The diagram, by Lois Papadopoulos

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(…) 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

The Circular Economy Concept in Design Education

This is an experiment in the framework TU Delft led Horizon 2020 Project called REPAiR: two MSc courses were transformed to integrate aspects of different fields of expertise. Students were introduced to two resource flows that were previously identified as key flows by the local stakeholders: food waste, and construction and demolition waste and were expected to show a deep understanding of CE and its spatial implications

(…) incorporating the concept of CE in an integrative manner in urban design and planning courses is challenging because of its metabolic and complex nature (…) (1) the city is a complex, self-organizing system, where economy is an important factor, but not the dominant one; (2) the focus of CE approaches on the production side of the value chain and the under-representation of the need for sustainable consumption patterns as crucial aspect for the transition towards a CE; (3) the exclusion of land as a resource although it is one of the most valuable resources of regions; (4) the neglecting of infrastructure, both as a resource, but also as an instrument to steer circular policies; and (5) that the dominant approach ignores the importance of different scales for closing resource loops (…) overcoming these inadequacies requires the integration of expertise on resource flows and industrial processes.

Challenges of integrating practices of circular economy in education were overcome by collaboration with researchers in a situated environment that allowed: “an enhanced problem definition, a substantial participation of societal partners in education and an enhanced valorisation of student work via partner institutes.” Supporting course elements were also integrated such as lectures; workshops and tutor preparation. An overall of 200 students participated in the courses whose work was later evaluated as to the integration of CE principles and resources flows.

One clear effect of the integration of the CE concept into teaching was that the students understood that they needed to address challenges from a systemic perspective rather early into the design process.

References: Wandl, Alexander, Verena Balz, Lei Qu, Cecilia Furlan, Gustavo Arciniegas and Ulf Hackauf. “The Circular Economy Concept in Design Education: Enhancing Understanding and Innovation by Means of Situated Learning.” Urban Planning 4, no. 3, (2019): 63-75. DOI: 10.17645/up.v4i3.2147, full article available here

Cedrik Price: the architecture of the individual and its social relatedness, The McAppy Project

In 1973, following the strikes that beset the British construction industry during the early 1970s, Alistair McAlpine commissioned a design program for his construction company, Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons, that aimed to increase production efficiency and improve labour relations. Cedric Price’s proposal took the format of a two-volume report and a Portable Enclosures Programme (PEP) which, while presenting a critical view of building sites, also demonstrated his ambition to go beyond the immediate brief, employing architectural knowledge and thoughtful design to respond to pressing societal issues and human necessities.

Excerpt from the 2017 CCA Exhibition Catalog entitled: What About Happiness on the Building Site?
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The project emphasizes “the social role and responsibility of the architect by rethinking traditional field practices and pursuing strategies to initiate social progress through critical research, new tools and experimental attitudes” (Domus, 2017). The designer becomes the moderator of social activity (Herdt, 2016).

To qualify labour on building sites, Price acknowledged the need to reframe the relations between the multiple actors involved, from government to service suppliers, from technical staff to workers’ unions. He often stressed the importance of communicating to everyone, from the workers to the administrative personnel, the purposes and goals of the report, introducing “a participatory form of Company planning” and resisting the tendency for decision making to be “too top heavy.”

Full text available here
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The many faces of sustainability

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Sustainability is referred to as related to…

  • energy efficient high-tech, low-tech, or vernacular strategies
  • health, well-being, and quality of life issues
  • an analogy to natural forms or from processes in natural systems
  • performance over appearance
  • appearance over performance
  • intelligent and responsive materials, renewable, recyclable, biodegradable
  • sensory perception
  • resilience and circular economy
  • not building at all and instead promote virtualization
  • ecological footprinting and consumerist lifestyles
  • best practice guidelines, assessment methods

All above-mentioned concepts are context-specific and inevitably contested. Enacting and translating sustainability in arch design practices can occur in different stages of the design/build process:

  • during the design brief phase that defines the sustainability targets: translating the concept of sustainability into design practices, recognizing the controversial issues to tackle/ those is in charge of giving directions should ask those bidding to work on giving meaning to these goals
  • when analyzing the ways in which design strategies are constructed between the distinct vocational design actors
  • when establishing supposed equivalences between projected and actual design


