The diagram, by Lois Papadopoulos

Image available here

(…) However, by entrusting the objectivity* of the morphogenesis to the sphere of nature, and in fact to theories that are far too general to be productive and useful, architecture is stranded on the shores of a programmatic bewilderment: if it does not focus on the production of forms, but on the natural and hence objective rules* of morphogenesis, all architectural outcomes and all that they entail are rendered fair and equal: this signifies the annulment of the field of meaning. And because meaning is a social construct, that which is pushed aside by the impetuous return of the natural is, precisely, the social -it is society, it is history (…) However, in the proposed process of natural morphogenesis, the architectural forms do not realise a project but are the outcome of the construction of events, as algorithmic interpretations of information data. The architect is given a new responsibility -not to design the forms but to prepare a bare field of possibilities on which the forces of reality will develop on objective* terms. The resolution of conflicts results into a valid though un-planned, unforeseen, uncanny and consequently estranging architectural form. In contrast, in the practised strategies of architectural design, where subjective* initiative is required by the designer, the construction of the uncanny, of the unexpected and the unforeseen, the estrangement or the paroxysm of architecture’s inherent indeterminability aims to alter conventional socio-spatial relations and differential meaning-giving outcomes (…) This acrobatic, risky relationship between intention and coincidence, between the design’s theoretical abstraction and the existence of reality’s multiple parameters, between natural disorder and intellectual order, perhaps between desire and need -this is what the introduction of the mythologised diagram is attempting to determine in digital strategies: it is an idea bordering on a game, a pseudoscientific mechanism of protestant deincrimination for the abundant pleasures provided by the exceptional new voluptuous spatial experiences of digital design, a ruse aiming to prevent the abolition of the responsibility of designing and to restore the designer’s initiative.

*Are the rules of morphogenesis indeed objective? or just a logical (con)sequence of events based on voluntary data interpretation? In this case, the design process -traditional or digital- is always subjective.

Read full paper here

On design and politics

Excerpts of the Wouter Vanstiphout interview to Rory Hyde (MVRDV) for the Australian design review in 2011. Full article available here

If you really want to change the city, or want a real struggle, a real fight, then it would require re-engaging with things like public planning for example, or re-engaging with government, or re-engaging with large-scale institutionalised developers. I think that’s where the real struggles lie, that we re-engage with these structures and these institutions, this horribly complex ‘dark matter’. That’s where it becomes really interesting (…) I do believe that architecture and design as a combination of pure speculation, rhetorical poetics and technical capacity, could play a role in politics. It could re-shape certain discussions and therefore create its own inevitability (…) I don’t think architects have to shed their visionary status, their ‘good’ arrogance, or their speculative powers, if only they would realise that things are contextual! Acknowledge the fact that the deepest meaning in what they do is directly related to the context in which they do it.

Wouter Vanstiphout is member of Crimson Historians & Urbanists and professor of Design as Politics at TU Delft

Theory of Man-Environment Relations, by Irwin Altman


Four philosophical models of the human:

  1. mechanistic model: the human as a task-oriented organism, understood and described only in relation to the task at hand/ human as a passive agent merely enacting the designer’s plan of use and having no agency
  2. perceptual-cognitive-motivational model: the human as an ‘internal processing organism’ with subjective traits
  3. behaviorist model: this focused on external human actions in the environment instead of internal thoughts and feelings and intentions. (it does not identify however with Skinner’s operant psychology)/ Altman classifies here all action-centric and interactionalist descriptions of human engagements with the environment without excluding intentions and motivational states
  4. ecological model: declared human behavior and environment a mutually constituting, dynamic ensemble/ Behavior itself, in other words, resided in the relation between the human and social and material contexts/ this model promoted an agentive understanding of the human/ Altman also emphasized its model’s utility for establishing a common ground among social scientists and designers thus cultivating the conditions of interdisciplinary collaboration/ it offered a reconciliatory mechanism between the unit and the whole, the small and the large scale, analysis and synthesis, thus urging scientists and practitioners to “surpass the provincialism of their parent professions”



Vardouli, Th., 2016. User Design: Constructions of the “user” in the history of design research. In 2016 Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference, 27-30 June 2016, Brighton, UK

Image available here

Clinical-Applied-Basic Research


Clinical_FOR DESIGN RESEARCH: focuses on design problems that are specific and individual cases requiring information for that unique situation/ primarily prescriptive research methods for specific and feasible design solutions (Downton)/ Notably, research for design is the category of research that most practitioners and many academics associate with the term “Design Research”/ Many of the methods briefly mentioned in this section could generate findings that are relevant beyond the scope of one clinical situation, but often they are inadequately developed in practice.

