Bringing a transdisciplinary approach to built environment research is a key focus for Tuba Kocaturk, Professor of Integral Design in Deakin University’s School of Architecture and Built Environment.

Professor Kocaturk is the director of Deakin’s new Lab for Mediated Intelligence in Design, or MInD Lab, based at the Geelong Waterfront Campus.

The MInD Lab is a practice-based and transdisciplinary research group operating at the intersection of built environment, information technology and design innovation,’ Professor Kocaturk explains.

‘We explore the potential of IT, intelligent data, computation and digital media to create more agile and adaptive solutions for socially, environmentally, and economically viable built environment.’

Professor Kocaturk says it is about bringing built environment research, design innovation, and information and communication technology research together, with a human-centred approach.

‘We work through the design and development of tangible prototypes, models, and processes where we test new ideas, and create new user experiences for the built environment.

‘There’s a very heavy emphasis on technology, but at the same time we try to keep it in the background, because the more technology you bring up front, the less human the experience becomes. So one of the challenges is can we use everything that the technology can offer, but make it almost invisible.’

Design thinking, systems thinking, and transdisciplinary design are all key elements of the approach taken, as is closely working with industry.

‘The research we undertake in MInD Lab is grounded in and informed by industry, and involves the development of tangible models, tools and methods with the potential to create impact on industry practice, education, community practices and with policy implications,’ Professor Kocaturk says.

‘We are very keen to build on our existing portfolio and team up with new external partners.’

Educated as an architect in Turkey, Professor Kocaturk decided to leave practice to do her master’s degree, at a time, she says, when digital technology in the built environment was just ‘up and coming’. Her interest in digital technologies led her to Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands to do her PhD, during which she also spent time as a research fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in the US.

‘That was the time I developed a keen interest in information-driven design, digital media, and digital fabrication technologies and the possibilities this new way of thinking and making could open up for the built environment,’ she explains.

‘I then made my way into an amazingly interesting, very interdisciplinary research centre run by Harvard and MIT called the Centre for Design Informatics (CDI). The research centre no longer exists, but my time at CDI opened up a completely new perception for me, which helped shape my current thinking that led to my highly transdisciplinary, impact-driven and practice-based approach to research.

‘It brought together computer scientists, designers, construction managers, architects, all working towards, not in any individual discipline, but formulating problems for the future and everybody working towards that goal. I think that model started shaping in my mind.’

Before coming to Deakin in August this year, Professor Kocaturk was at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.

She is the founding co-director of the Resilient Urban Eco-Systems Research Group (in collaboration with ARUP, 2016), which brings together the complementary expertise of a highly interdisciplinary group of experts across Intelligent Buildings and Urban Informatics research fields, developing a vision and research agendas for the future.

Professor Kocaturk also co-leads a pan-European Transdisciplinary Design Network in collaboration with Design Council UK, Hochschule Anhalt/DIA Bauhaus in Germany, and the European Institute of Design (IED) in Italy, to initiate and spearhead a leading-edge debate on emerging models of transdisciplinarity with the aim of exploring cross-sector impact pathways in industry and education.

With her focus on a transdisciplinary approach to research, Professor Kocaturk was attracted to the composition of Deakin’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment.

‘The faculty is composed of architecture, science, engineering, environmental science, IT and this combination, and architecture being placed in this combination, was a perfect fit for anything I’ve ever done,’ she says.

In her role as Professor of Integral Design at Deakin, Professor Kocaturk is also responsible for the further development, adoption, and dissemination of the new approach to research – Integral Design Futures (IDF) – that has recently developed in the School of Architecture and Built Environment.

Based on the principles of system thinking and transdisciplinarity, Professor Kocaturk says IDF offers a holistic framework to deal with the increasingly complex nature of problems we are facing in the built environment.