Dr Susan Stewart is a specialist in practice theory, phenomenology, philosophies of technology, design history, sustainability and social innovation.
As a senior lecturer, Susan teaches within both undergraduate and postgraduate programs and supervises postgraduate research across diverse design disciplines. Her current research students are drawn from visual communication design, fashion design and spatial design.
Susan’s education and early years in practice were in architectural design. Since receiving her PhD, she has researched and taught across diverse areas of spatial and interdisciplinary design, especially in areas of design history and theory. Within these, her focus has been on phenomenological and sociological approaches to the contexts both for making, and for dwelling in and being with, designed objects and environments.
She has a strong interest in sustainability and social innovation, and understands design as an (often wayward and unpredictable) agent of change. Her current work mobilises practice theory, philosophies of technology, and actor-network theory to describe contexts for design, and to explore motivations for and barriers to change.
Society of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) member
Can supervise: YES
Design for change
Design for sustainable human practices
Philosophies of technology
Practice theory and rich description for design
Theory Hermeneutics and design
Phenomenology and phenomenological research methods
Representation and mapping
Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Design (PG)
Interior and Spatial Design (UG)
Research Methods for Design
Wakefield-Rann, R, Fam, D & Stewart, S 2020, 'Microbes, chemicals and the health of homes: integrating theories to account for more-than-human entanglements', BioSocieties.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Wakefield-Rann, R, Fam, D & Stewart, S 2018, '“It’s Just a Never-Ending Battle”: The Role of Modern Hygiene Ideals and the Dynamics of Everyday Life in Constructing Indoor Ecologies', Human Ecology Review, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 61-80.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Indoor spaces have not traditionally been considered the domain of human ecology. ey have been the subject of cultural, architectural, and sociological inquiry, and more recently the site at which various pathogenic or toxic encounters may be studied; yet, these concerns have rarely been investigated as part of one uni ed and codependent ecology. is special issue aims to remedy this dislocation by beginning a conversation between a range of disciplinary perspectives concerned with the indoors. is ambition is not only linked to a desire to articulate and connect multiple interacting variables operative in indoor spaces, but also to address both a number of factors that are increasingly creating indoor environmental conditions that are suboptimal for human habitation, and the broader more-than- human ecosystems in which they are situated. Although certainly not exhaustive in scope, the research presented in this special issue provides an exemplary pro le of situated knowledge that must form the basis of future, integrative, transdisciplinary research into indoor ecologies. Spanning design, architecture, social and human ecology, environmental psychology, sociology, mycology, biotechnology, spatial sciences, statistics, engineering, philosophy, and “lay” and experiential knowledge perspectives, this special issue uncovers a number of the challenges and fertile points of overlap across epistemological approaches and areas of concern within the indoors. e goal of this issue is to highlight the points of divergence, and, more crucially, the points of convergence from which a new transdisciplinary approach to indoor research can emerge.
The post-war introduction of new chemicals to consumer products created a range of complex environmental health issues. Despite recent evidence demonstrating the issues associated with using particular chemicals in the home, responses from industry and regulators have failed to account for the complex ways that chemicals interact with each other, humans and microorganisms to cause harm. This paper draws together the scientific and social science literature to make two key contributions: first, it demonstrates why investigating everyday practices will be crucial to improve knowledge of how human/environment interactions in the home are contributing to certain health conditions; second, it draws on examples of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals to show how these health conditions cannot be addressed by replacing individual products, or chemicals, as many toxic ingredients have become central to the functionality of interdependent networks of products, and the routines they enable. By failing to engage with these issues, future research and planning to establish healthy homes will not be able to account for these crucial sources of harm. We conclude that further research addressing indoor environmental health should expand the boundaries of inquiry across disciplines and knowledge perspectives to analyse how social practices structure micro-scale interactions between humans, microbes and chemicals, in the home.
Harte, JD, Sheehan, A, Stewart, SC & Foureur, M 2016, 'Childbirth Supporters' Experiences in a Built Hospital Birth Environment: Exploring Inhibiting and Facilitating Factors in Negotiating the Supporter Role', HERD-HEALTH ENVIRONMENTS RESEARCH & DESIGN JOURNAL, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 135-161.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Stewart, SC 2012, 'Fresh Thoughts on Mapping and GIS: cleanliness, temporality and sustainment', Design Philosophy Papers, vol. 2012, no. 2, pp. 1-9.
This paper locates geographic mapping, and the tools, terms and properties that articulate maps, within an array of practices that participate in the spatio-temporal dispositions of modernity. It argues that the claim currently being made for GIS-generated geographic maps, that they can play a significant role in addressing unsustainable practices, needs to be critically interrogated, given the resonance of mapping with cultural projects that tend to fuel unsustainable behaviours. Specifically, this paper points to a resonance between the production of maps, and the production of 'the fresh'. An unpacking of the cultural dispositions that inform both mapping and the fresh allows a rich picture of their pleasures and dangers to come to view.
