Estrategias académicas para la Paz: innovación docente e inclusión social
Author: Pablo Campos Calvo-Sotelo
Translated into English by Gilma Cristina Sánchez Cossio
1.-INTRODUCTION: TOWARDS AN ACADEMIC ACCEPTANCE OF PEACE
During the last academic years, several university experiences have been carried out, and combining teaching innovation and human awareness, they have been useful for the social inclusion of people with visual disabilities. Within the subject of “Architectural Composition”(4th Year of the Degree in Architecture of the San Pablo CEU University), mixed teams were formed between students and blind volunteers who belonged to the ONCE Foundation.
Transcending the academic benefit, the educational and human integration of people with disabilities implied a noticeable increase in human sensitivity in future architects who, with what they learned during these years, will be able to face the construction of Peace in their professional practice, understanding the meaning of the latter as a promoter of equality and universal accessibility.
Such academic meaning of Peace must be in the general training of these professionals. Exercising Architecture requires a solid social commitment, through which the aforementioned notion of Peace can be reinforced. For this reason, its teaching / learning processes are intimately linked to the true mission of any university.
Assuming this institutional philosophy, architecture students, forming the referred teams with people with visual disabilities, designed some projects focused on hypothetical transformations of the Palacio del Infante Don Luis (designed in 1765 by Ventura Rodríguez in the Spanish town of Boadilla del Monte).
The spirit that cemented the strategy was the search for peace, through the integral formation of the future citizen and the intention of promoting social inclusion (Valdés-Morales, López, and Jiménez-Vargas, 2019).
And all this under an innovative prism. The activity to be carried out consisted of elaborating projects for the hypothetical transformation of a highly relevant heritage piece (the aforementioned Palacio del Infante Don Luis), to generate a new “Place of the Senses”,so that the building and its historic gardens and orchards they could be more enjoyed by people with various types of disabilities. An enjoyment based on a richer, alternative and micronized perception of the urban-architectural environment (Morgado, 2012).
The experience, innovative in the link between technical training and human sensitivity, had as an essential foundation the collaborative work between architecture students and volunteers with intellectual or visual disabilities (from the ONCE and Roncalli Foundations).
The benefits of this quality (collective learning) have a scientific basis, since it has been shown that when different people interact, neuro-modulating molecules are released that reinforce memory (Zull, 2002), (Sylwester, 1994). Another essential ingredient was emotion. In a similar way to what has been investigated around the collective component of all solid learning, affect is called to play an essential role(Saarni, and Harris, 1991, Vincent, 1990).
A global sentiment that inundated all those who participated in this human action: 22 architecture students from the CEU-San Pablo University, 25 people with intellectual or visual disabilities from the ONCE and Roncalli Foundations, along with advisers and psychologists from said collaborating entities. And the work of promoting and coordinating the Architectural Composition professor Pablo Campos. Thus internalized, the feelings contributed to the crystallization of a formative process characterized by a sensitive spirit towards people who suffer difficult situations.
2.-DESCRIPTION: JUSTIFICATION, OBJECTIVES AND METHODOLOGY OF THE EXPERIENCE
The experience was developed throughout the 4 months of teaching of the 2nd Semester of the academic year, and has been repeated from 2017 to 2020.
The global justification lies in the convenience of combining teaching innovation and social inclusion. That is, to train better architects with a higher sensitivity index to their future profession. The innovation was based on direct pedagogical and didactic issues, within the institutional setting of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in which the CEU San Pablo University is framed.
But his starting energy was human sensitivity, both on the individual and social scales. The latter connects directly with the referred EHEA (Third Mission of the University): social commitment, a matter closely linked to Peace.
Regarding the objectives,it should be emphasized that they were academic and humanistic, and that they emanated from a deep and reasoned assumption of what the needs of the person are, under a holistic prism. The following were pursued: on the one hand, to innovate teaching in Architecture, optimizing in students both their technical abilities and human sensitivity towards users and society; on the other, to contribute to the social inclusion of people with disabilities, putting themselves in their place. The work was done within the subject ofArchitectural Composition”" Architectural Composition" of the 4th Year of the referred Grade. The reason is that students at this level have already acquired the necessary capacities and skills to face processes of compositional ideation of projects. This quality is part of the objectives of the subject, that is, to understand that ideas generate forms (Hearn, 2006).
The methodology followed consisted of holding various work sessions of the mixed teams (university students and volunteers with disabilities) from February to May, both in classrooms of the CEU Superior Polytechnic School and in the Palacio del Infante Don Luis itself. Previously, the initial weeks were devoted to investigative work, in various aspects.
