What is fieldwork?


What and where is the 'field' to which it refers?
Is fieldwork a method, a set of methods, or a methodology?
How does fieldwork differ from other parts of the design process?

What is the state of fieldwork in design education today?
How are digital technologies changing fieldwork practice?
Where does fieldwork belong in the design curriculum?

Should design instructors teach fieldwork?
What can designers learn from other 'fieldwork disciplines'?

Forum on Fieldwork is an international collaborative devoted to answering these questions. It is a virtual setting where a fieldwork agenda for design education can be collectively shaped by sharing experiences, ideas, and resources across disciplines, institutions, and countries.

The Forum has emerged from our shared concern about the state of fieldwork in professional design programs today. In a world where students are confronted by ever-growing volumes of information delivered at ever-greater speeds, we believe that sustained, unmediated encounter with real places and people remains the cornerstone of design teaching and learning. The methods and methodology of this encounter must therefore be placed—or replaced—at the center of the environmental design curriculum.

These methods are not easy. As anyone who has spent time doing it knows, fieldwork is more than just feeling, somehow, the 'genius of the place' (Norberg-Schulz 1980). It is a systematic, rigorous, and intentional form of thinking through doing, one that requires discipline, focus, and organization. Only by mastering its methods—by learning to 'land' (Girot 1999)—can the design students of today become the reflective practitioners of tomorrow.

Forum on Fieldwork is curated by the landscape architects and educators Thomas Oles and Paula Horrigan.