Professor Bruce Archer, CBE,
Design Research Society.

Speaker ICONAudio (AIFF, suspended)

Welcome to 4D Dynamics and Cyberbridge - 4D

In the calling papers (of the 4D Dynamics Conference) that most of us have had in front of us for some months now, the conference is subtitled 'An intemational interdisciplinary conference on design and research methodologies for dynamic form'. The calling papers further explain that the concept of 4D Dynamics is exemplified by intelligent buildings, smart products and multimedia systems. In other words, the conference is intended to deal with the implications of designing and building forms that are calculated to be selfadaptive to environmental conditions. For me, however, the conference also illustrates two other dynamics the selfadaptability of institutional forms, and the ubiquity of the long wave dynamic in economic and social systems.

The first Design Methods Conference was held in London in 1962, thirtythree years ago. But it was at the Second Design Methods Conference held in Birmingham in 1965, precisely 30 years ago, that the idea of founding a crossdisciplinary society for those interested in Design Methodology was conceived. The Design Research Society was duly brought to birth at an Inaugural Meeting held at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, the following Spring. And thirty years is, according to some commentators, the natural length of the Long Wave cycle. So what is the connection with 4D Dynamics?

It happens that the implications for design and innovation of Long Wave theory were the subject of a special International Conference on Design, Innovation and long cycles in economic development held at the Royal College of Art in 1983. According to economic historians taking part, the first systematic attempt to interpret data about the ups and downs of world economic conditions was made by N.Kondratiev in 1925, and the evidence for and against the existence of the 'Kondratiev cycle' of boom and bust has been widely argued ever since. Kondratiev asserted that the world economic cycle took fifty years. In 1939, in a book called Business cycles published by McGrawHill, J.Schumpeter extended the theory to innovation and design. He argued that during economic downswings, investment in inventions and designs is held back until entrepreneurs' perceptions of the risks and returns of committing capital to product innovation become more positive. It is just at the turn of the tide that new products surge on to the market. By this time, long wave theorists were talking about a thirty year cycle. Next, at a meeting of the OECD in Paris in 1982, C.Freeman, L.Soete and J.Townsend published the results of a systematic analysis of the Fluctuations in the number of product and process innovations 19201980. This extended the Schumpeter/Kondratiev long wave theory to recognise two other factors in the flux of innovations: institutional variables (including the setting up of crossnational institutions) and technological variables.

This study also noted the tendency of entrepreneurs' interest to turn from product innovation to process innovation during the upswing of the economic cycle as they sought larger volumes and lower costs. Finally, in an article Structural change and assimilation of new technologies in the social and economic system in Futures magazine in 1983, C.Perez described a movement during the downswing of the economic cycle away from product and process innovation to a period of organisational experimentation at all levels of society. Which is where I began. In the downswing of the 1960's, amongst other revolutionary changes, the Robbins Report created 31 polytechnics, the Council for National Academic Awards and eight new universities. The workers in the field of Design Methods created the Design Research Society. The latter was, in some ways, a defence against the former. The professors of engineering and art and industrial design in the new polytechnics and universities were all anxious to prove their academic respectability, and became more resistant to untidy, cross disciplinary, subversive notions like design participation and teamwork than before. The Design Research Society and the rest of the Design Methods Movement was thus driven by people who were refugees from the narrowness of the academic disciplines of that time. Several of the founding fathers of the movement were architects, of course, who were perhaps not quite so hagridden by academic boundary disputes. But I was a mechanical engineer, and desperately uncomfortable in the academic environment of the time. Chris Jones was an ergonomist. Sydney Gregory was a chemical engineer. Ted Matchett was a manufacturing engineer. Faced with heads of departments not directly involved, who nevertheless demanded control over anything that might touch upon their own disciplines, none of us was able to engage in multidisciplinary work within existing institutions.

There was a backlash, of course. To take engineering as an instance, the Feilden Report on Engineering Design, 1963, the Moulton report Engineering Design Education, 1976, and the Finniston report The formation of Engineers, 1979, all denounced the narrowness of engineering education and practice. All three demanded, against the fierce opposition of the old school of engineering professors, that the central study of engineering education should be an interdisciplinary approach to design. There were similar battles in architectural education and art and design. In the meanwhile, the central idea of a theory of modelling, the pivot of the Design Methods Movement, had become embedded in the rapid advance of computer aided design and manufacturing.

Is the Schumpeter/Kondratiev/Freeman cycle continuing? Has the damming up of product innovation been released, and is process innovation following? Certainly, since 1989, we have been going through another phase of institutional innovation. The main difference between now, 1995, and then, 1965, when the Design Research Society was founded, is that crosscultural and cross disciplinary activity, the implementation of concurrent engineering and the exploitation of multimedia resources are to be seen on every hand. That being so, the crossdisciplinary refugees who founded the Society are now able to come home.

What better way to mark that homecoming than to participate in An international interdisciplinary conference on design and research methodologies for dynamic form?

So welcome, new generation and old, to 4D Dynamics and Cyberbridge with its 4D FORUM.

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