaged and reflective collaborative practice. The article draws upon a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and architecture, to elaborate a set of distinctions that are then explored in relation to two specific examples from architectural education. The distinctions are between wayfaring and travelling and their epistemological analogues, namely inhabitant and occupant knowledge. To return to territory more familiar to those engaged in education in the built environment, we also explore the differences between sketches and plans. The authors reconsider Polyark (an educational initiative in which students from the Architectural Association in London took to the road in a decommissioned London bus) and its successor, Polyark II, in terms suggested by these distinctions. These examples illustrate the difficulty designers, educators and researchers face when they attempt to move away from normative design practice. However, they also open up new prospects for an elaboration of wayfaring practice across disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-607
Number of pages10
JournalPolicy Futures in Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


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