a quick feast for the eyes from a project by Ben Sweeting who is working towards a PhD by design, supervised by Neil Spiller and Ranulph Glanville (who recently visited our school ). Ben's research preoccupations include ethics, cybernetics and architectural design. The following is text associated with the project;
My particular research interest is in the ethical dilemma of designing for others when there is no 'right' solution. In designing architecture we can't possibly avoid interfering with other people's lives as architecture itself forms part of the framework in which people live; that is, intervening in people's lives is rather the point. Thus in architecture we can seldom maintain the isolation implied by an ethics of personal responsibility which is, I argue (following von Foerster and Sartre amongst others), the appropriate response to the undecidability of our situation. Indeed architecture is a good example of the more general difficulty of acting in ways that impact on others.
According to Von Foerster, there are questions that are in principle decidable and those that are in principle undecidable. Decidable questions are 'already decided by the choice of the framework in which they are asked' and are therefore undecidable, whereas 'only those questions which are in principle undecidable, we can decide'.1 The consequence of undecidability is the necessity of choice, i.e. design. Architecture is undecidable because the purpose of a piece of architecture is intrinsically linked to the set of human purposes it supports and these human purposes are themselves undecidable: any analysis of architecture will therefore always have an unresolvable gap at its centre which can only be met by design. Indeed it is always the undecidable parts of architectural dilemmas where design takes place.
My theoretical work focuses on three areas of theory that are linked by the theme of purpose: cybernetics, existentialism and teleological ethics. My design projects explore the questions of purpose and contingency which become explicit as soon as architecture is considered over time, proposing different ways of relating the use of architecture to the architecture itself.