REALITY STUDIO 2021 - 'Cross-Cultural Collaborations: Extreme Environments during Pandemics'

Reality Studio is an international educational platform in the Master Program Design and Planning Beyond Sustainability (MPDSD), at Chalmers University Architecture and Civil Engineering Department.

The mission of the studio is for the students, through their coursework, develop and plan for the implementation of resilient, culturally appropriate, healthy and innovative design solutions that support dignified human everyday life. These design solutions are situated in real-world extreme environments (often in a challenging foreign context), and co-created through collaboration with local communities, NGOs, universities, governmental institutions and other organisations.

Reality Studio​ aims to bring students into close contact with a range of global perspectives, and to learn and co-create spatial design approaches and methods to deal with challenges such as urban poverty, injustice, climate adaptation among others. The topic for Reality Studio 2021 is ‘Cross-Cultural Collaborations: Extreme Environments during Pandemics’ dealing with the message of ‘Designing for Dignity’.

With the point of departure of the global Covid-19 pandemic, this year's Reality Studio is carried out as a collaboration between the 21 Chalmers students and local partners and stakeholders around the world (including several Universities and NGOs). The Reality Studio 2021 is working within five different contexts: Pretoria (South Africa), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Kisumu (Kenya), Beirut (Lebanon) and Buenos Aires (Argentina).

During the first 3 weeks of the course, all students and teachers from Reality Studio and the other partner universities involved (in some cases, over 70 people simultaneously connected), worked together in 5 iterations of 2-days intensive workshops about each of the contexts. Collaborative distance-based research about each context’s main socio-economic and spatial characteristics and challenges was here made in dialogue with local partners digitally connected through Zoom and Miro. After that, and during 6 weeks, in a Virtual Field Study, smaller project teams of students have been working together in different assigned contexts and in collaboration with the respective stakeholders. This has been a period for developing and applying methods and tools for distanced-based communication between partners and organizations, as well as for the collection of specific information and data about the contexts and communities. This has helped to fine-grain the definition of the topics and focus for the work on the coming project proposals that will try to address specific identified challenges locally. The Virtual Field Studies will be closed with a public and online exhibition of the worked produced, to be launched on April 9th. In the last 8 weeks of the Reality Studio, the students will continue their global collaborations towards the design of their project proposals to be handed over to the respective communities and partners for eventual implementation or further development.

Below is the link to an article at UIC Barcelona, with more details about Chalmers and Reality Studio’s involvement in the Beirut-case collaboration. Together, students from Chalmers, UIC Barcelona, AUB and RMIT are currently working on the planning and design components of a post-disaster recovery and reconstruction plan in Bourj Hammoud after the August 4, 2020 port explosion in Beirut, Lebanon.

Main partner organizations:

Other organisations involved:

- Master of Disaster, Design and Development (MoDDD) at RMIT
- Architecture Sans Frontières International (ASF-Int), ASF-Portugal and ASF-Sweden
- Göteborgs Stad och Västra Götalandsregionen (Child Perspective​)
- other expert-lecturers, and several NGOs, CBOs and communities in the different contexts of collaboration


All students have started working with their respective contexts since last week. For each week day, 1 context/project is being reporting 1 update from their work in progress. 

The teaching team from ACE:

Emilio Brandao, (examiner) and Shea Hagy,​ (coordinator)
Liane Thuvander, Catarina Östlund, Larry Toups, Jonathan Edgardo Cohen​

Page manager Published: Fri 26 Mar 2021.