Looking Forward while Walking: Educational Experiences in the Outdoors to Develop a Design for Sustainability Mindset


The island of Madeira attracts today an increasing number of tourists from all over the world. While the local economy focuses most of its investments on the tourism sector, increasingly pressuring on the balance that exists at the cohabitation between humans and other living species, the island’s biodiversity is today endangered (Bertolotti & Vezzani, 2021). The paper proposes some of the learning experiences that developed since 2018 through several international design research actions on the island and our teaching at the BA in Design at the University of Madeira. It is about a series of exercises structured to train the designer’s ability of changing perspective with a post-antropocentric sensitivity (Braidotti, 2016; Puig Della Bellacasa, 2017; Escobar, 2018; Fuad-Luke, 2022). Living and working on a island territory allows us to reflect on the challenge of sustainability with a peculiar angle because from an island perspective it is easier to think about boundaries, and so to visualise the aspects of circularity, interrelation and interdependence (Borgnino, 2022). Our methods are based on the idea of learning outdoors in contact with nature, bringing together people from different disciplinary backgrounds, to develop through the action of walking a shared consciousness on challenges that regard a specific landscape and its communities (intended as human, vegetal and animal). Finally, the paper reflects on some of the challenges we encounter as (design) educators trying to switch towards a more bio-inclusive approach that would allow future generations to think and build a more sustainable and just world.


Elisa Bertolotti
Assistant Professor, Art and Design, University of Madeira, Portugal

Valentina Vezzani
Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Design, University of Madeira, Portugal


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design Education


Bioinclusive design, Sustainability, Design education, Ecologies, Learning by walking

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