4.273 | Fall 2004 | Graduate

Introduction to Design Inquiry

Lecture Notes

01a Metaphors We Design and Compute By Metaphor is a powerful, conceptual device for structuring and thinking about an unfamiliar, new, or abstract domain of experience or knowledge (say, computation) in terms of another domain that is more familiar or concrete. The view of metaphor that we will work from is taken from the contemporary theory of metaphor developed by George Lakoff and others. We will examine the different, mostly unconscious metaphors that we use in thinking about and doing computation and design. We will look at the ways these metaphors highlight, emphasize, and enable some ways of thinking about computation and design, while disabling or marginalizing others. These reflections may point us to new ways of seeing and doing computation in design.
01b Metaphors We Design and Compute By (cont.) [Review] The class was divided in teams and each one worked on the metaphors that the students used in their Statement of Purpose to structure their thinking about design and computation.
02a Silent Game Guest Speaker: William Porter

In playing out the Silent Game, our intention is to provide a stage for experiencing directly and collectively some of the communication paradoxes that emerge from the design and reading of simple artifacts. The silent game allows exploration of how meaning gets embedded in, and conveyed through, form, and reveals issues of communication between builders and readers of an artifact. The Silent Game provides an opportunity to model some of these phenomena, play them out, and witness their interactions, thereby enlightening the mechanics of creation and recognition.

02b Silent Game (cont.) Guest Speaker: William Porter

Guest Critic: Edith Ackermann

[Review] After playing the Silent Game in class and after reading Habraken’s Concept Design Games, Book Two, students were to formulate an issue that, in their minds, was not clearly revealed in the Silent Game, an issue that they wanted to explore through some ingenious variation of the game. The issue could be related to areas such as confirmation of specific moves or of design intent, development of trust, differentiation of roles, design styles, etc.

03a Design, Rules, and Cognition Guest Speaker: Takehiko Nagakura

With this module, the course enters a more computation-focused part. The approach to readings and presentations from this part and on will be on at least two levels - one “reflexive”, the other “technical or methodological” - with lots of room for levels in-between. At the reflexive level, the focus will be on the informal assumptions and discourses surrounding a particular computational approach in design. The objective will be to develop a critical awareness of the metaphors that a particular approach uses to frame, explicitly or implicitly, thinking about design. At the technical level, the focus will be on the specific, mostly formal, techniques, methods, and applications of a computational approach, and the effectiveness and limitations of the approach. The technical level might also extend to a more “theoretical” level for some approaches.

03b Design, Rules, and Cognition (cont.) Guest Speaker: Takehiko Nagakura

[Review] Open Experiment. The class was divided into designers and players. The designers prepared a set of shapes and assembled rules from an architectural drawing. The players used the set to solve a design problem. Through this experiment, the class examined the roles rules can play in representation of design knowledge as well as different ways rules themselves are encoded to embody such knowledge.

03c Design, Practice, Education, Grammars Speaker: Terry Knight

What is the dilemma of the practitioner and what are its sources?

What are the special attributes of problems in practice that make them non-amenable to the techniques of technical rationality?

What is problem-solving versus problem setting or problem framing?

These are some of the questions that this module explored, through the reading of Donald Schön’s book Educating the Reflective Practitioner and Terry Knight’s “Shape Grammars in Education and Practice: History and Prospects” paper.

04 Evolutionary Computation: Algorithms Red in Tooth and Claw Guest speaker: Simon Greenwold

This module explored the impact of evolutionary computation, genetic programming and software agents on architectural design exploration.

05a Visual Calculating Guest Speaker: George Stiny

The module Visual Calculating continues themes that the class is now familiar with - metaphor, framing, reflection-in-action, etc. as essential aspects of design. All are about new and different ways of looking at things in terms of what we already know or have at hand. In this module, these themes are revisited in a very specific computational context, that of shape grammars.

05b Visual Calculating (cont.) Guest Speaker: George Stiny

Special Feature: Naqoyqatsi / Life as War, by Godfrey Reggio. Score by Philp Glass.

06a Digital Fabricating Guest Speaker: Larry Sass

In this module, Larry Sass will explore issues facing digital fabrication and design: Theories of computation have been in practice since the early 1980s, but most, if not all, have yet to make their way into an architectural office. Although architects use computers, computers serve to represent ideas as images in two dimensions or final models for fabrication in three dimensions. The question is: can computation serve the profession of architecture in the way that computation has served monetary industries? Can computers be used as a device that is more than a tool of representation? I believe that digital fabrication devices are the beginning of the relationship between ideas, building at any scale, and computation. How can this new concept of representation serve the profession, and what computational methods will best support the relationship between the three?

06b Digital Fabricating (cont.) Guest Speaker: Larry Sass

Continued discussion of themes introduced in Lecture 06a.

07a Design Tooling Guest Speakers: Stelios Dritsas, Axel Kilian, Yanni Loukissas

The design tooling web is a repository of knowledge about computation for designers. It is intended to act as an entry point into both technical and conceptual issues for people in design research and education. The goal of this repository is to develop a map of the heterogeneous terrain of theories, concepts, methods, languages and platforms currently available.

07b Design Tooling (cont.) Guest Speakers: Stelios Dritsas, Axel Kilian, Yanni Loukissas

Continued discussion of themes introduced in Lecture 07a.

08 Your Design Metaphor A variey of different approaches to computation and design were introduced throughout the semester. Each came with overt or implicit, sometimes very powerful, metaphors for conceptualizing design. Students are asked now to reflect on their own metaphor for design, or more specifically for computational design.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2004