The approach of ethnographic observation-based research paradigm and design methodology was applied in teaching two undergraduate landscape architecture modules in Leeds School of Arts: “People and Place” and “Design with Materials” in Spring 2020. The implementation of this approach happened through two main consecutive phases. First, the research phase where students made several site visits and worked on comprehensive survey and analysis. During the process, students learned to capture much more than what they simply see under the theme of “Use your Senses to Know your Site”. They learned to pause, watch, listen, smell, touch, taste, feel, reflect, and systematically document their observation-based findings. They mapped out the physical, spatial, environmental, temporal, occupational, and emotional qualities of their context. By employing this approach, students were able to identify existing challenges, reveal hidden potentials, and foreseen design cues. Most importantly, they grew unique empathetic awareness of their context existing reality.
Second, the design phase where students learned to investigate the unseen sensory potentials of landscape architecture materials by taking a methodical, yet non-mechanical, approach to the selection and application of softscape and hardscape materials, including living, non-living, tangible, and nontangible mediums. Accordingly, students worked on different modes of exploration and design, including Sensory Materials Palettes, Physical Models, Materials and Sensory Analysis. Throughout the process, students designed to stimuli senses and evoke positive emotions. Meantime, they consistently related to their observation-based findings and emotional status during their filed investigation. By employing this approach, students were able to self-evaluate their design and material selection from the lens of multisensory experience while formulating a clear understanding of the prospective impact of their projects on human physical, psychological, and emotional responses.