Ben Spong

Systemic design concerns itself with understanding the difference made by placing and framing boundaries. Systemic practices such as boundary critique and gigamapping provide methods for dealing with the inherent complexity this consideration entails. Similar questions arise in the practice of architecture on both literal and abstract terms, such as determining the edge of a building or deciding who and which stakeholders should be included in a design consultation meeting.

What is unique to architectural practice is that it has the capacity to make the boundary spatial, thus enabling it to be experienced phenomenally. Ranulph Glanville recognises this in his concept of zero space, a space between the inside and outside, the thickness of walls. For Glanville, zero space was a way of making architectural his thinking and work on distinctions which form the theoretical grounding for the work presented here.

In this presentation, I discuss two architectural design research projects from my practice that tease out the potential of architecture for understanding what is at stake from the placement of boundaries and their relative position to an observer. The projects ask to what extent can architecture, as a form of systemic design practice, lead to new ways of marking distinctions (making and placing boundaries) which resist the reduction of others.

Keywords: systemic design, cybernetics, design, practice, knowledge, knowing, ecology

This presentation is accompanied by the exhibit, Mirror in the Bathroom, an aluminium cabinet sited in a one-bedroom flat in London. It generates spatial possibilities by orchestrating notions of projection (temporal and pictorial) and registration between human, non-human, and technological others.

Citation Data

Author(s): Ben Spong
Year: 2022
Title: Practicing Architecture In The Distinction
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 152
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 21 September 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested citation format (APA)

Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

Publishing with RSD

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

Papers and presentations are entered into a single-blind peer-review process, meaning reviewers see the authors’ names but not vice versa. Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution and whether it addresses topics of interest or raises relevant issues in systemic design. The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

Editor: Cheryl May
Peter Jones
Ben Sweeting

The Scholars Spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The Systemic Design Association's membership ethos is to co-create the socialization and support for all members to contribute their work, find feedback and collaboration where needed, and pursue their pathways toward research and practice outcomes that naturally build a vital design field for the future.


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