Design Process as Complex System

Design Process as Complex System

R. Barelkowski 

West-Pomeranian University of Technology, Szczecin, Poland.

1 January 2018
| Citation



Can a design process be complex system? Can it fulfill various criteria related to complexity, while its goals are, usually, temporarily defined and the process itself is expected to provide particular solutions transferable into physical volumes and solid environmental components?

It is apparent that the majority design cases do not follow traits and requirements of complexity, but this limitation seems to be related to natural tendency of simplification within architectural routines. Particularly public works, significant for the community, require the approach broadening the scope of understanding of spatial phenomenon, its role and its composition as a result of various programmatic, ideological, formal, and engineering aspects, embedded in complexity theoretical background.

Seven principal components of complexity, given by Rzevski and Skobelev, are more or less explicitly or implicitly present in design practice, and in particular, in design process: connectivity, autonomy, emergence, non-equilibrium, nonlinearity and self-organization. The aspect of evolution is the least apparent and there are significant limitations to what can be achieved there, mostly the process can evolve, while designed substance rarely can follow in the same flexible manner. In the paper I will argue that approach related to complexity is the general mode of architectural design, simplified in many cases due to human inclination to reduce the number of simultaneously processed problems and usually resulting in some design flaws or failures. This complex structure of design process, exemplified in the paper as a particular research case – the process for local cultural center – is the basis, which can be furthermore simplified, contrary to the idea that it is more sophisticated, non-standard approach. Working not only with the client, but with various types of users is a typical architectural condition, implementing significant constraints and at the same time forcing multiple organization arrangements within the process. The case will provide the platform to discuss broader idea of design as complex environment for the architect.


architectural design process, complex system, complexity, Meta-Design

1. Introduction
2. Architectural Complexity – A Brief Panorama
3. Complexity Model in Architecture
4. Complexity in Architectural Project
5. Conclusion

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