UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Creative learning approaches for an urban design process Zacharias, John


Our age is characterized by the fundamental contradiction between the increasing functional complexity of the, environment and the apparent, structural simplicity of the design process, and the designed environment. This dichotomy has made man a stranger to his own world, isolating experience from action, and restricting his behaviour in the environment. The conscious design process of today, characterized by systems, hierarchical organization, external control, and formalized rules and strategies, is no longer adequate in an era of rapid change. Self-conscious urban design as a process of giving form and meaning to the environment, has itself become meaningless. "Creativity" is identified as the primary link between experience and meaningful behaviour in designing the environment. It is characterized by responsiveness to environment and to change, openness to experience, and the open-ended synthesis of information. While creativity has been considered as the phenomenon of individual internal synthesis, it can be externalized as an urban design process following this general pattern; First, creativity can be operationalized for design purposes in every individual. Second, the environmental conditions for creativity, called "attitudes" can be designed into the environment for increased "arousal" in individuals. These include conflict, ambiguity, complexity, novelty, and expectation. These attributes transform the environment from an aesthetic field to an activity field, through the "kinaesthetic experience". Third, areas for individual creative action must be present in the environment, which is then characterized by functional flexibility, continuity of change, and design contingencies. The conscious design approaches, viz. Formalist, Heuristic, and Operating Unit are shown to be inadequate according to the above criteria. Ad hoc approaches are examined as the design approach alternative, and methods for obtaining feedback are listed that enable the ad hoc model to become responsive and creative, rather than merely palliative. Finally, the distinguishing characteristics of the learning approach to urban design are listed, with some implications for its planning future. The salient features of the approach are shown to parallel identified creative processes in government, architecture, industrial management, biology, design and technological production.

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