A Holistic Approach to the Decolonisation of Modules in Sustainable Interior Design

Conference: 

Discipline: 

Interior & Furniture Design

Keywords: 

  • decolonisation of education, sustainable interior design, regenerative design, GBCSA’s GSSA Interiors Rating tool

This paper stems from the need to develop and deliver a new module in sustainable interior design (BASD6B2) at a 2nd year level within a new Degree programme at the University of Johannesburg, in 2017.  This module’s development however relies on a reflection on another sustainable interior design module (BASD6B1) in the curriculum, offered at a 1st year level. The paper also secondly arises from the national call for the transformation and decolonisation of education programmes in South African tertiary institutions. This new BASD6B2 module thus needs to demonstrate a deeper connection with African roots, rather than make use of over-emphasised Eurocentric ideals.  Like the global Ubuntu education approach, decolonisation requires an advancement of indigenous knowledge, expertise, teaching and learning.  Thirdly, there is also a need for interior design education, worldwide, to align itself with changing notions of sustainability, which requires educators to embrace a new, emerging ecological paradigm.  In this paradigm, regenerative thinking seeks to push sustainable design from merely sustaining the health of a system, towards more holistic, systems thinking, reconnecting us to place and the rituals of place (Reed 2007, p. 677). 

A reflection on both the sustainable interior design modules’ designs reveals several gaps.  Firstly, there is no specific requirement that the emerging ecological paradigm, and the notion of regenerative thinking, be taught within the module.  Secondly, one of the module outcomes requires that students be taught about sustainability through the use of a rating tool, the Green Star SA (GSSA) Interiors Rating Tool, which, while valuable, is too mechanistic and does not support holistic thinking.  Thirdly, another gap is that the Green Building Council of South Africa’s (GBCSA) Green Star SA – Interiors v1 Technical Manual includes little to no reference of African studies, methods and skills in the technical manual.  This issue is revealed in my ongoing PhD study, which uses a constructivist grounded theory approach.  Fourthly, the tool is based on an Australian tool which is, in turn, based on an American tool, and it thus deploys western constructs.  The aim of this paper is thus to develop a teaching strategy that can complement the design of both modules, with a focus however on the new module BASD6B2, in order to teach students about sustainability more holistically, while celebrating and advancing African building methods and skills. The main findings reveal that the sustainable interior design modules (based on the given outcomes) do not support a holistic and decolonised approach to teaching and learning.  A holistic teaching strategy is thus necessary to promote an African identity.  The paper concludes that this pro-active teaching strategy can augment the sustainable interior design modules.  Firstly both modules can include a holistic introductory lesson.  A second tactic in the strategy could be to include diverse curriculum content and regenerative design concepts into the BASD6B2 module.  This strategy generally aims to advance students’ mindsets about sustainable design, while encouraging them to be co-creators of local knowledge, while designing sustainably, for an African identity.



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