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BEOutThere! is a multidisciplinary program of undergraduate electives offered by the Faculty of Built Environment at the University of New South Wales in which students collaborate with community partners on projects that address social challenges.
BEOutThere! electives are interdisciplinary courses carried out in collaboration with community partners with the expressed aim of exposing students to challenging social issues and increasing an awareness of their role as global citizens. The projects we undertake emphasise environmental sustainability, social justice, equity, access and inclusion, issues that are central to built environment practice.
Through our project partnerships, BEOutThere! strengthens relationships between the Faculty, the University and the wider community in Sydney and throughout New South Wales.
“The community meetings for me were the most influential and helped reinforce the core understanding of our jobs to make places for people and create things which will truly affect their lives, which is something I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time.” (BLArch
The core values for this program include:
Design for social impact.
Projects reflect and respond to social challenges within the community and provide outcomes which are mutually beneficial for clients and students.
Social and environmental sustainability.
Projects reflect the principles of sustainable social and environmental development and build capacity within communities.
Social equity and responsibility.
Projects generate design responses that reflect principles of social justice, equity, access and social inclusion.
Interdisciplinarity and collaboration.
Projects provide opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, within the Faculty, the community of the University and with external groups.
What is service learning?
Service learning is a learning and teaching practice for community engagement that aims to create mutually beneficial learning experiences for students and community partners, and to give students a sense of how planning and design solutions can have positive social impact. These projects provide students with a community context which allows them to connect their academic coursework to their roles as citizens, to engender civic responsibility and heighten social awareness.
“Although I’ve done other subjects that had a good mix of other built environment disciplines, none have been as involving as this one. Each discipline brought something different to the table... It put together all the things I’ve learnt at university so far into actual use, so I’d definitely recommend this course to other student planners.” (BPlan Student)
What is a BEOutThere! project?
BEOutThere! projects are based on issues identified by a community group, on a real site, requiring the design thinking and offering a built environment response. These electives consist of projects that are comprised of design, planning and research challenges. They are cross-disciplinary and collaborative and expose students to the variation in working methods that exists between disciplines and the challenges of multi-disciplinary group work.
“It has certainly been the most realistic design approach that I have been engaged in while studying at this University. The extent of restrictions within the brief was new to me and as this is a live site that has a possible future, the requested designs needed to be practical and achievable...This dimension of the design...has been a much needed dose of reality about live design projects.” (BLArch Student)
Our latest project: 3 X 3 X 3 Design Challenge (Semester 2, 2013)
More projects: Northcott Housing Estate (Semester 2, 2011)
“The Northcott Project was a highly entertaining and engaging studio, and I feel it really helped develop skills (from a LArch Perspective), which would have been somewhat underdeveloped with normal design interactions.” (BLArch Student)
This project connected students with HousingNSW and the tenant community at Northcott. HousingNSW identified a number of complex built environment related issues at the Northcott Estate which provided the basis for the projects for this elective.
- Redefining the public/private interface of the site Students mapped and reconsidered pedestrian circulation, gathering spots, entry/exit points, etc and develop for the site as a whole.
- Upgrading the existing Community Centre to provide better facilities for the diverse community groups that use it. Students generated preliminary concepts for the internal and adjoining outdoor spaces of the Centre.
- Improving the integration of Ward Park with the Estate and its connection to the surrounding neighbourhood. Students observed and analysed these relationships and proposed strategies for improvement.
The elective had two major phases: a research phase and a design phase.
The research phase:
A number of research activities were carried out to expose students to social research practice and techniques, including behaviour mapping, literature reviews and community consultation. These techniques were used to establish the history of the site; site analysis; pedestrian traffic flows and patterns; and to establish the priorities of the tenant community in relation to the proposed projects.
“The interactions with the client groups will definitely change my design approach in the future. This experience has taught me that there is no greater indication of the sites function than to spend a few minutes with someone who lives and breathes it every day” (BArch Student)
The design phase:
Using their research and analysis, the students wrote project briefs for generating preliminary design concepts. These were reviewed with the tenant community for their input and a final presentation on site concluded the project.
“I really enjoyed working on this level playing field with everyone having different ideas and working together, especially in our group I feel that we all had a common goal and as a result of this we worked really well together. This translated into showing me how well a cross-disciplinary project can work and the benefits that it can have.” (BIntArch Student)
Who can I contact for more information?
For more information contact BEOutThere! Convener, A/Professor Linda Corkery (firstname.lastname@example.org).