Design and construction: Intersections of linear and circular design



Architecture & Built Environment


  • circular design, design process, intersections, workmanship of risk


The multifaceted structure of higher education often limits the full integration of design and construction teaching in schools of architecture, but the potential for a greater intersection of these knowledge bases does exist. Design education in the architecture studio is typically taught through a linear process, where students are required to produce a concept design, followed by a series of design iterations and lastly, technification of the design. Similarly, in practice, this process is linear, starting with a design phase followed by a construction phase. In both scenarios, this process leads to a predictable design outcome. Contrastingly, a circular design process has the potential to allow for a more open-ended negotiation with material, technology, process, and making.

David Pye's concept of risk in The nature and art of workmanship reflects these possible outcomes, whether predictable or exploratory, by situating them on a scale between workmanship of risk and workmanship of certainty. In addition to tools, techniques and materials to evaluate the level of risk in making, this paper suggests that design process is also an indicator of risk. Some architectural practitioners have embraced a workmanship of risk approach by following existing circular design processes or establishing their own circular processes. This paper will highlight the work of three contemporary South African practitioners who, by employing a design process that is circular and by working in a manner that is often continuous and collaborative, have clearly expressed signs of experimentation and a material consciousness in their built work.

An understanding of how practitioners, through the implementation of a circular design process, have been able to establish these moments of intersection between design and construction earlier, and continuously throughout the design and construction process, can assist educators in transferring this approach to the classroom. The value of this improved intersection will be, improved pedagogy that limits the silo effect, forefronting building technology as a design generator, and creating better and more adaptable designers that can cope with new futures.


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