September 28, 2023
Building upon the pilot version of the Future Dynamic Program started in 2022 by FabCafe Taipei, Loftwork Taiwan, and National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) , the program was expanded from just a nine week program to consist of four learning modules spanning across three academic semesters in 2023 and 2024. The Future Dynamic Program aims to provide more opportunities for students to engage with practitioners and companies in addressing emerging social challenges in Asia.
Atelier Future, an advocate within the NCKU campus, emphasized the concept of “Peer To Peer Learning” during their collaboration with Loftwork last year. This learning approach encourages students not only to seek personal accomplishments but also to actively provide feedback to their peers, nurturing a collaborative spirit.
Leslie (Atelier Future): In our collaboration’s second year, we want to return to our original intentions. Through Loftwork’s expertise in collaborative brainstorming, we aim to help participants discover their true interests. We hope Atelier Future can be a platform where everyone can explore what their traditional environments might not have allowed them to before.
Tim (Loftwork Taiwan, FabCafe Taipei): Building on last year’s experience, I hope we can be the bridge for communication and flatten the hierarchy between educators and learners, ensuring mutual growth and rewarding experiences.
Leslie (Atelier Future): Since the inception of this project, Atelier Future and Loftwork Taiwan have been working collaboratively to improve the program’s planning, project management system, and implementation. While there’s a focus on enrollment numbers due to the academic framework, this year we’re more content-driven, eager to pave new paths with our students.
Tim (Loftwork Taiwan): It’s like we’re nurturing seeds. Even if the course ends, the students’ vitality will continue to grow.
Leslie (Atelier Future): In our daily lives, we often get caught up in mundane roles, which can limit us and make our thinking more rigid. The uniqueness of the Future Dynamic Program is the sudden immersion into unfamiliar surroundings; by the time you’re trying to get your bearings, you’re already on the journey.
Tim (Loftwork Taiwan): Last year’s program was just nine weeks long. With three terms this year, I believe we can offer a more systematic experience. It’s not just about playing predefined roles; it’s about exploring and expanding one’s uncharted potential.
Previously, the program’s approach was to set goals before executing plans. However, this year, we encourage participants to spend eighty percent of their time exploring, being lost, and wandering. By interacting with others, participants can toggle between competition and collaboration, realizing there’s more than one answer. The final twenty percent is reserved for refining and readjusting.
In collaboration with Hidakuma, a group established by Loftwork in the Japanese city of Hida to connect local woodworkers to the world, we have organized a five-week “Regenerative Design Studio.” The purpose of the program is to rethink the role of designers in improving the sustainability of the wood manufacturing supply chain. This is a unique opportunity for students to expand their understanding of the forest as a natural resource. Rather than treating wood as a standardized material, this design studio aims to develop a deeper understanding of wood manufacturing, traditional wood craft, and wood as a material at its most natural state. As a design challenge, students are asked to provide design solutions which address at least one of the following issues:
- How to reduce material waste in the standardization process.
- How to better utilize the different parts of the tree which are often discarded in the standardized wood manufacturing process.
- Cradle to Cradle – to think about the circularity of their design.
As part of the Regenerative Design Studio, the program also invited four researchers who focus on ESG (environmental, social and governance) reporting to study how Hidakuma, as a public and private joint venture between the city of Hida, Loftwork (a design and creative company), and Tobimushi (a forestry management company), has gradually realigned the wood manufacturing supply chain and created new local business opportunities. The ESG research team also helped to quantify carbon storage using a new manufacturing and construction approach that utilizes almost every part of lumber to minimize production waste.
The program invited members of Hidakuma to Tainan to share their challenges and experiences from Hida’s local wood manufacturing industry. Additionally, the program organized a ten day design camp in Hida, allowing students and ESG researchers to immerse themselves in the wood supply chain and tackle design challenges.
Professor Hsu ChiaYin (NCKU): Traditionally, architecture courses have clear processes and structures, guiding students directly.
However, Hida Camp’s uniqueness is in encouraging students to ‘identify’ problems, taking a step back for a broader perspective.
