BEMYPLACE, A MEDIATION LEARNING PROCESS IN THE FIELD OF DESIGN
It is widely recognized the role of mediator that design plays between knowledge - integrating complementary skills and playing a role of synthesis among them. At the same time, we also know that the Design Schools studies are based on the complementarity of different disciplinary skills, belonging to the design, humanistic and technological areas. These disciplines often meet in experimental didactic forms in which learning is "experience based", that is learning based on design exercises that nurture students’ reflective knowledge.
In this framework, the paper describes a unique design education model, managed by Politecnico di Milano and based on the "BeMyPlace" experience: a research & education project that aims to explore new ways of using a textile material whose production (patented) is rather recent and still unexplored. The adopted model foresees a profitable exchange between research and education within a complex context of relationships, in which design is not only the "object" of research but always acts as a "mediating agent": the research - managed by Politecnico di Milano in partnership with Public and Private external Subjects - moved to a didactic contest managed by teachers of different disciplines together with students of different Degree Courses of the same University. This experimental "learning space" was a virtuous meeting among multiple subjects, each of them bearer of their own knowledge domain and language: the Public Institution (Regione Lombardia), with its local economy support policies; the Company, with specific skills in the field of production and market knowledge (in this specific case: Samsara, a built-in technology textile Company); the University, in its dual role of Research and Education Provider; and finally the design students, heterogeneous students concerning the Degree Courses and the year of study (Politecnico di Milano, Design School, Design Dept. and Electronics and Information Dept.). The project also allowed us to test how University plays the role of “link” in the territory connecting the needs of innovation of local companies with the expertise of University in design research - thanks also to the support of public funding policies aimed at promoting these collaborations - and in training profiles more and more able to deal with a complex context.
The learning process has been characterized by different work’s "spaces/phases" in which design acts as a mediator between languages and skills carried by all the actors involved: the first space was oriented to the convergence of the research goals among Researchers, Company and Public Institution; the second one was aimed at the construction of scenarios that work as links between Research (researchers of different disciplinary backgrounds) and Education (students of different Design Courses); the third space saw the participation of all the actors involved in an activity of synthesis mediated by design, thanks to scenario validation actions, concept generation and possible products development.
Within this framework, the paper highlights the role of design as a cognitive mediator capable of managing the various competences involved, orienting the process towards the achievement of an innovation not only of products, but also of strategies, scenarios, meanings.