Applied_THROUGH DESIGN RESEARCH: focuses on investigating general classes of design problems or products. The common trait of applied research is the [systematic] attempt to gather from many individual cases a hypothesis or several hypotheses that may explain how a class of products takes place/ The most important aspect of research through design is that it seeks to provide an explanation or theory within a broader context/ Buchanan calls it Dialectic Science or Productive Science and includes the study of form and function in relation to human activity, as well as the study of materials/ it is derived from and valuable for practice; it is growing rapidly; both practitioners and researchers are contributing significantly to the literature and on-line discussions; the discussion is extensive, addressing hundreds of approaches; and much of the subject matter has been derived from the social sciences, business, and marketing/ In her evolving map of design research methods, Sanders represents the range of attitudes towards human-oriented design, from the expert mindset and the participatory mindset, in both research-led and design-led inquiries/

Basic_ABOUT DESIGN RESEARCH: research about or into design as the work that is “carried out under the heading of other disciplines/ searching for “an explanation in the experience of designers and those who use products”/ designers may also raise questions that are not characteristic of other disciplines because often the answers are translated into form, colour, and the objects that surround us. This affords practitioners, students, and educators with the challenge to produce discipline specific knowledge that may be communicated by drawings, sketches, models, and other visual representations embodying non-verbal codes or messages as well



Frankel, L., Racine, M., 2010. The Complex Field of Research: for Design, through Design, and about Design.  Paper presented at the International Conference of the Design Research Society, Montréal, July 2010.

Image available here

Knowledge and Design, 1972


Design proceeds by conjecture-analysis than by analysis-synthesis (…) if research is to make an impact on design it must influence designers at the pre-structuring and conjectural stages (…) regardless the quality of research work itself, the history of attempts to link research to improvements in environmental action is largely one of confusion and failure (…) there is a widespread feeling that an ‘applicability gap’ has developed between research and design (…) far from being removed from the field of science, the cognitive schemes by which we interpret the world and pre-structure our observations are increasingly seen to be the essential subject matter of science (…) we cannot escape from the fact that designers must, and do, pre-structure their problems in order to solve them (…) Popper: science could be contained within a hypothetico-deductive scheme/ Kuhn: science as a puzzle solving activity until the next paradigm switch/ Lakatos: science as conflicting sets of inter-related theories (…) the object of science is cognition (…) remaking cognition (…) SO FARthe role of scientific work is to provide factual information that can be assimilated into design; second that a rationalised design process, able to assimilate such information, would characteristically and necessarily proceed by decomposing a problem into its elements, adding an information content to each element drawn as far as possible from scientific work, and “synthesizing” a solution by means of a set of logical or procedural rules (…) design as we know it can be seen as the socially differentiated transformation of the reflexive cognition of the maker in terms of the latent possibilities of his tools, materials and object types. Its object is not the building, but at one remove, sets of instructions for the building (…) NOW: we can imagine a man and an object he will create as though separated by a space which is filled, on the one hand, with tools and raw materials which we can call his ‘instrumental set’, (or perhaps technological means) and on the other, a productive sequence or process by which an object may be realized (…) we would argue that design is essentially a matter of pre-structuring problems either by a knowledge of solution types or by a knowledge of the latencies of the instrumental set in relation to solution types, and that is why the process of design is resistant to the inductive-empiricist rationality so common in the field. A complete account of the designer’s operations during design, would still not tell us where the solution came from (…)  the polarization between rational and intuitive design should be reformulated as a polarity between reflexive design and non-reflexive design (…) four main types of elements: instrumental sets, solution types, codes and information (…) at this point of time a building is a climate modifier, a behavior modifier, a cultural modifier ad a resource modifier