Review of Design Thinking: Understanding How Designers Think and Work, Nigel Cross, Berg, Oxford, England & New York (2011) 163pp., ISBN: 9781847886361 (pb.) 9781847886378 (hb.)
The topic that was discussed at the 8th Design Thinking Research Symposium (DTRS8), held at the University of Technology Sydney in October, 2010 was growing popularity of Design Thinking within sectors outside the design professions. The participants were informed that there was interest in and engagement with Design Thinking in sectors ranging from education to health and information technology. The DTRS8 meeting represented an opportunity for the design research community to engage with and clarify potential for cross-sector migration of Design Thinking approaches and strategies and explore more potential cross-boundary engagements. The identification of design with strategies for addressing ill-structured and complex problems was of key significance to advocates of Design Thinking within a range of non-design sectors. Another important motivator for engagement with design by thinkers from non-design sectors was a focus on design as an agent of change.
Stewart, SC & Sherringham, SJ 2010, 'Spatial culture, learning and design: shifting ecologies of practice', IDEA Journal, vol. 2010, pp. 14-23.
Design interventions into environments reshape the ecologies of practice that the environment has participated in, housed or enabled. This paper draws upon research into the complex ecologies of next-generation learning practices and the respondent interior design practices that facilitate and sustain the evolution of those ecologies. The role of the interior designer is expanded to include not only the design of objects, communications and their contexts but also the design of processes through which these may be conceived and understood. Through cross-disciplinary methods and theories the design of an inclusive and responsive process highlights the ecological nature of interior design interventions.
Stewart, SC 2003, 'Architecture Reviewing Theory: Sir Henry Wotton's Dialectical Articulation of Vitruvian Theory', Architectural Theory Review, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 186-200.View/Download from: Publisher's site
In the introduction to his text of 1624, The Elements of Architecture Sir Henry Wotton briefly, and critically, reviews the texts of the Vitruvian theoretical tradition to date. He concludes that none of his predecessors have adequately articulated the precepts of ancient architecture. Their texts, he variously suggests, are muddled, overly concerned with rhetorical style, or limited by their attention to purely local (non-English) conditions. He proposes his Elements of Architecture as a remedy for this lamentable slate of affairs. It would be an error to dismiss this introduction as mere rhetorical flourish, for its critical focus upon the style of Wotton's predecessors draws attention to the deliberate construction of his own text. It reveals the parallel between the architecture of Wotton's prose and that of an exemplary Vitruvian edifice: both building and text are ruled by order, clarity, symmetry, economy and decorum. Wotton's text might be read as an eloquent argument for the proximity of theory to architecture. The analogous relation of these two realms of practice is a familiar theme within classical discourse. However, this paper argues that Wotton. for all his apparent simplicity, is making a sophisticated claim. He emphasises not only the intelligibility of theoretical discourse, but also its resistance to closure. The Aristotelian dialectic of his 'method' acknowledges the limits of authorship. In Wotton's text the proximity of theory and architecture allows a reversal of the usual relationship: architecture reviews theory as much as theory reviews architecture. This paper reflects on Wotton's dialectical method. and observes the potential for architecture to review theory
Stewart, SC, Hanna, B, Thompson, S, Gusheh, M, Armstrong, H & van der Plaat, D 2003, 'Navigating the Sea of Diversity: Multicultural Place-Making in Sydney', International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations, vol. 3, pp. 239-252.
Stewart, SC 2001, 'Gathering, Disposing and the Cultivation of Judgement in Sir Henry Wotton's the Elements of Architecture', Architectural Theory Review, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 81-94.
Employing a hermeneutic approach to Sir Henry Wotton's seventeenth century text on architecture, this paper discloses the discourse on judgement that lies at its heart. Wotton's conception of judgement is Aristotelian, and refers to Aristotle's Ethics; specifically his discourses on practical reasoning, legislation and political wisdom. Addressed to the aristocratic amateur architects of Jacobean England. The Elements of Architecture seeks to provide a 'rule' to guide the cultivation of good judgment in architecture. Nuances of the relationship between 'rule' and 'example' in Wotton's conception of judgement are examined, highlighting a consonance with the play between logos and ethos that is characteristic of Aristotelian ethics. This play, it is argued, is crucial to Wotton's conception of both judgement and architectural making
Petterd, C, Hamshere, J, Stewart, SC, Brinch, KM, Masi, T & Roux, CP 1999, 'Glass Particles In The Clothing Of Members Of The Public In South-eastern Australia - A Survey', Forensic Science International, vol. 103, no. 3, pp. 193-198.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This study was undertaken to test the validity of the proposal that there is a natural background level of glass particles on the surface of clothing of members of the community. A total of 2008 upper outer garments collected from random members of the p
Stewart, SC 1994, 'Past Progress: Sydney's Multi-Storey Office Buildings of the 1950s and 1960s', The Trust Quarterly, vol. September.
