The architectural designer and their digital media

Benton, S 2008, The architectural designer and their digital media, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Architecture and Design, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title The architectural designer and their digital media
Author(s) Benton, S
Year 2008
Abstract My research investigates the relationship between the architectural designer and the use that he or she makes of digital media as part of the design process. My principal research question is: what is the advantage of including digital media as part of the designers' 'toolset' in the early stages of design? The context is a highly successful and high profile mid-sized Australian architectural practice. The study considers the nature of architectural designing as a creative activity and the extent to which advantages could be gained by including digital media as part of the designers' toolset in the early stages of design.

Designers seem to be polarised between championing the role of digital media as part of their design processes and downright rejecting it. One such extreme position is a view that this media has either 'no place' (Martens et al. 2007:np; Sanders 1996:4-5) within architectural design and is thus seen as 'just another tool' filling at best an ancillary and service role in the design process (Kvan, Mark et al. 2004:np). This view suggests therefore that designing with digital media has hardly advanced (Corrigan 2003:86). An opposing view is that digital media can take a more fundamental place to advance design methods (Rahim 2006:1), even revolutionarily improve the design process beyond 'question and debate' (Winner 1986:6 in Steele 2001:13), resulting in a 'new architecture' (Lindsey 2001:12) and encouraging significant change in designing through semi-automated generation of design and interconnected ways of communicating (Lindsey 2001:12).

Resulting from my study, I have found, however, that the more negative views (Winner 1986:6; Sanders 1996:4-5) regarding the integration of digital media into the architectural design process tend to distract from the more balanced investigation into how a designer masters an expanding architectural design practice.

As a doctoral candidate I take a participant-observer position within Terroir where I have been employed for the past five years. My experiences in responding to my research question suggest that the advantage of digital media is not a question of whether or not to integrate the tools. The question is more an issue of how a designer masters an expanding design process through an approach that includes ideas, conventional media and digital media. My thesis demonstrates the changes that occurred through the integration of digital media and, conversely, possibilities to opportunistically further improve on conventional design practice. My research suggests that mutuality exists in the relationship between the designer and their digital media. Through their co-evolution, changes can occur where there is not only an integration of digital media with design, but also both media and design practice change through their integration. I also discuss how an uptake of digital media gives grounds for a new specialised ro le in practice. A new role emerged within the collaborative firm of architects, which I have called in this thesis the digital ideator. It is a role that I demonstrate as potentially being central to digital media integrated with design practice.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Design
Keyword(s) Architectural practice--Australia
Architectural practice--Data processing
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Created: Tue, 01 Mar 2011, 12:53:51 EST
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