Design Research Initiative

The Design Research Initiative is a collaboration among eight faculty Fellows in the College of Fine and Applied Arts. Operating from different design disciplines, the fellows work to define design research and its role within a research-intensive university. Current fellows have two years to develop their work and to create foundational tools for new and existing faculty to tap into. Their work will create a platform for design research inside and outside the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The current fellows are chosen from the disciplines of Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Art + Design and Music; three are existing faculty and five are newly appointed faculty. We are proud to have Assistant Professors Mary Pat McGuire and Conor O’Shea represent the Department of Landscape Architecture in this effort.

“Having two Landscape Architecture fellows is great exposure for the Department. Landscape Architecture is working to resolve big problems in the built environment. Landscape architecture design research often crosses disciplinary boundaries to eliminate the idea that design comes at the end of a process. Instead, we aim to show how design integrates various research methods at the forefront of regional and global problems.”

In addition to addressing the bigger questions of design research, the fellows are encouraged to use newly developed tools to enhance their research. Professor McGuire is using her experience as a fellow to further her hydrologic surfaces work in Chicago, and to inform the research methodology of a case study book that she is writing.

As a fellow, Professor O’Shea is developing alternative visions of North American large-scale freight-driven developments of ports, warehousing, and distribution facilities. These scenarios will serve as models for more socially and ecologically sensitive future growth. Professor O’Shea is particularly inspired by the collaborative support from the fellowship group. He commented: “Among the many things I appreciate about the Design Research Fellowship is the opportunity for interdisciplinary dialogue among the fellows. This dialogue not only strengthens the work that I’m doing, but can be shared with non-designers at Illinois to foster cross-campus collaborations that really leverage the power of design.”

We’re all looking forward to seeing where their work takes them over the next two years and what new knowledge this initiative will bring to our department!

Visit here for more information on McGuire's work.

Visit here for more information on O'Shea's work.