Enablement or Restriction?

  • Thomas Fischer
Conference paper

In this paper I present and reflect upon a five-year investigation of designing digital tools for designing in the area of architectural space grid structures. I understand design as a novelty and knowledge generating conversational process as described by Pask (see Scott 2001) and Glanville (2000). Furthermore, I regard making design tools as a design task in itself, rendering this paper a reflection on designing for designing. This paper gives a report on observations I made during the toolmaking study, and subsequently contextualizes these observations using second-order cybernetic theory. This reflection focuses on different relationships between observers and systems, on conditions under which observers construct knowledge and on limits of supporting others in this activity.


Space Grid Digital Tool Grid Topology Subway System Liquid Foam 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baber, C: 2003, Cognition and Tool Use, Taylor and Francis, London.Google Scholar
  2. Bosse, C: 2004, Schwimmsporthalle für d. Olymp. Spiele 2008, Peking, Archplus 168: 33-35.Google Scholar
  3. Brakke, K: 1992, The Surface Evolver, Experimental Mathematics 1(2): 141-165.Google Scholar
  4. Downton, P: 2003, Design Research, RMIT University Press, Melbourne.Google Scholar
  5. Goodman, CS and Coughlin, BC: 2000, The evolution of evo-devo biology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97(9): 4424-4425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fischer, T, Fischer, T and Ceccato, C:2002, Distributed agents for morphologic and behavioral expression in cellular design systems,in G Proctor (ed), Proc. ACADIA 2002 Pomona, pp. 113-123.Google Scholar
  7. Fischer, T: 2002, Computation-universal voxel automata as material for generative design education, in: C Soddu (ed), Generative Art 2002 Conference Proceedings, Generative Design Lab, DIAP, Polytechnico Di Milano University, Italy, pp. 10.1-10.11.Google Scholar
  8. Fischer, T, Burry, M and Frazer, J: 2003a, Triangulation of generative form for parametric design and rapid prototyping, in: W Dokonal and U Hirschberg (eds), eCAADe 2003 Proceedings, Graz University of Technology, Austria, pp. 441-447.Google Scholar
  9. Fischer, T, Burry, M and Frazer, J: 2003b, How to plant a subway system, in: ML Chiu et al. (eds), CAAD Futures 2005, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 403-412.Google Scholar
  10. Fischer, T and Fischer, T: 2003a, Parametric voxel geometry control for digital morphogenesis, in Proceedings of the 19th European Workshop on Computational Geometry, Institute of Computer Science I, University of Bonn, pp. 35-40.Google Scholar
  11. Fischer, T and Fischer, T: 2003b, Toolmaking for digital morphogenesis, in G Proctor and W Jabi (eds), International Journal of Design Computing, Vol. 6.Google Scholar
  12. Fischer, T: 2005, Generation of apparently irregular truss structures, in: B Martens and A Brown (eds), CAAD Futures 2005, Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 229-238.Google Scholar
  13. Fischer, T: 2007a, Rationalizing bubble trusses for batch production, Automation in Construction 16(1): 45-53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fischer, T and Herr, CM: 2007c, The designer as toolbreaker? Probing tool use in applied generative design, CAADRIA 2007, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  15. Frazer, J: 1995, An evolutionary architecture, Architectural Association, London.Google Scholar
  16. Frazer, J: 1974, Reptiles, Architectural Design 4, pp. 231-240.Google Scholar
  17. Foerster, H von: 2003, Understanding Understanding, Essays on Cybernetics and Cognition, Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  18. Glanville, R: 1992, CAD abusing computing, in: E Mortola et al. (eds), CAAD Instruction: The New Teaching of an Architect? eCAADe Proceedings, Barcelona, pp. 213-224.Google Scholar
  19. Glanville, R: 1996, Communication without coding: Cybernetics, meaning and language (How language, becoming a system, betrays itself ), Modern Language Notes 111(3): 441-462.Google Scholar
  20. Glanville, R: 1997, A ship without a rudder, in: R Glanville and G de Zeeuw (eds), Problems of Excavating Cybernetics and Systems, BKS+, Southsea.Google Scholar
  21. Glanville, R: 2000, The value of being unmanageable: Variety and Creativity in CyberSpace, in: H Eichmann et al. (eds), Netzwerke, Falter Verlag, Vienna, pp. 303-321.Google Scholar
  22. Glanville, R: 2002, Francisco Varela (1946-2001): A working memory, Cybernetics and Human Knowing 9(2): 67-76.Google Scholar
  23. Goel, V: 1995, Sketches of Thought, MIT Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  24. Goodman, CS and Coughlin, BC: 2000, The evolution of evo-devo biology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97(9): 4424-4425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Heskett, J: 2002, Toothpicks and Logos. Design in Everyday Life, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  26. Kolarevic, B (ed): 2003, Architecture in the Digital Age, Spon Press, London.Google Scholar
  27. Lakoff, G and Johnson, M: 1980, Metaphors We Live By, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  28. Scott, B: 2001, Gordon Pask’s conversation theory: A domain independent constructivist model of human knowing. Foundations of Science 6: 343-360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Spencer-Brown, G: 1997, Laws of Form - Gesetze der Form, Bohmeier, Lübeck.Google Scholar
  30. Thompson, DAW: 1992, On Growth and Form, Dover Publications, New York.Google Scholar
  31. Weaire, D and Phelan, R: 1994, A Counterexample to Kelvin’s Conjecture on Minimal Surfaces. Philosophical Magazine Letters 69: 107-110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Whitehead, H: 2005: Pre-, co- and post-rationalization. Personal email correspondence.Google Scholar
  33. Wiener, N: 1961, Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, MIT Press, New York.Google Scholar
  34. Wilden, A: 1980, System and Structure, Tavistock Publications, New York.Google Scholar
  35. Yim, M, Lamping J, Mao, E and Chase JG: 1997, Rhombic dodecahedron shape for self-assembling robots, Xerox Parc SPL TechReport P971077.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Fischer
    • 1
  1. 1.The Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityChina

Personalised recommendations