Architecture as Systems Design & Innovation Design Discipline

Christos Chantzaras

Talking about architecture can be in broad terms divided in talking about buildings and talking about processes. Focusing on the latter, architecture is a way of thinking and looking at things, people, spaces and interactions, which is close to systems design. In 2015, Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, stated that “architectural education is the best systems design education in the world.” In regard of Russel Ackoff, who graduated first in architecture before turning to operation research, the question arises, what exactly are these skills, that architecture and architectural education have in common with systems design, and what distinguishes them.

The paper proposal and talk is a first approach to clarify similarities and differences by reviewing the architectural programming method. The method is seen as medium through which the skills of architects as designer of systems are becoming visible, recognizable and comparable. The talk during the RSD 6 Symposium will give a brief look back on the history, principles and application of architectural programming and outline its relevance for defining a new approach of architectural design thinking. As management tools and methods, coming from decisions attitude, a are reaching limits in dealing with rising complexity, uncertainty and alternative thinking, architectural programming can provide a bridge towards the design attitude in developing new systems of organizations and innovation processes bringing the skills of architects (as abstracting complex socio-technical systems, understanding context and interrelations, applying non-linear thinking for handling wicked-problems and the ability for synthesis) into the decision zone of management tasks.

Regarded as a research and decision-making process that defines the problem to be solved by design, architectural programming integrates elements of scientific research, project management and architectural thinking. Considering its basic principle is to separate solution from the problem and extensively examine context, content and complexity of a (building) project, it can be viewed as a predecessor to the nowadays commonly applied design thinking method.

Selected projects from practice were presented, along with student’s works and workshops, resulting from a newly created initiative on Architectural Entrepreneurship at the TUM Department of Architecture. The question of how to raise awareness for architecture as “Systems Design & Innovation Design Discipline” was opened for discussion during RSD6, as well as what further steps may be appropriate for integration into architectural education.

Presentation & paper

Posted Oct-2017

RSD proceedings are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

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The Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium, RSD10.org, is November 3-6, 2021. 

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