SLU news

A highly valued PhD course: Criticality in, on and for design

Published: 17 December 2018

“Criticism is riskier than commentary, it is willing to stake out and substantiate a particular position,” writes design scholar Miriam Gusevich. Academic critique of designed urban landscapes can entice authorities and professionals to reflect about, and advance, their practice towards urban sustainability. This is why SLU Urban Futures director Lisa Diedrich and Andrea Kahn, SLU professor of site thinking, taught the PhD course ‘Criticality in, on and for design’ this autumn.

The course was conducted in cooperation with the ETSAB Architecture School at the University of Catalonia, allowing them to include as an object of study the finalists for the renowned Rosa Barba Award, performing at the International Biennial of Landscape Architecture (27-28 September 2018). Course participants came from SLU and other European universities, with backgrounds in landscape architecture, architecture, environmental science, planning, and urban studies. Reflecting upon design projects in urban landscapes, reading literature and formulating critique proved a truly cross-disciplinary endeavor, generating a community of young researchers eager to meet again next year for a second course module, to be announced early 2019. Additional participants are welcome!

Besides submitting individual academic critiques related to their PhD research, the group decided to compose collaborative critique, collecting feedback on the Rosa Barba finalist public presentations:

Performing Narratives - A collaborative critique of Rosa Barba finalist presentations at the 10th International Landscape Architecture Biennale, Barcelona 2018, “Performative Nature”

Course literature included the open access journal SPOOL’s theme issue on criticism, co-edited by Lisa Diedrich.


Voices from students

“Critical thinking is an essential skill in research. Andrea and Lisa provided valuable guidance on how to take and substantiate a position in criticism, which helped me to challenge and develop my own project. It is a highly recommendable course for doctoral students in various research stages.”
Daniel Valentini, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences/SLU, SWEDEN

“An amazingly inspiring course infused by the energy and humour of Andrea Kahn and Lisa Diedrich”
Anaïs Leger-Smith, National School of Architecture of Toulouse, FRANCE

“This course had a more fundamental purpose: I now have a cohort of peers. Together we learnt how to ask incisive questions that are focused on the recipients' research. We also developed a curiosity about each other’s work - and therefore the diversity of research within Landscape Architecture.”
Anne Cunningham, Lincoln University, NEW ZEALAND & Copenhagen University DENMARK

 “The course was a quintessence of interesting activities. It offered a new valuable perspective for conducting research.”
Andrea Conti, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences/SLU, SWEDEN

“Since the course, I have been looking at literature in a new light and a more critical eye.”
Eimear Tynan. Oslo School of Architecture, NORWAY



Lisa Diedrich, Professor

The Department of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management, SLU, +46 40-41 54 24, +46 725 877 844

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