The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

ENVD Mandala: A Synthesis Model Applied in Environmental Design Education

Ping Xu, University of Colorado Boulder (United States)


To resolve the rising problems in the environment, we need synthesis approaches. This paper explores a general model of environmental design education, applying Bertalanffy and Laszlo's systems philosophy [3]. Demonstrating ancient systems thoughts [1], the Tibetan cosmic model of the mandala had shaped the ancient built environments, interweaving architecture within its surrounding landscape and cultural significance [5]. Inspired by this Tibetan mandala and elaborating on contemporary design disciplines, this paper explores a general model of environmental design (ENVD), the so-called ENVD mandala. As a synthesis model, the ENVD mandala provides a framework to integrate landscape planning, urban design, architecture, landscape design, and interior design, from large to small scales and from natural to the built environment. One space nests from other spaces. All spaces appear isomorphic, including landforms [2], urban settings [4], gardens, and architecture. Examining the theory, the author teaches a senior undergraduate project, utilizing the ENVD mandala as a framework to evaluate student residence for healthy living. In contrast to the conventional isolated and piling-up models, the ENVD mandala presents a new direction for environmental design education. As a synthesis model, ENVD mandala bridges gaps between different fields and delivers more efficient learning by applying systems theory. Finally, the ENVD mandala model, inspired by ancient systematic thought, promotes students' systems thinking, a fundamental philosophy in the contemporary world. As an efficient methodology and a new worldview, systems theory is changing design education and practice and leading toward a sustainable environment for our society.



ENVD Mandala, Synthesis model, Isomorphic forms, Nesting spaces, Environmental design education



[1]   Brauen M. The Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Shambhala,1997.

[2]   Forman, R., & Godron, M. Landscape Ecology. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1986.

[3]   Laszlo, E. Introduction to Systems Philosophy, with a foreword by Ludwig von Bertalanffy. London: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers,1972.

[4]   Lynch, K. The Image of the City. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960.

[5]   Xu, P. "The Mandala as a Cosmic Model Used to Systematically Structure the Tibetan Buddhist      Landscape." Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, Volume 27:3 (Autumn, 2010), pp. 181-203.






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