Publication 1002

Sweeting B. (2011) Conversing with drawings and buildings: From abstract to actual in architecture. Kybernetes 40(7/8): 1159–1165. Fulltext at
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to describe the various movements from abstraction to actuality in the context of design, with particular reference to architecture, first in terms of the design process and second in terms of the interpretation of architecture by observers. Design/methodology/approach – The paper focuses on the designers’ use of forms of representation, such as drawings, with reference to the cybernetic understanding of conversation. This account is then used to discuss the representational properties of architecture itself and to relate this back to the design process. Findings: It is argued that the forms of representation used by designers, such as drawings and physical models, have both abstract and actual properties and that this combination is important for their representational function. The ambiguity in the interpretation of drawings and models is not only useful in generating ideas but also appropriate given the ambiguity in the interpretation of the architecture they represent. Originality/value – The division between the abstract (understood in terms of representation) and the actual is challenged. A connection is proposed between architecture itself as a form of representation and the representation used in its design. Relevance: This article extends and reflects on the analogy between cybernetic conversation and design in relation by understanding our experience of architecture as also a form of conversational exploration.


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