Schröder, T. (2018). Giving meaning to the concept of sustainability in architectural design practices: Setting out the analytical framework of translation. Sustainability10(6), 1-15. [1710]. DOI: 10.3390/su10061710

The value of detailed maps at the neighborhood level

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The author claims the need of a systematic approach “that brings together the design of built environments with the best scientific knowledge of processes of change in complex natural and social systems.” Urban planning must work within these systems that require local info (through participatory practices) and the creation of technical solutions. He thinks the challenge is mapping informality as cities grow in unpredictable ways. He also claims that cities are about connections: “the socioeconomic and physical links that allow each one of us to make a living, obtain services that make our lives easier, and learn and invest our time and resources.”

The effects of connections can be traced as the concentration of social networks in space and time where the value of a group is not proportional to the group’s numbers, but to its interactions. GPS tracking, and smart phone technologies can help track the networks.

New methods from urban science allow the accelerated evolution of these neighborhoods to follow natural urban processes. They are based in part on the mathematical analysis of detailed maps, including the development of algorithms to optimize building access, delivery of services, formalization of land, and taxation, with minimal disturbance and cost.

Planning through the development of detailed maps at the neighborhood level is also an effective way to capture local, person-centric knowledge, providing a clear vehicle for better local politics via the coordination of priorities and action from communities, local governments, and other stakeholders. The convergence of a networked science of cities, quantitative methods of spatial analysis, and information technology tools is key to allow users to participate.

Full text available here

Luís M. A. Bettencourt (2019) Designing for Complexity: The Challenge to Spatial Design from Sustainable Human Development in Cities Technology|Architecture + Design, 3:1, 24-32, DOI: 10.1080/24751448.2019.1571793

Design-Build: Definitions and Criticisms

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Abdullah, 2011: separation of design and building could be the philosophical difference between thinkers (designers) and doers (builders)

Harriss & Widder, 2014: Design build projects exist between the two tectonic plates of learning in academia and practice

Vlahos, 2000: Conventional studio projects present a disconnect from the needs of people and places and the understanding of different cultures. The outcomes of the theoretical studio projects are strongly developed, controlled, formal solutions with little understanding of the architectural intervention in communities. Students engage predominantly with theoretical, fictional projects.

Nepveux, 2010: Being involved physically in building allows students to reconcile their drawings with real structures they can build, weld, wire and plumb

Delport, 2016: Design-build projects have as outcome a physical product made through a process that can vary greatly in scope, focus and intent. They bring in tacit knowledge to the curriculum. The object contributes to social change and improving the lives of others

Van der Wath, 2013: it is an oscillation between the abstract to the concrete that allows students to develop the intellectual agility to tackle the complexities of arch innovation and experimentation that they will use in prof. practice

Brown, 2014: Live Projects’ greatest opportunity is not that it is a place to reflect on one’s own learning but, that it is a place to share that learning and reflection with others (Engestrom: a collective activity system is driven by a deeply communal motive)


Erdman, 2002: hands-on built projects in attempting to close the gap between designing and building replace the reflective process of design with the active process of building (-) they resist theorizing and critical discourse (-)

Chiles & Till, 2004: balance between practice and education encourages students to position themselves politically (+) prevarication is also not possible as the luxury of long-term studio development is removed (+)

Christenson & Srivastava, 2005: Focus on completion within a specific time frame overrides the value of process

Foot, 2012: where the completion and the focus on the end product are taken out of the equation, the notion of reflection, open-endedness and non linearity allows students to discover a variety of possible solutions


Hermie Elizabeth Delport, 2016, Towards Design-Build Architectural Education and Practice: Exploring Lessons from Educational Design-Build Projects, PhD Thesis, Prof Johannes Cronjé, Faculty of Informatics and Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology

The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam, Jan Rothuizen


From the WeMakeTheCity Festival website:

Jan Rothuizen loves to map his surroundings, drawing more than streets and buildings: he shows how people experience the city and visualises the atmosphere and the diversity of the population. He also includes economic and social changes of neighbourhoods. Amsterdam is a wonderful playground, as the city changes every day, on a large and small scale. Rothuizen witnesses and documents these changes with his very personal wit and enthusiasm.


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

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