Hillier, B., Musgrove, J., O’ Sullivan, P., 1972. Knowledge and Design. In William Mitchell (ed.), Environmental design: Research and Practice, edra3/ar8 conference, UCLA, January 1972

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  • Dewsbury: the process of putting together a mix of relations
  • Phillips: agencement/ arrangement,fixing, fitting
  • Wise 1: process of arranging and organizing and claims for identity, character and territoty
  • Ballantyne: new identities are generated through connections
  • De Landa 1: assemblage as a whole cannot be reduced to the aggregate properties of its parts since it is characterized by connections and capacities rather than the properties of the parts
  • Anderson & McFarlane 1: it includes heterogeneous human/non human, organic/inorganic, and technical/natural elements
  • De Landa 2: it is an alliance of heterogeneous elements
  • Wise 2: they are dynamically made and unmade in terms of the two axes of territorialisation (stabilization)/ deterritorialisation (destabilization) and language (express)/technology (material)
  • Dovey 1: assemblages are at once express and material
  • Farias 1: assemblages focus both on actual/material and possible/emergent
  • Deleuze & Guattari: they are fundamentally territorial
  • De Landa 3: territorialization is both spatial and non-spatial
  • Dovey 2: territory is a stabilized assemblage
  • Angelo: it addresses the inseparability of sociality and spatiality and the ways in which their relations and liaisons are established in the city and urban life
  • Anderson & McFarlane 2: it is an a priori reduction of sociality/spatiality to any fixed forms/set of forms of processes or relations
  • De Landa 4: assemblage theory offers a ‘bottom-up” ontology that works with analytical techniques rather than logical reasoning (…) the theory opposes the reduction of the entities to the essences asa deficiency of the social realism
  • De Landa 5: they are continuously in the process of emerging and becoming
  • Deleuze’s becoming-in-the-world as opposed to Heidegger’s being-in-the-world
  • Farias 2: assemblage thinking tends to develop empirical knowledge rather than theoretical analysis and critique / it is about inquiry and explorative engagement

assemblage and the city

  • Farias: the city as multiplicity rather than a whole
  • McFarlane: assemblage refers to ways in which urbanism is produced not as a “resultant formation” but as an ongoing process of construction (…) it refers to city as a verb in making urbanism through historical and potential relations
  • Dovey: assemblages are the main products of the “flows of desire”

assemblage and critical urbanism 

  • McFarlane: assemblage as a concept, orientation, and imaginary/ as a relational composition process that contributes to the labour and socio-materiality of the city/ as an orientation to the potentiality of actors and sites in relation to history, required labour, and the capacity of urban process/ it offers some orientations to “critical urbanism” in terms of focusing on potentiality, agency of materials and composition of the “social imaginary”
  • Tonkiss: assemblage thinking is likely to generate a “template urbanism,” rather than a critical one
  • Brenner, Madden & Wachsmuth: they adopt the theory in relation to the political economy


  • One of the critical contributions of assemblage thinking for understanding the complexity of the city problems is to encourage multiscalar thinking
  • the diagram can be understood as an “abstract machine” in Deleuzian concept of assemblage thinking. In this way, diagrammatic thinking can be used as a means to abstractly illustrate the complexities of an urban assemblage as both a product and process
  • mapping can be considered as an abstraction that has the capacity to unravel what De Landa (2005) calls “real virtuality”, which is a kind of “reality” that has not
    been “actualised” yet
  • diagrams, maps, and types have the capacity to produce a kind of “spatial knowledge” that can be effectively used as a basis to draw on the ways in which the city works in relation to spatiality and sociality. It also assists with specifying the space of possible solutions for the existing city problems and embodied capacities for transformational change
  • assemblage theory reads place as a multiplicity that is in the process of “becoming” in relation to social-spatial and material-express alignments



Kamalipour, H., Peimani, N., 2015. Assemblage Thinking and the City: Implications for Urban Studies. In Current Urban Studies, 2015, Vol.3, pp. 402-408,

Image: Topographie du sol, mars 1957 Assemblage d’empreintes. Signée «J. Dubuffet» et datée «57» en bas à gauche. Titrée, signée «J. Dubuffet» et datée «mars 57» au dos. 60 x 105 cm, Available here