Designing for Life: Agriculture, Ecology, and Design in Northern Thailand | www.hampshire.edu
Thailand

Designing for Life: Agriculture, Ecology, and Design in Northern Thailand

Location: Chiang Mai and Nan Province, Thailand
Faculty: Sue Darlington, professor of anthropology and Asian studies (CSI), and M. Naomi Darling, Five College professor of sustainable architecture (HACU)
Course Number: TBD
Departure Date (tentative): December 31, 2017  Return Date: January 21, 2018
Course Fee (tentative): $600 deposit; all other program costs including airfare will be covered by grants from the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) and the Roddenberry Foundation

Course Summary

Building off of a fall semester course that covers background and theoretical knowledge in design basics, participatory research methods, and the anthropology and ecology of Northern Thailand, this field course will take students to the JOKO Learning Center in Nan Province, Thailand. Students will critically examine ways in which design is influenced by cultural, historical, and ecological factors. They will learn about social justice issues in Southeast Asia that are impacted by structural forms of agriculture, climate change, economics, and social structure. How can architectural and land use design empower rural peoples? What does resilience look like for rural farmers who face significant economic, social, and ecological change? Students will work closely with JOKO and local farmers to identify problems the farmers face and begin developing creative design solutions.

Prerequisites

This course is only open to students enrolled in CSI/HACU 241 Designing for Life: Sustainable Agriculture, Ecology, and Design in Northern Thailand in fall 2017. Participants must commit to taking the follow-up course in spring 2018.

Eligibility

Short-term field course eligibility requirements (for Hampshire and non-Hampshire students)

Financial Information

Short-term Field Course Finances and FundingImportant information about fees, payments, and financial aid.

Course Fee

$600 deposit required at the time of acceptance; all other program costs, including airfare, will be covered by grants from the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) and the Roddenberry Foundation.

Additional Expenses (costs not included)
Passport fees ($135), transportation to and from Boston airport ($200), and personal expenses ($200). 

How to Apply

Note: An interview is required in addition to the standard application requirements. Please contact the faculty directors for more information.

Short-term field course application deadlines and instructions

Full Course Description

The January short-term course will be an integral part of a yearlong course, beginning in Fall 2017. The two-semester course investigates the intersections of design (building and land use), anthropology/social justice, and ecology, with a focus on a case study in Northern Thailand. The fall semester will build background and theoretical knowledge in these areas generally and our case study in Nan Province, Thailand, specifically. Students will critically examine ways in which design is influenced by cultural, historical, and ecological factors. They will learn about social justice issues in Southeast Asia that are impacted by structural forms of agriculture, climate change, economics, and social structure. How can architectural and land use design empower rural peoples? What does resilience look like for rural farmers who face significant economic, social, and ecological change? The JOKO Learning Center in Muang Chang, Nan Province, will form our case study.

JOKO Learning Center, the organization with which we will partner, is a small community organization just outside of Nan City, in Nan Province, Northern Thailand. JOKO runs many kinds of projects related to natural agriculture and sustainable community development, for example: Farmer Field Schools, through which farmers share their indigenous and experiential knowledge and methods of sustainable agriculture; seed-saving and biodiversity projects; community development, including establishing a local credit union; the Ruayboon natural textile program; and Buddhist integrated agricultural farms, among others. JOKO’s projects focus on social, economic, and agricultural issues faced by the rural poor in this region of Thailand, where they seek to empower farmers to have food security, live sustainably, and get out of agricultural debt through their own efforts. The organization sits along the Nan River, in a narrow, fertile area with steep hillside farms rising away from the river, so they also deal with water management issues, from flooding to drought and irrigation.

