RSD6 Keynotes

Proceedings of RSD6, Relating Systems Thinking and Design 6
Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway  18th-20th October 2017


Opening speech

by Birger Sevaldson, Conference Chair

with Sami artist Kajsa Sogn Balto joik.


RSD6 BS opening lecture from RSD6 on Vimeo.

RSD6 Opening Lecture from RSD6 on Vimeo.



Richard Buchanan:
Dialectic and Inquiry in Design

John Ehrenfeld:
Flourishing Lives in Another World

Karl Otto Ellefsen: 
The imprints of the fisheries on land

Michael Hensel:
Rights to Ground

Sabine Junginger: 
Systemic Design Approaches in the Public Sector

Lucy Kimbell: 
From Transformation Design to Translation Design


Keynote speakers, titles, abstracts and bios alphabetically



Richard Buchanan

Dialectic and Inquiry in Design: Understanding Surroundings and Systems, Designing Environments

Dialectic and Inquiry are two well-established strategies of design practice as well as design theory and research.  Dialectic is the art of finding and interpreting systems in the relationships and interrelationships of our surroundings.  In contrast, inquiry is the art of transforming surroundings into environments for human thought and action.  The intersection of these two arts is the theme of this presentation.  To make the theme concrete, I will focus on John Dewey’s Democracy and Education, a book that is well-known in the context of progressive education.  It has influenced all levels of education in places as different as the United States and China and across many disciplines.  It is the foundation text of education as inquiry, encouraging creative thinking in the study of what is known and what is unknown.  In the context of this presentation, however, the argument of Dewey’s book will be explored as a rhetorical inquiry into society and the role of design in encouraging new social and cultural practices.  In the course of my presentation, I will discuss different kinds of systems and how design contributes to the invention and discovery of new systems.  The intersection of dialectic and inquiry is fertile ground for exploring new dimensions of design practice and theory in the complexity of contemporary life.


Richard Buchanan bio:

Richard Buchanan, PhD, is well known for extending the application of design into new areas of theory and practice, writing, and teaching as well as practicing the concepts and methods of interaction design. He argues that interaction design does not stop at the flatland of the computer screen but extends into the personal and social life of human beings and into the emerging area of service design, as well as into organizational and management design.

In keeping with this conviction, Buchanan has worked on the redesign of the Australian Taxation System, the restructuring of service products and information for the U.S. Postal Service, and other consulting activities. At Weatherhead, he has researched “collective interactions”, focusing on problems of organizational change and the development of management education around the concept of Manage by Designing. His most recent projects involve strategy and service design, including patient experience, information services, and public sector design.

Buchanan is a widely published author and frequent speaker. His books include DISCOVERING DESIGN: EXPLORATIONS IN DESIGN STUDIES, THE IDEA OF DESIGN, and PLURALISM IN THEORY AND PRACTICE. He is coeditor of DESIGN ISSUES, the international journal of design history, theory and criticism. Buchanan has served for two terms as president of the Design Research Society, the international learned society of the design research community.

He received his AB and PhD from a prestigious interdisciplinary program at the University of Chicago called the Committee on the Analysis of Ideas and the Study of Methods. Before joining the Weatherhead School of Management faculty in 2008, he served as head of the school of design and then as director of doctoral studies in design at Carnegie Mellon University. While at Carnegie Mellon, he inaugurated interaction design programs at the master’s and doctoral level.

In 2009, Buchanan received an honorary doctorate from the Faculté de l’amánagement (Environmental Design Faculty) at the University of Montréal.

PhD, The University of Chicago, 1973
AB, The University of Chicago, 1968





John Ehrenfeld

Flourishing Lives in Another World

The modernist bundle of beliefs and norms, which has powered Western societies for centuries, has begun to misfire badly in both the human and natural domains. “Sustainability” is not the answer. To return to a positive trajectory, the critical first move is to choose flourishing as the normative design objective for artefacts and institutions. Flourishing, as an existential feature of living systems, is a valid indicator of achievement of human and non-human potential, as contrasted to current economic and psychological metrics. This choice, alone, is insufficient; it must be accompanied by a radical shift in foundational cultural beliefs, replacing the most basic modern ones: the Cartesian, mechanistic world and the Smithian self-interested human being. The historic derivation of these two quasi-facts would not pass muster by today’s standards. In their place, designers need to acknowledge and embody 1) the complexity of social and large-scale technological systems and 2) the inherent caring behavior of humans. Pragmatic epistemological and design methods are necessary to capture the fundamentally unpredictable nature of the highly interconnected, non-linear, real (not theoretical) world. I will present arguments for the assertions I have just made.


