Presentation / Talk

A one-week transdisciplinary course on walking for 2nd-year students of architecture and engineering

Walking is often absent from the curriculum of architects or civil engineers, who are ultimately responsible for designing urban space which may or may not be favourable to walking. There is therefore a need for courses to help future architects and engineers integrate walking into their thinking about public space. We describe an innovative, full-time, one-week interactive seminar including observation and qualitative interviewing as well as statistical and spatial analysis, given in 2015 and 2016. Each time, around 30 second-year students attended, in groups of 5-6 who were given pre-defined topics. The course is built around fieldwork in a mainly working-class area surrounding the EPFL University campus (8.3 km2, 23'000 inhabitants) that includes council homes, industrial estates, schools, playing fields, shopping malls, motorways and railways. It also has a partly renatured river and limited access to Lake Geneva. The course management team associates teachers and researchers from urban studies, transportation science, architecture, geography and sociology. This contribution describes how the idea of a full week on walking emerged from a general course on urban space, how the week was organised, what type of students participated and what they produced. Emphasis is placed on the evolution from 2015 to 2016, when consultants with specific sensory handicaps were integrated into the team. Practical and pedagogical challenges – and solutions – are reviewed. Recommendations are made for applying similar concepts in other settings.

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