Council on Anthropology and Education
Oral Presentation Session
This paper explores the confluence of anthropology, design, and education by reflecting on studio-based approaches to learning at the Wilson School of Design, at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Vancouver, BC. The “design studio” is a site of knowledge production where students become enculturated into disciplinary canons, discourse, and ideologies as they advance toward professional status. It is also an opportunity to engage with academics, professionals, and experts in theoretical, and sometime actual, exploration of real-world problems using project-based learning. In 2018, 75 interior design students worked in collaboration with members of Kwantlen First Nation to conceptualize a settler-Indigenous museum and a community arts co-op that their nation is developing. This partnership exposed students to standard design methods like the charette, as well as to Indigenous methodologies, like storytelling, with unexpected outcomes. Engaging in a studio project of this kind has reciprocal benefits to both students and clients and offers potential to design schools grappling with how to begin the work of decolonizing education. This convergence of methodologies reveals the possibilities of design futures in conceptualizing inclusive and decolonial spaces by reshaping student understanding of ongoing Indigenous issues by connecting them to real projects. The design school, and the design studio specifically, shapes not only the way students think about problems but, by extension, the way they will approach them when they become professionals. Exposure to Indigenous issues through collaborative studio projects is one way to foster better understanding of Indigenous issues though culturally-specific programming.