Liveness 2020

Live Projects as Critical Pedagogies

Liveness 2020 (Archive)


The Projects Office is engaged in promoting the potential for live projects to provide holistic and wide-ranging pedagogical opportunities beyond those already available in the classroom. Here, we introduce a particularly helpful article written by Morrow & Brown entitled ‘Live Projects: Designing with People’, which considers the possibility brought about by live projects to diversify the voices present in the teaching and learning environment. 

Morrow & Brown constructs the argument that live scenarios innately cultivate a culture which

1 — Can disrupt the assumed master/ student relationships that have developed in teaching practice, where one’s pedagogical approach replicates and perpetuates often unhelpful teaching practices

2 — Positions the learning environment outside of the faculty, opening up the student to a diversity of voices outside of the conventional school environment

3 — Is reflexive and reactive in nature, bringing about a greater criticality to methods of practice which the student can observe and engage in.

In attempting to challenge the prevalent ‘transmission’ model in contemporary schools of art, architecture and design, live projects offer an environment where its hierarchy is in a state of persistent flux. The internal, usually ‘controlled’ discourse we find within the school is destabilised by external voices and influences which challenge the singular viewpoint of the studio lead by exposing it to the heteroglossia and a wider field of influence. 

There is also a case for using live projects in the teaching and learning environment to develop and to some extent legitimise the position of each discipline within the community and society at large. Projects which engage with ‘real problems’ and ‘real people’ advertise the benefits of those disciplines to those who ordinarily would view academia or the arts with suspicion or unfamiliarity. In so doing, as Morrow & Brown elaborate, ‘pedagogies aligned not only to “real” contexts, but also “real” communities and stakeholders in those contexts, inevitably lead to increased contact with a range of people beyond the academy.’

It’s certainly the case that these projects do not need to be long-term, exhaustive engagements to attain positives outcome. On the contrary, Morrow & Brown convincingly argue that often, shorter 1-week engagements can be the most fruitful, preventing the impression that stakeholders interests are being subverted or colonised by those of the academic institution. Questions of ownership, authorship and delegation are often central to live projects. Shorter, more limited engagements allow students to step into a world defined by the experiences of those who express a need and define a brief as members of a community, and experience first hand what it means to develop a brief collaboratively with a live Client, without the challenges inherent in sustaining that very delicate and often politically charged relationship.

Our school is distinct in its diversity, both in terms of our staff and students as well as the approaches to the courses our students study. But ensuring that plurality is reflected in our work and our position within our community at Aldgate and in London will be key to developing our own practices and the environment we create to teach and learn within. 

We can look to these voices on the periphery of academia as a means of disrupting the master/ pupil relationship and the ‘reverence for individual mastery’ to ensure that we reflect critically and expose ourselves to the diversity of voices that will assist us in broadening the interface between our teaching and learning environment, and the wider world.

If you have a project you would like to discuss with us, or an academic interest you would like to test in a live setting, please contact the Projects Office through a link at the bottom of this page. 

Morrow, R., & Brown, J. B. (2012). Live Projects as Critical Pedagogies. In M. Dodd, F. Harrisson, & E. Charlesworth (Eds.), Live Projects: Designing with People (RMIT Training Pty Ltd.)