Stewart, SC 2014, 'Design Research' in Coghlan, D & Brydon-Miller, M (eds), The Sage Encyclopedia of Action Research, SAGE Publications Ltd, London, England, pp. 245-247.
Sherringham, SJ & Stewart, SC 2011, 'Fragile constructions: processes for reshaping learning spaces' in Boys, J & Boddington, A (eds), Reshaping Learning, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, pp. 105-118.
Stewart, SC & Taylor, J 2001, 'The Building and its Making' in Jennifer Taylor (ed), Tall Buildings Australian Business Going Up: 1945-1970, Craftsman House, Sydney, Australia, pp. 126-149.
Stewart, SC & Taylor, J 2001, 'The Building and the City' in Jennifer Taylor (ed), Tall Buildings Australian Business Going Up: 1945-1970, Craftsman House, Sydney, Australia, pp. 92-111.
Stewart, SC & Taylor, J 2001, 'The Building and the Sun' in Jennifer Taylor (ed), Tall Buildings Australian Business Going Up: 1945-1970, Craftsman House, Sydney, Australia, pp. 112-125.
McDermott, R & Stewart, SC 2015, 'Negotiating technology change: the challenge of designing lighting with LEDs for domestic settings.', Proceedings of the ASA 49th International Conference of the Architectural Science Association, Australian and New Zealand Architectural Science Association (ANZAScA) Annual Conference, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, pp. 1169-1182.
The focus of this paper is on the shift from the GLS (incandescent) technologies that dominated 20th century experience of light, to Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). It argues that expectations, based upon the performance and behaviour of 20th century lighting technologies, have profoundly influenced the direction taken in developing LED technologies for lighting design applications. However, the light from LEDs, stubbornly refuses to conform to the norms of previous forms of lighting. As a light source the LED is completely different in feeling, form and technological delivery, and does not easily create the same lighting conditions as the 20th century light sources. The profound differences between GLS and LED lighting mean that the expectations of both designers and consumers are often inappropriate, and contribute to unsatisfactory applications of the technology. This paper reports on findings from experimental, practice-based research into approaches to lighting design using LED technologies. The research posed a series of questions around designing with LEDS: How can designers come to grips with the challenges and potential of LED technology? What changes in attitudes and expectations for lighting does this new technology require from designers and consumers? What radically different possibilities for lighting design might emerge once we move beyond the conditioning and practices established by 20th century light sources?
Sherringham, SJ & Stewart, SC 2010, 'Fragile constructions? Processes for re-shaping learning spaces', Reshaping Learning Conference, Brighton, England.
Dorst, K, Stewart, SC, Staudinger, K, Paton, RJ & Dong, A 2010, 'Proceedings of the 8th Design Thinking Research Symposium (DTRS8)', Interpreting Design Thinking, Design Thinking Research Symposium 8, DAB documents, University of Technology, Sydney, pp. 1-426.
Stewart, SC & Lorber-Kasunic, J 2006, 'Akrasia and the ethical design curriculum', Enhancing Curricula: contributing to the future, meeting the challenges of the 21st century in the disciplines of art, design and communication, Enhancing Curricula: contributing to the future, meeting the challenges of the 21st century in the disciplines of art, design and communication, CLTAD, University of Arts, London, Lisbon, Portugal, pp. 343-362.
Stewart, SC 2004, 'Hermeneutics and Cross-Cultural Design: Reflections on community consultation and collaboration by designers in Fairfield, Sydney', Design Research Society (UK) International Conference - Futureground, Design Research Society (UK) International Conference, Monash University, Faculty of Art and Design, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 1-13.
Stewart, SC 2002, 'Phronesis, Praxis and Techne: The politics of Sir Henry Wottons distinction between architect and critic', Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) Annual Conference, Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) Annual Conference, Society of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand, Brisbane, Australia, pp. 77-84.
Stewart, SC 2000, 'On reason and habit: An Aristotelian approach to design theory', Proceedings of the Conference Doctural Education in Design: Foundations for the Future France July 2000, Staffordshire University Press, N/A, pp. 0-0.
Stewart, SC 2000, 'Stories and Structures', Formulation Fabrication: the Architecture of History. Proceedings of the Seventeenth annual conference of the Society of Achitectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, Society of Achitectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand Incoraporated in South Australia, N/A, pp. 0-0.
Stewart, SC 1998, 'Firmness and Infirmity in Sir Henry Wotton's Elements of Architecture', FIRM(ness) commodity DE-light?:questioning the canons, The Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, Melbourne, pp. 347-355.
Stewart, SC & Taylor, J 1994, 'A Challenge to Typology: Outcomes of a Study on Qualities of Post War Office Buildings in Australia', Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) Annual Conference, Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) Annual Conference, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.
Taylor, J & Stewart, SC Australian Heritage Commission 1994, Post World War II Multistoried Office Buildings in Australia, Canberra.