In the first place, a study of existing architectural typologies, extracted from compositions by contemporary architects (Clark, and Pause, 1983). Next, an inquiry into ways of perceiving and feeling Architecture in people with intellectual or visual disabilities, in aspects such as: spatial poetics, psychogogy, multisensory perception of space and environmental psychology (Arnheim, 1978, Gibson, 1966, Roth, 2000).
Finally, the hypothetical transformation projects of the Palace were designed to turn the heritage complex into a true "Place of the Senses”.In these designs, the criteria, experiences and, above all, emotions contributed by the volunteers with intellectual or visual disabilities were incorporated.
Operationally, the methodology included these activities:
- Statement of the work to be done, which was given to the Architecture students at the beginning of the course
- Presentation to students of people with intellectual or visual disabilities, with lectures and study of documentation regarding the way of feeling, living and perceiving of these people
- Experience of architecture students with masks, touring the EPS-CEU building, to feel like a blind person
- Lectures on the subject of "Architectural Composition" referring to psychological perception of space and "embodied learning"
- Training of mixed teams (Architecture students-people with visual disabilities) and first work session
- Presentation to Architecture students of lectures on sensory, psychological and poetic perception of space
- Research by the students of "Architectural Composition" of projects of similar profile carried out by masters of Architecture
- Joint work sessions oriented to the design of the projects, held at the CEU and at the Palacio del Infante Don Luis de Boadilla del Monte
- Final delivery of the 11 projects and dissemination in the media (Program "De seda y hierro" - TVE La 2, whose broadcast date is December 20, 2020)
3.-RESULTS OF THE EXPERIENCE OF TEACHING INNOVATION AND SOCIAL INCLUSION
Collaboration between architecture students and people with disabilities led to the design of hypothetical transformation projects for the Palacio del Infante Don Luis, its gardens and orchards. But it also entailed, as another impact, the statement of criteria of excellence to design in the future spaces that can be enjoyed in a multisensory way, with the body (embodied learning) both for groups with visual disabilities and for any type of users of the Architecture (Rasmussen, 2000,Shapiro, 2014).
Among the various results that were extracted from the experiences carried out, one of special relevance can be highlighted: that Architecture students and volunteers with various types of disabilities understood and put into practice in the projects developed that there is a close connection between human training and the forms of the space where it is celebrated. (Campos, and Luceño, 2018). Some forms that must be perceived, so designing them conscientiously assuming the psychological impact that they will naturally cause is an extraordinary way of generating quality.
Detailing more the very positive baggage of results of what has been done, it can be specified that the process of ideation of the architectural object by the students were enriched, through an experience of direct collaboration with the real user (client), represented by the group of people with disabilities. Said process was -in itself- tributary to the spirit of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), which fosters creative teaching strategies that are consistent with pedagogical innovation.
Likewise, it was achieved that the students understood with greater intensity the social role of Architecture, which they were able to express with the relationship of criteria and spatial typologies with which to imagine a hypothetical transformation of the Palace into a whole "Place of the Senses", enjoyable by those who cannot perceive the environment in a conventional way. Finally, and as a transcendental result, volunteers with disabilities were incorporated into university dynamics, through an educational integration impregnated with human closeness.
Carrying out the work also produced a relevant derived result, which was the positive involvement of other close people, such as professors from the San Pablo CEU University, authorities from the San Pablo CEU University Foundation, and even a former student, now a Physiotherapy professor, who lost his sight during his university stage: Beatriz Sanz-Bustillo
4.-PROACTIVE REFLECTIONS: TECHNICAL TRAINING AND SENSITIVITY FOR PEACE
This work of pedagogical and didactic innovation was based on social awareness and empathy, as conceptual and practical supports for an innovative meaning of Peace. A Peace that is ultimately centered on the human being, their behaviors and their social interaction. And that it must be promoted consistently from all spheres, education being singularly important.
The experience carried out has been a pioneer in Schools of Architecture, combining formative science and - above all - humanist soul. The social impact that it implied will help to create more similar experiences, remaining in time, to be replicated in other national and international universities. In fact, it is managing to replicate the experience in these institutions: University of Coruña, IST-University of Lisbon (Portugal) or the Universitá degli Studi di Cagliari (Italy).
The experiences described in this text want to join the cast of strategies that, combining education and human empathy for the vulnerable, delve into the universe of sensory perception and, above all, psychological perception of the environment.
And learn from those who live the space differently, since that difference is usually accompanied by an accentuated sensitivity (Pallasmaa, J. (2005). The Portuguese José Saramago said, in his famous“Essay on blindness”: “I spent my life looking into people's eyes, it is the only place in the body where perhaps a soul exists. The only miracle within our reach is to continue living, to protect the fragility of life one day after another, as if she were the blind one” (Saramago, 1005, p.220).
