Design Anthropology: Landscapes and Cities

April 2017

This workshop facilitates a discussion among designers and anthropologists about the nascent field of design anthropology. In recent years, there has been a movement in anthropology toward the study of objects, while design and planning have been moving toward the perception of objects as part of a greater social, political, and cultural milieu. Design anthropology uses anthropological methods to better understand design and uses design processes to challenge anthropologists to consider the activation of their observations. Through a FAS-GSD cross-listed undergraduate/graduate-level course, “Design Anthropology: Objects, Landscapes, Cities,” offered since 2013, we have begun to explore some of these ideas. The workshop allows us to bring this discussion to a new level through conversations with leading, and emerging, scholars and practitioners working in the field. While most publications on design anthropology have been at the scale of objects, this gathering focuses on landscape architectural and urban planning processes and the challenges of incorporating anthropological methods at the larger scale. Challenges posed include economic and temporal urgency as reflected in time-sensitive design projects that do not mesh well with the reflexive nature of anthropology. We have identified a need for an edited volume to address these scalar and temporal issues, and this workshop will lead to further research in this critical emerging academic and professional field. The program's discussions inform a revision of the FAS-GSD course to focus more on the scalar aspect of new ethnographic approaches to the design and understanding of landscape and will further help center Harvard within international discussions of design anthropology.