Training course – Introduction to Conceptual Design for Structural Engineers

Diagram showing a kaleidoscope that I use to represent the Kalideascope concept

This course, which I deliver at Constructivist for the Institution of Structural Engineers is my longest running conceptual design training course. It is an introductory course, which splits conceptual design up into three phases: establishing the brief, creative thinking and convergent thinking and provides simple models for understanding each of these phases.

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Three ideas for bearing witness to the climate emergency

Image showing Boscaslte harbour, which experienced in 2004 the most extreme weather event ever seen in the UK, according to HR Wallingford.

A year on from declarations of climate emergency in the construction industry I am looking for ways to carry on emphasising the scale of the problem and the scale of the action we need to take. I feel that behind these bold declarations of emergency we are no closer to seeing the system-wide changes that we need and are instead focusing on smaller details.

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Book notes – The Hidden Life of Trees

Black and white image of a tree canopy in winter, looking a bit like a series of river tributaries joining together.

It feels right as I take on my new role at Hazel Hill Wood to read the Hidden Life of Trees. This is an evolving post based on notes I take as I read through the book.

From the foreward: ‘The author’s deep understanding of the lives of trees, reached through decasdes of careful observation and study, reveals a world so astonishing that if you read his book, I believe that forests will become magical places for you too.’

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Working notes on feedback as a design tool

This week I ran a workshop with undergraduate students at Imperial College working in design teams at imperial. the aim was to show that it is much easier to give feedback when you a working from a common set of expectations. But this feedback approach can go much further than supporting good team dynamics – itself very important – it can be used as a tool for creative thinking and exploring new ground. Here is a summary of the ten most common points that came up during my conversations with students.

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It’s the invisible ingredients in the design dough that makes it rise

There used to be a sign outside a bakery in London that said something along the lines of, ‘it’s the invisible ingredients – love, care and attention – that make our bread taste so good. This aphorism often comes to mind when I am running sessions on how to interpret a design brief. Understanding the ingredients can really help the design rise.

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Unreliable briefs – finding the deeper design narrative

It is tempting to think of a design brief as wholly reliable, a document that contains all the information necessary to execute the design. But design briefs are rarely as reliable as that. In fact we should expect them to be unreliable to start with. Our job as designers is to make our briefs more reliable. To help, I have been playing with the literature concept of the unreliable narrator to help characterise types of unreliable briefs.

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The horizon of existence | surveillance capitalism | the return of analogue skills

It’s hard to know where to start. So much has changed in the last fortnight and there is so much that I feel compelled to write about. But now that our house has also become a remote workplace, a homeschool and playground and locus for all entertainment and time-passing activities, it is hard to find the time to write in an ordered way, so I will capture things as they emerge and look to see the patterns over time. I hope you will bear with me, reader. On my mind today:

  • The shrinking horizon of existance
  • Surveillance capitalism and Analogue Skills
  • Everyone is the same distance away
  • Mourning friction
  • A great slowing

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#17 Tabitha Pope – Participatory Architecture – Show notes

Tabitha Pope is an architect and lecturer, with a specialism temporary structures and participatory architecture and a passion for work that sits at the boundary of art and architecture. In this episode, produced in support of International Women’s Day, my colleague Lucy Barber interview Tabitha about:

  • What is participatory design and what benefits does it offer us in the climate emergency.
  • Challenging power in order to make architecture a more inclusive space for all under-represented groups, not just women.
  • How her practice of carpentry allows her to intervene in the design process in a different way.
  • Establishing a nature connection to help designers and citizens alike tackle the biodiversity crisis.
  • Stepping into a space of vulnerability in design in order to do things differently.
  • Creating spaces for joy and encounter to tackle loneliness and build resilience in communities.

Listen on Apple Podcasts , Sticher or by download here.

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