Last month saw the opening launch of the iDiDe Exhibition at Deakin University’s Geelong Waterfront Campus. The exhibition showcases the work of students who participated in the Intercultural Dialogue through Design (iDiDe) program.

iDiDe is a Deakin-led short study tour where students travel overseas to learn about sustainable design practice through active participation, intercultural collaboration, and cultural immersion. Since its creation in 2010 by Deakin Senior Lecturer Susan Ang, the program has traveled to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India.

Deakin students and iDiDe participants: Mr Mick Abdou, Miss Yennee Lee, Miss India Wolfe, Miss Stephanie Dimitrio, and Miss Cassandra Hutcheson. Deakin University staff from the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment: Ms Susan Ang, iDiDe Academic Leader and Senior Lecturer; Professor Bas Baskaran, Associate Dean (International); Mr Michael Sharman, Associate Lecturer and iDiDe Built Environment Study Tour Co-Leader; Dr Gayani Karunasena, Lecturer in Construction Management; and Dr Shilpi Tewari, Sessional Tutor in Architecture | Ross Bird Photography

In January of this year, 16 Deakin Architecture students traveled to Udupi, India, and worked with students from Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) and the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM). Students worked in groups and were tasked with creating design proposals for an Anganwadi centre. “Anganwadi”, meaning “courtyard shelter”, is one of the largest public health initiatives created by the Indian Government, and was introduced in 1975 as a national public health service to combat child hunger and malnutrition.

The participating students may have been from different countries and held different beliefs and opinions, but their shared language was one of design. They were divided into seven groups and, with international academic guidance, created a design proposal that was innovative, sustainable, at a low-cost, with locally-sourced materials, respectful of cultural values, and fit the needs of the Ajjarkad community.

Deakin student and iDiDe program participant Stephanie Dimitrio said ‘These centers play a vital role in the community, strengthening the fabric of neighbourhoods and helping improve early learning skills, imagination, independence, and health outcomes for children.’

Some of the models that the students designed of the Anganwadi centre for Ajjarkad, Udupi, on display at the exhibition | Ross Bird Photography

At the launch, Deakin student Melissa Herron spoke to the personal and professional transformation that she experienced on the trip. ‘iDiDe has brought with it an emotional connection to the creation of architecture centering on the dimensions of collaboration, culture, and contribution,’ she said. ‘The need for ‘sense’ in design, ’an emotional connection to design’, is required more than ever as we look to the future of built environment.’

‘It is my experience that before we ask others to believe in our designs, we must first believe in them ourselves.’

The program is yet another example of Deakin’s focus on creating and sustaining partnerships with universities and communities worldwide.

Ms Ang explained ‘iDiDe is both an individual adventure and a collaborative journey. As an architect and academic, it is immensely satisfying to see a student of architecture gain such a deep and transformative experience beyond their cultural boundaries in such a short space of time.’

The iDiDe Anganwadi Exhibition 2018 will be open to public until 26 July 2018 at the Deakin Geelong Waterfront Campus Gallery.