After the development during 4 academic years of this experience, a final reflection can be identified that -as a nurturing soul of the process- perhaps stands out above the others: understanding others becomes a path that leads towards a more sensitive and rich vision of the environments that one day future architects will conceive.
This understanding, which is in the essence of the social commitment of every professional, brings as a consequence (extrapolated to other degrees and institutions) a proactive reflection, in the key of alternative construction of Peace: students acquire more solid design skills when they are trained through sensitivity strategies. The reason is that they learn to feel more intensely. And feeling is the basis of all deep knowledge and all qualified praxis.
In short, the work of teaching innovation and social inclusion has constituted an exercise in the application of Peace, understood in its meaning as energy of awareness and human solidarity.
Arnheim, R. (1978). La forma visual de la Arquitectura. Barcelona: Gustavo Gili
Campos, P., & Luceño, L. (2018). Las formas de la educación. Dimensión arquitectónica, dimensión docente y disciplinas creativas en la innovación universitaria. Madrid: Dykinson-Universidad Carlos III de Madrid-Instituto Figuerola de Historia y Ciencias Sociales
Clark, R., y Pause, M. (1983). Arquitectura: Temas de Composición. Barcelona: Gustavo Gili
Gibson, J. (1966) The senses considered as perceptual systems. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Hearn, F. (2003). Ideas that shaped buildings. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press
Morgado, I. (2012). Cómo percibimos el mundo: una exploración de la mente y los sentidos. Barcelona: Ariel
Pallasmaa, J. (2005). The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley&Sons
Rasmussen, S. (2000). La Experiencia de la Arquitectura. Madrid: Celeste Ediciones
Roth, E. (2000). Psicología ambiental: interfase entre conducta y naturaleza. Ciencia y Cultura, Nº 8, 1-16
Saarni, C., y Harris, P. (eds.) (1991). Children’s Understanding of Emotion. New York: Cambridge University Press
Saramago, J. (1995). “Essay on blindness. Lisboa: Editorial Caminho
Shapiro, L. (ed.) (2014). The Routledge Handbook of Embodied cognition. Londres: Routledge
Sylwester, R. (1994), How emotions affect learning. Educational Leadership, 52(2), pp. 60-65
Valdés-Morales, R., López, V., y Jiménez-Vargas, F. (2019). Inclusión educativa en relación con la cultura y la convivencia escolar. Educación y Educadores 22(2), pp. 187-211
Vincent, J. (1990). The Biology of Emotions. Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell
Zull, J. (2002). The art of changing the brain: Enriching the practice of teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
PABLO CAMPOS, PhD Architect, PhD in Education, is an Academic of the Royal Academy of Doctors, and Full Professor of Architectural Composition(Universidad CEU-San Pablo, Spain). He has written 16 books about university spaces, and numerous articles in international reviews: SCUP (USA); CELE-Exchange, OECD; International Association of Universities (UNESCO), CIAN-University Carlos III (Madrid); Arquitectura COAM; Urbanismo-COAM, and AULA-University of Salamanca, amongst others. His book “The Journey of Utopia-The story of the first American style campus in Europe” (Nova, NY, 2006), was granted the International Awards “Premio Vitruvio” and “City Council of Madrid”. In 2010, 2012 and 2018 he received the Research Awards “Ángel Herrera” for his books “Spain-Campus of International Excellence”, “Identity, Innovation and Environment at Spanish Universities” (Ministry of Education, 2010, 2012), and “Arquitectura, urbanismo y educación” (Fundación SM). Dr. Campos has been a speaker at several institutions: UCLA, Columbia, Stanford, IST-Lisbon, McGill, UIC-Chicago-UIC, Delft University of Technology, CULS, University of Athens, Ministry of Education (Bhutan), TEC-Monterrey (Mexico), La Sapienza (Italy), NYU, Pittsburgh, New York CCT, NJIT, or American Institute of Architects.
Professor Campos is the author of the concept of “Educational Campus” for the innovation of University campuses. He has been a consultant to the Ministry of Education in Spain-Program “Campus of International Excellence” (2008-2011). Since 1990 he has designed numerous university spaces: Master Plan for the National University of Education-UNAE (Ecuador); University of Málaga; University of Girona; University of Laguna; University of Alcalá; Sustainable Campus (Madrid) (International Merit Award 2008); Report about the Master Plan of University Misratah (Lybia); Villamayor campus (University Salamanca), Honor Award in 2005 “The International Forum for Innovative Schools”. USA.
In 2012, Dr.Campos was recipient of the International “Education Leadership Award”, given by the World Education Congress in Mumbai (India), and in 2020 the “ISSN Global Research Award”. His website is www.utoplan.es