Professor Kung Po Min (NCKU): I’ve been thinking about what students should ‘produce.’ In traditional architectural design values, it usually starts with solving an issue. However, this studio has made me realize that society no longer operates this way.
We need to design with a deeper understanding of social and business needs, and to provide design solutions as an agent of change for the ecosystem of commerce and our daily lives.
Tim (Loftwork Taiwan): Architecture is not only about the tangible structure of a building. It also needs to take into account the environment, local culture, and business operations. Hence, in our planning with Hidakuma, we emphasized being open-minded, engaging with the surroundings, and exploring the true ‘solution’ with a broader perspective.
Although the objectives for the design students and the researchers are different, the difference in their learning approach enhances each other’s experience. Before the trip, the Hidakuma team had visited NCKU, laying the foundation for mutual understanding. The student and researcher groups learned from each other to bridge the gap between design and scientific research.
Yuki (Hidakuma, Communication Manager): My interaction with the students in Taiwan and Hida was very memorable. Although the focus of this studio is based in Hida, I found that people’s passion for sustainability and the natural environment are beyond any borders. I would like to continue to build on this passion and new relationships in the future.
Chikako (Hidakuma, Creative Director focused on forestry):I was impressed by the fluidity in the students’ thinking. I hope this dynamic approach can benefit Taiwan’s forestry industry and emphasize the importance of harmony with nature.
Kosuke (Hidakuma, Creative Director focused on carpentry): I found a new sense of inspiration in my own work routine from interacting with the students and faculty members during my trip to Tainan and when the NCKU members visited Hida. I look forward to bringing more expert craftsmen from Hida to visit Taiwan and hope to implement more exciting design initiatives in the near future.
Conventional education focuses on getting the “right” answers. Students are often asked to arrive at an answer as efficiently as possible, and the outlying possibilities found during the learning process are neglected. How we learn does not have to be a one way communication path exerted only from instructors to students. Through the continuous learning approach, people are constantly seeking opportunities to learn from their peers and people with different backgrounds and cultural contexts, where learning becomes cyclical rather than linear.
Deng Yeh Huang (NCKU, 2nd year architecture student): I originally thought I was following a path to Japan from Taiwan to find an answer. But after moving beyond the paper and having real conversations, I realized that many things don’t have just one path.
Other branches full of diversity and dimensionality develop during the process.”
Cenfi Lin (NCKU, 2nd year architecture student): The purpose of this workshop isn’t to validate whether our ideas are right. We can’t simply accept commands like robots. We need to physically understand design. This is a unique challenge.
Chia Wei Cheung (Atelier Future, SDG Lab researcher): The ESG reporting from previous projects needed to focus on the facts and data, and the team strived to gather and analyze quantifiable information . Before the trip to Hida, the team and I felt confident that we had a good basic understanding of Hidakuma’s operations from the research and discussions we had with the Hidakuma team during their visit to NCKU. Nevertheless, when we arrived in Hida for the ten-day on-site visit, I realized that there are many intricate social and business ecosystems in which the local stakeholders work collaboratively to make things possible. Their work in creating a metastructure that improves stakeholder engagement while incentivizing them to work beyond their own interests is very inspiring. I would like to learn how we might learn from these efforts and apply them towards ESG perspectives in the future.
Paul (Loftwork Taiwan): As designers, we often get used to spending time with our notebooks, where the world consists only of ourselves. But the moments where we genuinely ‘interact’ with others can be very impactful.
Over time, you’ll find that important elements often arise from simple gestures. Taking that first ‘baby step’ can trigger an unexpected butterfly effect. I believe this is where the true value of Hida Camp lies.
The Regenerative Design Studio provides the opportunity for students and researchers to be immersed in a foreign community not just as a tourist, but to have a chance to actively engage with the local stakeholders, businesses, and residents in Hida. We hope that the students can learn to think of design not from a bird’s eye view, but instead when they walk along the street or feel the sunlight and breeze in a forest, they will strive to use their design as medium for making connections between people and the environment.
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