Punching above your weight: digital tools, design strategies and organisational structures for expanding design in small practice

Fitzwilliams Hyde, R 2010, Punching above your weight: digital tools, design strategies and organisational structures for expanding design in small practice, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Architecture and Design, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Punching above your weight: digital tools, design strategies and organisational structures for expanding design in small practice
Author(s) Fitzwilliams Hyde, R
Year 2010
Abstract The title of this work, ‘punching above your weight’, is a phrase native to boxing, where it is used to describe fighting at a level better than is expected of one’s division. It is used here in the context of architecture to describe a kind of practice that embodies these qualities, by delivering trim efficiency and power that would be expected of a larger organisation.
This thesis explores the characteristics that might make up such a practice, by focusing on the dual core aspects of an architectural practice’s working methods: design strategies and organisational structures.
While digital media is not new to architecture, its increasing pervasiveness, power and sophistication, have led to the maturing of this media, fundamentally reshaping the way architecture is designed and practiced. This research identifies key opportunities for practice offered by this new media, including: the ability to repurpose information between stages of development, procedural design strategies, a return to craft, and the opportunity to connect directly to computer-controlled means of manufacturing.
The focus on small practice places a constructive limitation on the research. By virtue of being small, there are fewer people involved, which is a key factor in the structuring of a collaborative, creative and intimate work environment. Furthermore, this creative aspect of ‘smallness’ often extends throughout the delivery chain. Small practices often work on smaller projects, with smaller builders and smaller budgets, subsequently requiring specific strategies for engaging with this context. Focussing on small, and the limited resources that this implies, has led to the development through this research of innovative design strategies that embody the small-practice spirit of the ‘grand gesture within limited means’.
This research explores such territory both through the literature and through a series of case study projects undertaken within a small practice, whereby the investigator is ‘embedded’ as a member of the design team.
As a way to foreground the insights and observations drawn from the project work, this thesis is focussed on the strategies that bring projects into being, not the outcomes of the projects themselves. By emphasising and focusing on the processes that lead to an end product, broader conclusions can be drawn that are relevant to practices and researchers beyond the specific context within which this work has been conducted.
A key contribution of this research is the development of design techniques employing parametric, computational, and manufacturing based approaches, that are specifically tailored to the small practice, with particular emphasis on those strategies that can aid in extending and enhancing the very early stages of designing.
This thesis also proposes ‘the new augmented practice’, a model for practice that combines the strengths of small practice as a collaborative and creative environment, with the new potentials offered by digital design tools to produce a practice structure that is specifically suited to the demands of our contemporary information age.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Design
Keyword(s) Architecture
small practice
design research
digital design
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Created: Tue, 12 Feb 2013, 14:52:44 EST by Keely Chapman
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