Politecnico di Milano

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RESEARCH ON ARCHITECTURE INDUCING SOCIAL AND BEHAVIOURAL FIELDS

The Architecture+Design+Art in the Human Science (ADAHS) Project

Politecnico di Milano and Saybrook University, San Francisco

The ADAHS Project

The Architecture+Design+Art in the Human Sciences (ADAHS) project

Research on architecture inducing social and behavioral fields

Saybrook University, San Francisco (CA)

 

The ADAHS project was originally conceived as a research based post-graduate program, by a group of Professors and Doctoral lecturers participating in the past PhD Course “Programmazione, Manutenzione e Riqualificazione del costruito” at  Department BEST. This group included Arne Collen (Saybrook University, San Francisco), Valerio Di Battista (Head of the PhD Course, Politecnico di Milano), Giorgio Giallocosta (Università degli Studi di Genova), Carlotta Fontana (Politecnico di Milano) and Gianfranco Minati (AIRS – Italian Society for Systems Research).

After three years, the project is being developed into a research focus and specialization proposal in the Doctoral and Masters Human Science programs at Saybrook University, San Francisco, California.

 

 

The ADAHS Project Background

 

 “to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life”

(Wittgenstein)

 

The built environment can be defined, observed and studied as an ecosystem where a species prevails: the human species. This assumption is now internationally acknowledged and leads to a systemic approach to the studies of the built environment as a complex systemic entity, where processes of emergence occur, investigated with interdisciplinary theories and methodologies based on Science of Complexity and Systemics. Architecture represents one of the most ancient and meaningful interests among all human activities. It represents a complex social product as well as the peculiar, artificial main part of the ecosystem where the human species lives and develops.

Architectural studies are usually devoted not only to the development of design and construction theories and tools, but also to the description and the analysis of architectural fabrics. Since human settlements and their architecture are the product of human societies, they are mostly built up and developed by a huge number of interacting conscious and unconscious acts over long periods, rather than only by individual, purposely designed acts. Such a vision generates the idea of an implicit project that relies upon processes of emergence occurring within social systems. Accordingly, in a systemic approach, a proper definition for architecture could be “the set of human artefacts and signs that establish and denote mankind’s settlements”, as William Morris stated at the end of 19th Century.

The ADAHS Project research is inspired by the analogy with the concept of field in physics, that is related to a physical quantity associated to each point of space-time. Following such an analogy, one could consider architectural structures as inducing social behavioural fields for user and inhabitant agents, rather than prescribing behavioural properties to agents located at a certain point in the field. The effectiveness of architectural structures to induce behaviour – e.g.: inducing the selection of a specific path to the users of a railway station – is obviously crucial when dealing with problems such as managing queues or defining emergency routes.

In a more subtle way, architectural structures even induce collective approaches in social issues. For instance, a school designed with mono-disciplinary teaching in mind will induce the same approach in the general public; and a hospital designed with a limited repairing approach in mind, will induce the same approach in the patients and their families. This line of thought assumes that the architectural behavioural field is generated by a combination of aspects due to heterogeneous actions and reactions of such very special agents as the human beings, who are provided with a complex cognitive system which relates, for instance, to shape, colour, dimensions, and functional properties.

Thus, the architectural field both represents and induces social behaviour, and culture that directs behaviour, producing and reproducing political, social and religious values, science and arts, ways of using natural resources etc. Unlike the case of physics, the architectural field is not generated by an external source of energy, but rather by the properties and activities of the agents themselves, and by their way of cognitively process contextual properties, such as the ability to consider constraints, e.g., environmental, and dynamical coherence or incoherence with general cultural aspects, e.g., life styles. Another related example is given by studies of emergence of the landscape.

Research in this field is crucial. For instance, by considering new approaches like meta-structures intended as coherent sequences of structures. It could lead to a complete re-thinking of architectural design objectives and methods, enhancing consciousness and advocating new and stronger ethics for the “built environment professionals”, as well as improving understanding and empowerment of inhabitants and users of buildings and places which constitute the built environment.

 

The academic programs

The ADAHS MA Course and  PhD Course aim to explore the confluence of disciplines that are  needed to understand and to study the built environment and the substantial influence that its organization, structure, and  shape have on the relations, well being, creativity, and productivity of people. The organization of space influences the human mood, happiness, learning, fulfilment, and ongoing pursuits. The built environments bear witness and manifest the history of their inhabitants. Theory for analysis and construction of the built environment traditionally belongs to the field of architecture and design. But it is increasingly apparent across professions that a confluence of disciplines is required to understand adequately its complex nature and its psychological and social effects of on life and society.

