Architecture of Complexity: design, systems, society and environment
June 14-17, 2017 I Salt Lake City I University of Utah
Co-chairs: Ryan E. Smith, Keith Diaz Moore, Wei Zhao
Architecture is contextually contingent. Once the social, economic, and environmental networks and systems that presuppose architecture become a fundamental context for design, then the capability and culpabilities of architecture and its systems become newly, and more intensely, important. Ulrich Beck suggests that we are in a new phase of modernity in which architects’ operations can be characterized by the development and implementation of contextual systems of increasing hazard. Our belief that society can control the dangers that itself produces is self-defeating. Ulrich suggests that we wrestle today with the side effects of yesterday’s successes. How can we ensure a tomorrow that does not suffer from the same fate?
Systems thinking focuses on large-scale dynamic networks, rather than linear cause-and-effect relationships. In building, thinking systemically requires an equifinality approach: recognition that there are multiple ways to answer the problem of building, which lead in turn to different ways to organize design practice. Further, systems thinking uses multi-finality: recognition that similar initial conditions of cost, scale, and scope can yield widely different building results. This demands a broader understanding of what constitutes architecture. It demands a more systemic and holistic approach to the built environment.
Complicatedness is unforgiving in building, and the call for holistic thinking risks being inflated to an obtuse level where the system becomes an unmanageable mess of parts and relationships that become too untraceable to mean much of anything. As such, systems thinking in building practice requires defining the extent of the system – framing the inquiry to determine the specific parts, linkages, and networks. This makes architecture of complicatedness into an architecture of complexity. While complicatedness is confusing, alienating, and inefficient; complexity is rigorous, rich, layered, and meaningful.
The conference theme is the architecture of complexity. It seeks for the creation, clarification, codification and communication of research knowledge on architecture as design, systems, society and environmental networks. This call is for papers that span the modalities and domains of research, scholarship and creative work in architecture: history, theory, criticism, quantitative, qualitative, technical, applied, classroom, and practice. This is also a call for allied disciplines in planning, design, engineering and business, as well as the physical and social sciences to ask questions and begin to answer why, what, and how of complexity in the built environment.
Abstracts due November 1, 2016. More info forthcoming.