Richard Burnham
Louise Wallis


The Learning-by-Making (LBM) program at the University of Tasmania has 20 years experience in collaborative, community-based “live” studios. Academics involved in the program have intuitively understood that a learning environment integrated with the public realm, and based in a constructed reality affords students an immersive understanding of the design process. More recently the program has shifted its focus from stand-alone, client-responsive projects to a long-term, design-led research agenda. Individual projects - including micro-dwellings, scout huts, an exhibition stand and a mobile playground - are seen as steps in the evolution of an innovative building system that harnesses the creative and socially productive potentials of digital fabrication. The benefits of this shift for academics and clients are clear. For academics, research and teaching activities can be mutually supportive, while clients benefit from a design/fabricate/assemble process that has been tested, analysed, applied and incrementally improved. The primary focus of this paper will however attempt to identify the educational impact on participating students, and will do so using the analytical lens of a relevant educational theory called threshold concepts1. The theory suggests that students can overcome barriers to learning when specific criteria or “dimensions” are present.
The results of this analysis indicate that in this environment learning can be transformative, resulting in irreversible conceptual links between design idea, fabrication and practice. The conceptual space of the project is bounded by the research objective, budget, technology and client requirements, and integrative in that they inevitably involve decisions on materials, structures, habitation patterns and climate control. The learning is discursive as students are required to articulate their opinions on design decisions, both within the student group and with community collaborators. The primary data sources for this investigation have been students’ reflective journals, combined with teacher observations.


How to Cite
Burnham, R. and Wallis, L. (2017) “Learning by Making. Long-term collaborations and socially productive outcomes”, The Journal of Public Space, 2(3), pp. 73–84. doi: 10.5204/jps.v2i3.116.
Chapter II
Author Biographies

Richard Burnham, University of Tasmania, School of Architecture & Design

Richard Burnham studied at the University of Liverpool and the University of Oregon. Richard has been a lecturer at the University of Tasmania, School of Architecture & Design since 1993 and specialises in micro-dwellings, informal housing and community based design. Richard teaches in the Building Technology, Design Studio and History and Theory programs, and currently leads the School’s Learning By Making Program. This program is based around community engagement, collaborative learning and the important role that ‘making’ can play in design education.  The hands-on projects engage student groups in real-world community projects, foster interpersonal skills and develop responsibilities essential for successful project management. The projects also embrace new design technology, exploring ways to apply the creative potential of digital fabrication.

Louise Wallis, University of Tasmania, School of Architecture & Design

Louise Wallis is lecturer at the School of Architecture & Design at the University of Tasmania. Louise has a PhD and research masters (MDes) in architectural education. She is active contributor to design learning and teaching and research through her involvement in national teaching grants (2006, 2009 & 2011), chairing the school’s learning and teaching committee (over a decade) and teaching. Her published work focuses on influence of Higher Education Institutions on architectural studio models, instruction methods, as well as design/build pedagogy.