 

The purpose is to develop knowledge allowing

 

·      Simulation for pre-occupancy evaluation

 

·      Environmental compatibility analysis

 

·      Ethical implications analysis

 

·      Post-occupancy evaluation procedures

 

·      Coherence detection and generation

 

 

At Saybrook University, the Project brings humanistic values to inter- and trans-disciplinary studies from multiple perspectives. Its distinguishing features are:

• Promoting integration of Human Sciences to the spectrum of disciplines concerning human habitats, in order to increase understanding and improve design awareness about people’s needs and aspirations.

 • Promoting humanistic, systemic, and trans-disciplinary research, to support rising interests and efforts to design and construct ecologically viable habitats, in light of mounting concerns about environmental degradation and quality of life.

·      Promoting research on assessment and evaluation methods and tools, with a special focus on the “greening” of the disciplines.

• Applying humanistic values in promoting cross disciplinary research, field work, and student placement.

 

At the Politecnico di Milano, the Project combines in an inter- and trans-disciplinary studies way architectural and advanced systemic knowledge from multiple perspectives. Its distinguishing features are:

 

·      Promoting research on the relationship between people and places and the influence of the built environment on everyday life;

·      Promoting research on evaluation methods and tools focusing on the investigation of values in landscape and the built heritage as perceived by inhabitants;

·      Promoting research on the relationship between perceived values by local communities and their ability to affect development policies;

·      Promoting research on evaluation methods and tools focusing on bottom-up strategies to empower local communities in the decision-making process;

·      Further developing the Post-Occupancy Evaluation techniques, focusing on urban sites and landscape assessment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent publications by founders of the project

 

Minati, G., (2008), New Approaches for Modelling Emergence of Collective Phenomena - The Meta-structures project, Polimetrica, Milan.   Open Access Publication http://www.polimetrica.com/?p=productsMore&iProduct=81&sName=new-approaches-for-modelling-emergence-of-collective-phenomena-(gianfranco-minati)

 

Collen A., (2009), Emergence of Architectural Phenomena in the Human Habitation of Space, In: Proceedings of the Fourth National Conference of the Italian Systems Society (AIRS), Processes of emergence of systems and systemic properties. Towards a general theory of emergence (Minati G., Pessa E. and Abram M, eds.), World Scientific, Singapore, pp. 51-66. http://www.worldscibooks.com/chaos/6763.html

 

Di Battista, V., (2009), Environment and Architecture - A Paradigm Shift, In: Proceedings of the Fourth National Conference of the Italian Systems Society (AIRS), Processes of emergence of systems and systemic properties. Towards a general theory of emergence (Minati G., Pessa E. and Abram M, eds.), World Scientific, Singapore, pp. 37-49 http://www.worldscibooks.com/chaos/6763.html

 

Minati, G. and Collen, A., (2009), Architecture as the Cybernetic Self-Design of Boundary Conditions for Emergent Properties in Human Social Systems, Cybernetics & Human Knowing, 16, (1-2):101-123 http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/imp/chk/2009/00000016/F0020001/art00007

 

Collen, A., Trans-Disciplinary Inquiry Through Convergence of Architecture, Design, Art and Human Science. To be published in: Methods, Models, simulations and approaches towards a general theory of change, (G. Minati, M. Abram  and E. Pessa, eds.), World Scientific, Singapore, pp. 505-518.

  

Di Battista V.,  Systemics and Architecture - Settlement System: The Impossible End and the Possible Roles of Architecture. To be published in: Methods, Models, simulations and approaches towards a general theory of change, (G. Minati, M. Abram  and E. Pessa, eds.), World Scientific, Singapore, pp. 519-526.

 

Fontana, C., Re-Tracing the Systemic Approach in Architecture, and Developing Working Tools. To be published in: Methods, Models, simulations and approaches towards a general theory of change, (G. Minati, M. Abram  and E. Pessa, eds.), World Scientific, Singapore, pp. 540-550.

 

Fontana, C., “BPE and the role of perceived values in heritage preservation – a research case for Italy”, to be published in: Preiser, W. F. E., Mallory-Hill, S., Watson, C., eds., Enhancing Building Performance, S.Francisco, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell

 

Giallocosta, G., Architecture and Development of and within Social Systems, to be published in: Proceedings of the Fifth National Conference of the Italian Systems Society (AIRS), Methods, Models, simulations and approaches towards a general theory of change, (G. Minati, M. Abram  and E. Pessa, eds.), World Scientific, Singapore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Francisco - Milan, November 2011