1st Edition

Understanding Site in Design Pedagogy

Edited By Sean Burns, Matthew Wilson Copyright 2023
    140 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    140 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book examines diverse ways of questioning, critiquing, and communicating site in the creative process of architecture, interior design, urban planning, and historical and cultural studies. The authors use the term site to connote a series of complex, established, or pre-existing conditions – a setting, an atmosphere, an area – to read, to interpret, to relate to, and to engage with, to redefine, or to create in relation to a design prompt. By acknowledging, accommodating, and empowering the physical, intellectual, and cultural characteristics of a site, students question its history, boundaries, posture, and situational aspects. Such inquiries promote a deeper appreciation of a site and thus help students to acknowledge its capacity to influence design throughout the iterative creative process.

    Understanding Site in Design Pedagogy adds to the body of literature on design studio pedagogy by presenting a collection of essays that challenge normative assumptions about what defines a site and its distinctive qualities. It poses a series of pedagogical questions for how sites might be diversely interpreted and introduced to design students. This study offers chapters that speak to site, memory, and lived experience; multi-scalar thinking about site; connecting to site through sensory phenomenon in interior design; alternate ways of engaging site for learning sustainable principles; and introducing unorthodox forms of site as the impetus to creative endeavours. It offers innovative approaches to scholarship of teaching and learning with respect to diverse readings of site within design education.

    List of Illustrations


    List of Contributors


    Sean Burns and Matthew Wilson, Editors

    1 Mutable Atmospheres

    Chelsea Limbird

    2 Going to Places and Staying at Home: Critical Reflections on Thematic Cartography and Desktop Documentation in Online Education

    Dr. Emily Bereskin and Natacha Quintero González

    3 Sites of Alternate Origin: Design Ideation Under a New Austerity

    Sean Burns and Matthew Wilson

    4 Sensorial Strategies: A Phenomenological Approach Connecting Site to Interior Design

    Lisa Phillips

    5 Touring Spaceship Earth: A Systems Approach to Teaching Sustainable Design in the Remote Classroom

    Lisa Claypool


    Sean Burns and Matthew Wilson



    Sean Burns is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Ball State University specializing in architectural design, with an emphasis on foundations of design and beginner architectural education, as well as structural principles and behavioural analysis. Sean holds a professional Bachelor of Architecture degree from Kent State University and a post-professional Master of Architecture degree, with specialization in Architectural Design and Theory, from the University of Pennsylvania. Sean's current research concentrates on how the conditions of a site, both above and beyond the demarcation of the earth’s surface and qualitative substance composition, might be influential agents throughout the architectural design process. This research is grounded in the writings and lessons of architectural theorists and other allied disciplines and applied through the methodological approaches to design as evident in his courses.

    Matthew Wilson is an Assistant Professor at Ball State University. As an intellectual historian, his research focuses on political thought, sociology, and the built environment. Wilson holds a master’s degree from the Architectural Association and a PhD from the University of London. He has taught aspects of social and environmental justice; post-colonial architectural history; critical theory, psychogeography, and utopian studies; architecture, gender, and race; and design research methods. He is an African American Studies faculty affiliate at Ball State. As a designer and scholar, his creations have been exhibited in Mexico, China, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Japan, and across the United States and Europe. Wilson was visiting scholar at École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris, France, and senior lecturer at the University for the Creative Arts in Canterbury, England. Wilson is the author of Moralising Space: The Utopian Urbanism of the British Positivists, 1855–1920 (2018) and Richard Congreve: Positivist Politics, the Victorian Press, and the British Empire (2021). His current project is Positivism and the Origins of Feminism: Nineteenth-century British Women Philosophers.