John Ehrenfeld bio:

Dr. John R. Ehrenfeld returned to his alma mater, MIT, in 1985 after a long career in the environmental field, and retired in 2000 as the Director of the MIT Program on Technology, Business, and Environment. Following that, he served until 2009 as Executive Director of the International Society for Industrial Ecology, guiding its development from its founding in 2000. He is the author of Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming our Consumer Culture, and Flourish: A Frank Conversion about Sustainability (with Andrew Hoffman). In October 1999, the World Resources Institute honored him with their first lifetime achievement award for his academic accomplishments in the field of business and environment. He received the Founders’ Award for Distinguished Service from the Academy of Management’s Organization and Natural Environment Division in August 2000. He spent part of the 1998-1999 academic year at the Technical University of Lisbon as a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar and was Visiting Professor at the Technical University of Delft during the 2000-1 academic year. He is an editor of the Journal of Industrial Ecology. He holds a B. S. and Sc. D. in Chemical Engineering from MIT, and is author or co-author of over 200 papers, books, reports, and other publications.


Video of lecture introduced by Peter Jones





Karl Otto Ellefsen

The imprints of the fisheries on land – the dynamics and adaptions of a Norwegian fishing village.

Small towns and villages have in most parts of Europe, been developed through different kinds of planning strategies, headed by municipalities and governmental institutions. The intention – at least in Northern Europe with a strong social-democratic tradition and rudiments of planned economy – was that these strategies should be based on comprehensive knowledge collection. In the neo-liberal economy this way of working is scaled down and substituted by private and project oriented initiatives.

Myre is a fishing village in the Northern part of Norway, that the author has followed for 50 years, and investigated by discussing transforming morphologies. The place mirrors changes in the costal fisheries, in the industries and in regional policies. One of the reasons why this place at the moment is the most successful fishing harbor in the North, is the local culture´s ability to adapt to changes in fisheries and production. At the same time Myre illustrates basic challenges in Norwegian economy and settlement structure: the question of ownership to resources, the concept of “place” in a changing rural economy, and global forces versus local needs.

What are the potentials of introducing Systemic design methodologies offer in engaging with problems related to “place”, and what are the limits of systemic design confronting conflict of interests and genuine political challenges?


Karl Otto Ellefsen bio:

Karl Otto Ellefsen is Professor in Architecture and Urbanism at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO). He served as Rector at AHO from year 2000 to 2014. He was also heading the board of Oslo Architecture Triennale until 2015 and is from 2013 the President of EAAE (European Association for Architectural Education). 

Karl Otto Ellefsen is a practicing architect in the field of Urbanism and has produced scholarly writing within the History of Urbanism and Urban Design, Urban Strategies, Architectural Theory and Architectural Critique. He holds different roles in the development of Norwegian Architectural Policies and in the National Tourist Routes Project. 

His research is situated in a morphological tradition of architectural and urban studies. Currently he is heading a doctoral programme in cooperation with East African universities on urban and peri-urban areas. He is visiting professor at CAFA in Beijing – The Central Academy of Fine Arts – and leads a set of case-studies on the urbanization of Chinese villages. 

His latest book, “Fiskevær” (“Fishing Camp”) deals with the challenges in fishery-based coastal settlements in Northern Norway.


Video of the lecture, introduced by Michael Hensel




Michael Hensel

Rights to Ground: Human and Non-human Rights
Integrated Design and Embedded Architectures

Due to current circumstances discussions focus again on questions of and challenges to basic rights, such as right of expression, privacy, data and information, design (as it becomes increasingly expensive commodity), and so on. However, one of the most basic questions remains relatively unaddressed, namely the right to ground. Throughout human history understandings existed that governed the temporary appropriation of private ground, such as the right to roam and the Scandinavian everyman’s right. The latter is anchored in various ways in the Scandinavian context, ranging from constitutional to customary rights, etc. In the context of increasing urbanisation, landgrab, disapprerance of public space in large parts of the world, new walls between countries and potential fortification of parts of Europe, one may ask what the immediate future of access to ground will be. The presentation and paper will focus on a systemic and design approach to the question of the rights to ground, based on existing and projected arrangements. Furthermore urban, landscape and architectural design implications will be discussed and the scope will expanded to non-human rights to ground.


