2021 ACSA Teachers Conference, Curriculum for Climate Agency: Design in Action

Sympoietic Structures: Enfolding Ecological Inputs into Core-Studio Curricula

Teachers Proceedings

Author(s): Jason Vigneri-Beane

This paper explores environmental morphology in the first-year design studio pedagogy with an interest in proposing new fundamentals based on sympoiesis and the enfolding of ecological inputs into design processes. This pedagogical research acknowledges the influential history of disciplinary autonomy on first-year design curricula and attempts to open that history to a pedagogical future wherein multi-modal, multi-disciplinary ecological inputs become integrated drivers for both form and organization. First-year design curricula are often driven by abstraction, internal logics, formal processes and a general tendency toward the autonomous aspects of architecture as a discipline. While these features of the first-year studio are catalytic they increasingly beg partnerships with inter- or extra-disciplinary operations in order to engage external worlds and environmental agencies. Looking across works on biology and ecology by Maturana and Varela, Margulis, Dempster and Haraway one finds a parallel discussion of autonomy and inclusiveness in the form of autopoiesis and sympoiesis. While autopoiesis describes closed systems and self-making, sympoiesis describes open systems and making-together. Interestingly, these autonomous and inclusive forms of making are not mutually exclusive but, as Haraway suggests, autopoietic and sympoietic processes can be mutually reinforcing and nested within each other. Learning from this discourse, Sympoietic Structures looks at multi-phase project strategies wherein first-year students can use different environmental drivers to condition form at the meso-scale of architectural bodies and the macro-scale collective organization of those bodies. These first-year strategies involve defining relationships between environmental drivers and scales of operation. In addition, they involve creative ways by which environmental drivers can be parametricized in order to create process-based architectural entities that are serial and morphologically specific. Serialization allows first-year students to iterate, test and evaluate form and performance while morphological specificity helps them learn about feedback loops between process inputs and spatio-formal outcomes.


Volume Editors
Jonathan A. Scelsa & Jørgen Johan Tandberg