Games and Chinese gardens: an equivocal experimental approach to a complex and subtle design genre

  • YEAR
    Missingham, Greg
    2015 Conference Papers
    Conference Papers
    Design Education and Design Research


The object of a non-project, non-studio, graduate architectural design approaches and methods course is for students to investigate their own predilections in designing. Among the many topics to which students respond, the design of private Chinese gardens has proved popular. In 2013, the Homework and Workshops exercises were replaced with six board games. These Chinese Garden Games differed in their focus on ingredients, geometry, canonic situations, Chinese traditions (Wu Xing, Yijing), numbers of players, sequential, iterative or simultaneous play, sequence in which classes of design decisions were to be taken and the contour sets and tessellations of the Game boards. Entries in Reflective Journals, responses to the university’s semester-end course Student Experience Survey and the one Questionnaire returned together with fifteen more or less complete garden plans provided data. Students generally found the instructions far too complicated, differed in their enjoyment of play, but generally participated helpfully in the experiment. Interestingly, as with results from an earlier set of instructions, garden designs were nearly always two-dimensional. This may result from the emphasis in the Games on that distinguishing feature of the private Chinese garden design tradition: the number of simultaneous systems applying to the total site layout.


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