Jose dos Santos Cabral Filho and Ana Paula Baltazar
Lagear, School of Architecture | Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG)
This paper presents a cybernetic structure adopted in an architecture design course that makes two interrelated shifts in the usual approach to architectural education and practice. One is the shift from teaching to learning, a shift from teaching design by framing and solving problems to what John Chris Jones names ‘designing designing’. The other relates to the transcendence of the usual participatory processes that, by over-relying on the professional’s culture, end up patronising socio-spatial groups and instead build a more conversational design approach. The shift from teaching to learning draws on Seymour Papert’s mathetics and the idea of peer-to-peer learning, which focuses on the centrality and responsibilities of the students in the educational process. Drawing on Vilém Flusser, the idea of responsibility extends from the learning process to the design practice and focuses more on its intersubjective and dialogical aspects than on the object itself. To reinforce this approach, we bring in ideas from Cedric Price, such as value-free and enabling, that point towards a wider and more open approach to design. From the teacher’s point of view, the challenge is to build a structure that does not impose ideas but offers them up for discussion so that students can build their own collective critical understanding. In order to enable such a structure, we have been experimenting with the dialogical strategy of Team Syntegrity proposed by Stafford Beer. However, somewhat different from Beer’s original protocol, which is directed to help decision-making, we have experimented with the syntegrity model in different contexts and with a diversity of purposes. One of the essential features that are crucial to our experience is the different roles the students play in each round as advocates, critics, and observers. In this paper, we discuss a dialogical experiment in which we adapted Team Syntegrity in a design project that linked students and a community-based in a Brazilian mining district. Our intention was to collaborate with a local theatre group and help with the renovation of their headquarters without resorting to conventional problem-solving techniques. The result was that not only did both students and the community become acquainted with the “designing designing” strategy, but the theatre group was able to see the renovation of their headquarters and the design of a building as part of a broader and more complex series of questions concerning the whole neighbourhood.
Keywords: syntegrity, open design, responsible design, value-free design, architectural education, emancipation