The Generator project as a paradigm for systemic design

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In systemic design, agreements over how to resolve wicked problems may be quickly outdated by changing circumstances and unforeseen consequences. One approach is thus to design systems that can adapt or be adapted to the circumstances they find themselves in. Adaptability may, however, act conservatively, making outdated resolutions more resilient and so harder to change. In order to explore adaptability further, this paper introduces a precedent from the discipline of architecture: Generator – an unbuilt proposal for a retreat centre designed by Cedric Price during the late 1970s. Strongly influenced by the work of cybernetician Gordon Pask via consultants Julia and John Frazer, not only could Generator be reconfigured by its human participants to support different activities, it also had the capacity to rearrange itself should it be left in the same configuration for too long. Interpreting the project in terms of the role of difference in Pask’s conversation theory, this paper explores Generator as a possible paradigm for systemic design in situations where a stable consensus for action is either unfeasible or undesirable.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD8) 2019 Symposium
EditorsPeter Jones
PublisherSystemic Design Association
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventRelating Systems Thinking and Design 8: Systems change for governance - Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, United States
Duration: 17 Oct 201919 Oct 2019

Publication series

NameProceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium
ISSN (Electronic)2371-8404


ConferenceRelating Systems Thinking and Design 8
Abbreviated titleRSD8
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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