Michael Hensel bio

Prof. Michael U. Hensel [Dipl. Ing. Grad Dipl Des AA PhD Reading] is an architect, researcher, educator and writer. Currently he is tenured professor for architecture at AHO the Oslo School of Architecture and Design where he directs the Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics [RCAT]. He is a founding member of OCEAN (1994), and founding and current chairman of the OCEAN Design Research Association and the Sustainable Environment Association [SEA]. The OCEAN Design Research Association is an international and independent not-for-profit organization with the mission to conduct inter- and transdisciplinary research by design, and to develop overarching theoretical frameworks and related design methods in its specific areas of inquiry. SEA is an international and interdisciplinary not-for-profit expertise network that pursues systematic, integrative and interdisciplinary inquiry into the human-influenced and built environment and its interaction with the natural environment and local ecosystems with the aim to develop alternative approaches to architectural design and sustainability. From 2007 to 2012 he was board member of BIONIS – The Biomimetics Network for Industrial Sustainability. 

From 1993 to 2009 he taught at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, where he co-initiated and co-directed the Emergent Technologies and Design Program from 2001 to 2009. He held numerous visiting professorships and innovation fellowships and taught and lectured in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia. In his academic work he integrates research and education with a strong emphasis on interdisciplinarity, critical ability and projective capacity.

His writings have been published in Chinese, Czech, English, Estonian, Farsi, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Spanish, and Turkish. He has authored, co-authored and edited numerous books and journals.


Video of lecture introduced by Andrew Morrison




Sabine Junginger

Systemic Design Approaches in the Public Sector: Are we ready?

The complexities of designing are well known to policy makers who develop policies and public managers who implement policies through public services. So overwhelming is the intricate web of laws, rules, and regulations in a highly hierarchical and political landscape that those working under intense time pressure rarely get time to reflect on their design approaches. With the advent of new global and regional challenges that further increase the complex nature of their task, the principles, practices, processes and methods of design employed in the public sector are moving to centre stage in the effort to arrive at innovative and desirable outcomes. In this talk, I I discuss some of the pitfalls of designing in the public sector and point out why the shift in designerly thinking and doing in the service of public sector innovation presents a challenge for the field of design.


Sabine Junginger bio:

Sabine Junginger currently heads the Competence Center for Research into Design and Management at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland. She is a Research Fellow of the Hertie School of Governance (Germany), an academic advisor to the European Forum Alpbach (Austria) and the UK Design Council (DfE). She has worked as a senior design expert for the EU-Brazil Sectorial Dialogues and advises several government level public innovation labs on human-centered design. She was a founding member of ImaginationLancaster at Lancaster University (UK) and holds a PhD in Design from Carnegie Mellon University (USA).

Her work appeared in Design Issues, The Design Journal and the Journal for Business Strategy. She is co-editor of Designing Business and Management (Bloomsbury 2016); Highways and Byways to Innovation (University of Southern Denmark/Design School Kolding 2014) and The Handbook of Design Management (Bloomsbury 2011). She is author of Transforming Public Services by Design: Re-Orienting Policies, Organizations and Services around People (Routledge, UK, 2017).


Video of lecture introduced by Manuela Aguirre




Lucy Kimbell

From Transformation Design to Translation Design

All designing is already about systems, even if the object-focus of traditional design practices has obscured this. With recent developments in the field such as service design, design for social innovation and design for policy, the need for designers to engage more seriously with the systemic nature of designing is acute. This talk will explore the issues arising when contemporary designerly approaches attempt to address systemic challenges. While such approaches offer some potential benefits, they also bring with then assumptions and elisions which are worrying. A shift to designing for translations between worlds, rather than transformations of worlds, may help address these weaknesses.


Lucy Kimbell bio:

Lucy is an experienced researcher, postgraduate educator, and strategic design consultant. She has spent much of her career on design’s fringes, intersecting with other disciplines and contexts including social innovation and policy. Lucy has been involved in research, teaching and assessment within leading international universities for over a decade, with a particular focus on the role of design in society, services and innovation. Her leadership and facilitation skills are complemented by research in design thinking and service design and art experiments in visualising data.

Before joining UAL Lucy was AHRC research fellow in Policy Lab in the Cabinet Office (2014-15) and principal research fellow at the University of Brighton where in addition she jointly led projects for the AHRC around social design. Previously Lucy was Clark fellow in design leadership at Said Business School, University of Oxford for five years, where she remains an associate fellow. Lucy co-founded one of the UK’s first digital arts groups and went on to work in digital innovation consultancy before joining academia.

As an educator, she has been involved in developing the joint MBA between CSM and Birkbeck College and UAL’s executive training offer. She’s taught an MBA elective on design innovation at Said Business School, University of Oxford, since 2005. Lucy also designs and delivers training in people-centred design for the UK Civil Service.