The Generator project as a paradigm for systemic design

Format: Papers, RSD8, Topic: Methods & Methodology

In systemic design, agreements over how to resolve wicked problems may be quickly outdated by changing circumstances and unforeseen consequences. One approach is thus to design systems that can adapt or be adapted to the circumstances they find themselves in. Adaptability may, however, act conservatively, making outdated resolutions more resilient and so harder to change. In order to explore adaptability further, this paper introduces a precedent from the discipline of architecture: Generator – an unbuilt proposal for a retreat centre designed by Cedric Price during the late 1970s. Strongly influenced by the work of cybernetician Gordon Pask via consultants Julia and John Frazer, not only could Generator be reconfigured by its human participants to support different activities, it also had the capacity to rearrange itself should it be left in the same configuration for too long. Interpreting the project in terms of the role of difference in Pask’s conversation theory, this paper explores Generator as a possible paradigm for systemic design in situations where a stable consensus for action is either unfeasible or undesirable.

Citation Data

Author(s): Ben Sweeting
Title: The Generator project as a paradigm for systemic design
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 4 October 2019
Last update:
Publisher Identification:

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.


Verified by MonsterInsights