Students in the fall course will apply to join the faculty for three weeks in January in Thailand engaging in participatory research with the staff of JOKO and local farmers. The aim of the field study course will be to talk with the villagers and farmers connected with JOKO to determine what they identify as their needs and desires in terms of sustainable design. What kinds of sustainable land use, water management, and buildings would be most useful for them? What are the vernacular forms of various building typologies--Buddhist temples; traditional homes; farm buildings--with which the villagers are familiar? How do these forms respond to the local climate conditions and site?  What materials are locally available? What expertise do the local builders have that they can bring to the project? What agricultural practices are employed and how does this impact land use and water management? What are the specifics of the ecological landscape within which JOKO exists? The students will be asked to propose several possible projects for feedback from the villagers and the staff of JOKO. In small teams, they will work with farmers and JOKO staff to begin brainstorming creative design solutions for problems and needs identified by the farmers. These preliminary design ideas and knowledge about the people and location will be brought back to Hampshire to be more fully developed in collaborative teams of design, social science, and science students during the spring semester.

Although most of the trip will be in Nan Province, we will spend a few days in Chiang Mai City upon arrival in Thailand. There, students will meet with Chulaporn Nantapanit, one of Thailand’s leading natural architects. If time allows, we will visit a few sites that promote sustainable agriculture and local building. We will hope to stay at a new retreat center based on local cultural and Buddhist concepts with natural buildings.

In Thailand, students will fulfill the following objectives:

  • Put the learning from the fall course into practice as they gain direct experience onsite in Nan Province;
  • Learn to collaborate in teams with each other and with farmers and staff from JOKO, particularly using participatory research methods;
  • Learn to identify the needs and problems facing farmers in Nan Province;
  • Identify potential solutions, drawing from their backgrounds in design, anthropology, and ecology developed in the fall semester, in collaboration with farmers;
  • Identify local cultural aesthetic sensibilities and how they could be used to approach farmer needs;
  • Gather sufficient information about the site (ecological, cultural, etc.) to bring back to campus to work on designs ideas to send back to the JOKO at the end of the spring semester.

Academic Expectations

Students will be expected to participate actively in all aspects of the trip. They will have short assignments to develop preliminary drawings or ideas for designs (done collaboratively with farmers and JOKO staff) while in the field. They should keep an academic journal of experiences and what they are learning that will help them develop their designs.

Upon return to campus, trip participants will be expected to do presentations for the larger course about what they learned that could be used for developing design ideas. These presentations will depend on the academic background of the students; anthropology/social science students will present about the social, political, economic, and justice issues farmers face; science students will present about the ecology and agricultural practices of the area; design students will present about Northern Thai aesthetics, local building materials, expertise of local people that could contribute to design projects. All students should address the main course questions: How can architectural and land use design empower rural peoples? What does resilience look like for rural farmers who face significant economic, social, and ecological change? Students will be expected to write about their presentations.

Program Itinerary

December 31: Leave from Boston Logan Airport, arriving in Chiang Mai January 1.
Jan 2-4: In Chiang Mai 
Jan 5: Travel from Chiang Mai to Nan (three hours) by van, stopping at key cultural and architectural sites along the way.
Jan 5-19: In Nan Province 
Jan 19: Return to Chiang Mai: rest and initial trip processing.
January 21: Leave Chiang Mai and return to Boston Logan Airport

Travel Plans

Airfare to and from Boston Logan airport is arranged by the program. The group will meet at Logan Airport on December 31, then travel to Chiang Mai as a group. Upon return to Logan, we anticipate arranging a bus to return to campus so that students are back in time for classes.

Housing Arrangements

In Chiang Mai, students will stay either at a small, informal retreat center or in a hotel. In Nan, students will live with families in homestays; at least 2 students per family.  

Pre-departure Preparation

Participants will be selected from the students in CSI/HACU 241: Designing for Life. The fall course aims to prepare the students for the trip as well as undertaking the design projects in the spring semester.

There will be at least one group meeting with the faculty directors prior to departure to go over academic expectations, living and working conditions, and country-specific guidance. Students are also required to participate in a session with GEO on culture and identity, health and safety, study abroad policies, and important travel information.

Questions?

Questions about the application and selection process or financial aid should be directed to the global education office:

Katie Irwin
kirwin@hampshire.edu
413.559.5542

Questions regarding the academic content or itinerary should be directed to the faculty directors:

Susan Darlington
sdarlington@hampshire.edu 

M. Naomi Darling
mndHA@hampshire.edu

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