The lesser-known work of cybernetician and architect Annetta Pedretti on designing in the context of time provides an alternative way to think through questions related to open-systemic practices, futuring and the politics of difference. By tracing her projects across different forms and scales (from objects to buildings), I will propose two ways Pedretti’s position on time becomes significant. The first relates to the ways in which she formulated the link between time and the idea of an open-systemic practice.
Pedretti’s work presents a different version of better-known discussions on conversational and learning processes in systemic and second-order cybernetic practices, such as those of Gordon Pask and Ranulph Glanville. However, Pedretti’s work was not limited to institutional research settings and often took place in the context of her everyday life. As such, her work is closer to the work of MC Bateson and explores what it means to “attend” and “compose differences” within everyday practices. The second relates to how Pedretti’s move on making time public enables alternative ways of navigating our present—a present defined by phenomena such as accelerationism amplified by the problematic positive feedback loops between technology and design formulated within the logical categories of the market. Design and real estate relations exemplify how accelerationist processes act ontologically to take away the future of many life forms to preserve the interests of a few. Pedretti’s house at 25 Princelet Street acts to this date as a site of resistance against such processes. It provides a way of thinking through the impasse many designers face in dealing with time under de-futured conditions.
Keywords: open systems, learning, futuring, second-order cybernetics, time, change, design, architecture