Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2008

Summary of Projects

Project Title

Building The Community (Stage 2): Developing A Studio-Based, Multi-Disciplinary Teaching Model For Design And Property Students Between RMIT Melbourne And RMIT Vietnam

Project Leaders

Dr Esther Charlesworth

Funds Approved


Summary of the project, outcomes, impacts and dissemination

The aim of the ‘Building the Community‘ stage-2 project was to develop an innovative multidisciplinary teaching model through a live project in regional Vietnam. This proposal was organised by Dr Esther Charlesworth at RMIT Melbourne, in consultation with Don Gordon (Head of Multimedia Systems at RMIT Vietnam) and Prof. Ron Wakefield (RMIT School of Property, Construction and Project Management), to establish an ongoing elective project between the RMIT Melbourne and RMIT Vietnam campuses.

For two weeks in July 2008 a cross-disciplinary group of students from RMIT Melbourne travelled to Vietnam. Within this group there were students from Architecture, Property, Construction Management, Landscape Architecture and Industrial Design. During the first week the students stayed in Hoi An, and worked in two groups which each built on design proposals which had already been developed in Melbourne based on research gleaned from the previous year’s ‘Building the Community’ stage-1 project. The designs were developed rapidly in consultation with the future users of the building.

The aim of the project was to design a building that would provide dormitory style accommodation for 8-12 youth at risk (aged between12 and 22 years old) who are currently being given educational and vocational training opportunities by the Lifestart Foundation in Hoi An. Young people entering the Lifestart program are given accommodation for 12 months while they undertake their training.

In the second week the students travelled to Ho Chi Minh City to participate in an intensive two day ‘Communicating Your Design’ workshop with students from RMIT Vietnam campus, at the end of which the two groups had to ‘pitch’ their design to a group of relevant NGOs and marketing firms.

The aim of the ‘Building the Community‘ stage-2 project was to deliver real world teaching and community service outcomes for RMIT design and construction students and staff.

In summary, stage 2 of the ‘Building The Community’ project in Vietnam developed a platform for teaching which addressed the possibility and increasing necessity for design education to cross disciplinary boundaries and deal with larger issues of urban sustainability, climate change and globalisation.

The projected project outcomes for ‘Building the Community’ Stage-2 were:

1. Ongoing partnership developed between RMIT Melbourne and RMIT Vietnam design students and staff.

2. Development of ‘global passport’ teaching model that uses design to assist communities in need and enable students ‘real world’ learning outcomes through immersion in rural community development projects, with the additional opportunity to see theri design projects actually built. The ‘Building the Community’ model could, in time, become a design teaching model used across the ATN University network.

3. Development of innovative assessment practices through student development of ‘press-kits’ of their final design schemes and assessment based on students’ ability to communicate projects to non-design audiences at the RMIT Vietnam workshop.

4. Evaluation of project conducted through proposed interdisciplinary project reference group.

5. Dissemination across RMIT and the broader Australian university sectors of the ‘Building the Community’ teaching model through a workshop at RMIT Melbourne (involvig visiting RMIT Vietnam staff) and an exhibition of the student work.

6. Publication of 2008 elective design projects through a book: ‘Building the Community: RMIT design students in Hoi An, Vietnam’, with RMIT Press.

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