One Step Forward and Three Back: A Study of the Patterns of Interdisciplinary Conceptual Design
Design activity, particularly at the early stages of a project, is recognised as being dynamic, highly iterative and non-linear. However, under the rigours and pressures of the contemporary project environment, designers are being urged to undertake early design activity in a far more programmable, and thus manageable, fashion. Within this environment iterative, or cyclic, design progression is often criticised, with the concept of ‘going round in circles’ being one that is generally discouraged (Hickling, 1982). However, design is a learning activity and, owing to the complexity of contemporary building projects, it is often only by moving ahead to improve knowledge of the problem, before taking a step back to re-address a problem with improved understanding, that the design process can progress (Lawson, 1980). This is possibly the most commonly recognised type of iterative design progression among design researchers and practitioners. However, there are many other types of iterative design progression that are common to early-stage design activity. For the last two years the MDP (Mapping the Design Process during the conceptual phase of building projects) research project has endeavoured to improve understanding of conceptual design activity. It has been undertaken at the Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, in close collaboration with Loughborough University and a number of construction industry firms. The research team has gathered empirical evidence which suggests that, although every design project is unique, there are commonalties within the iterative structure of periods of design progression across projects.
KeywordsConceptual Design Design Activity Design Team Interdisciplinary Team Building Project
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