The Intercultural Dialogue through Design Program with Susan Ang
SEP, 2019

Teaching & Learning
International Collaboration
Intercultural Dialogues
Good Practice

Susan Ang is a Senior Lecturer of Architecture, from the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Build-Environment.

The Intercultural Dialogue through Design global engagement program, launched in 2010 (iDiDe, pronounced “i-dee-dee”) is Susan Ang’s decade long effort to provide students with immersive and authentic learning experiences by way of study tours and transcultural collaborations. The program is an extension of her desire to provide life-changing experiences to students and the under-privileged international communities she and her partners collaborate with. The pedagogical approach enables a bilateral exchange of knowledge between Australia and Asia. This is an objective that is directly aligned with the Australian Government’s international education goals in a century marked as “the Asian century”.

The IDiDe three-week study tour see’s students connect with local governments, professional organizations and with local NGO’s to assist with community development projects across Asia, with special emphasis on making a difference to socio-economically disadvantaged and culturally vulnerable areas like rural Ampara (Sri Lanka), Shirthady (India) or Betawi (Indonesia) to name a few. Students are not only required to think holistically about the environmental contexts through their travels but also in collaboration with students from other partnering regional universities in their design work.

Above: Susan Ang amidst the 2018 IDiDe Program

Right: Video of the 2018 IDiDe Program

Such collaboration has been championed as a global platform for built environment education for sustainability in Asia, aligning closely with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and deliberately embedded in the architecture curriculum of Malaysian universities, such as the International Islamic University of Malaysia and in the social responsibility charter of the Architects Regional Council of Asia (ARCASIA).

“Susan Ang is a proven innovator and respected collaborator in global education for architecture. Our university has formally embedded iDiDe into our course curriculum (AAR 6001 Intercultural Dialogue Through Design) and iDiDe’s innovative model has been adopted by ARCASIA (Architects Regional Council of Asia) for its international design workshop promoting culture and architecture in the Asian region.”

Associate Professor Ar. Datin Norwina Nawawi, International Islamic University of Malaysia, and Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) Chair of Education Committee 2001-2003 and PAM representative on Regional Council ASIA(ARCASIA) Social Responsibility Committee, 2013-present)

From working with and within another culture, students develop a heightened sense of self and of other. The three pivotal pillars hallmarked in the learning philosophy of iDiDe, being – Collaboration, Culture and Contribution explain simply that design gets its value from culture, acceptance through collaborations, and purpose through contribution. Feedback from students has demonstrated an increased confidence – in intercultural communication and collaboration – attained from their immersion in the field where they respond to real-world developmental needs.

“iDiDe accelerated my development of collaborative skills in a stimulating environment. The Anganwadi project in Shirthady, Karnataka, India was often challenging, having to overcome differences in culture, language and ways of thinking to deliver a design response within a time constraint. Completing the project developed my confidence immensely in dealing with unexpected situations, my resilience and ability to work under pressure. Visiting the rural environment where the Anganwadi was located and interacting with the women and children really emphasized the magnitude of our work and how potentially beneficial it could be. The end result was a great sense of accomplishment and a heightened passion regarding the importance of design.”

Leon Comben, third year Architecture and Construction Management student, School of Architecture and Built Environment

Left: Students Leon Comben and William Testa learn all about sustainabe building techniques and how to make an earth wall as part of an earth building workshop at Ajith Andagere ‘s Rural Studio in Bengaluru , India during an iDiDe study tour in India earlier this year .

Right: Students making earth bricks

It is by no coincidence that these students also return with ‘high motivation[s] for the pursuit of further opportunity for travel, work and study in internationalized environments’ (Ang et al, 2019). In Susan’s own words the program is about:

“Fostering cohorts of future practitioners who can work together via a deeper transcultural understanding to “design better environments and better buildings” for communities all over the world in need. It is all about inspiring students to become socially responsible future practitioners and [ensuring] that the architecture profession serves society”.

Outcomes from the program have included the promotion of socially inclusive architecture both locally and globally, and students who are globally engaged and inspired with a social conscious mindset in architecture who are deeply motivated to make a difference to communities.

Left: IDiDe students from Deakin University and University of Moratuwa Co-design a women’s empowerment centre project , Building Ampara , Sri Lanka

Right: Public Exhibition of Anganwadi centre designs in a Mangalore by Deakin Univeristy and Manipal University students

The International SRBE Symposium

In January 2020, iDiDe will reach a milestone and celebrate its 10th Anniversary Edition in Malaysia with international partners through a bamboo design project called “Sen Oi”, a homestay village for Orang Asli (Indigenous peoples). The special anniversary program will see Susan and iDiDe’s founding collaborators, Faculty of Architecture and Environmental Design, International Islamic University of Malaysia launch and co-convene the international research network “Sustainable Rural Built Environments (SRBE). The special edition program will include an iDiDe Alumni Reunion event, and Australian keynote speaker, Architect Dean Landy, Deakin’s Young Alumni of the Year Award recipient 2017 and Founder of One Heart Foundation who will speak alongside Jon-sen Ooi, Founder of Epic Collective, Malaysia at the opening of the 1st International SRBE Symposium, 4-6 February 2020, Kuala Lumpur to address pressing issues of rapid urban encroachment on rural traditions and livehood.

Some Useful Resources

Details of the symposium can be found here.

For more on the IDiDe project:

Ang, S., Karunasena, G. & Palliyaguru, R. 2019, ‘Intercultural Dialogue Through Design (iDiDe) as a Platform for Built Environment Education for Sustainability in Rural Developing Contexts: Building Ampara, Sri Lanka’, in W. Leal Filho et al. (eds.), Sustainable Development Research in the Asia-Pacific
Region, World Sustainability Series,

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