How can a more ‘Implicate’ Practice of Design inform our Methodology for ‘Metadesign’?

David Bohm’s ‘implicate order’ presents us with a manifold model of reality. Bohm identifies our world of standardization and fragmentation as the ‘explicate order’. This is where we practice design from today. How can becoming ‘implicate designers’, who unfold design solutions from within local contexts contribute to a more sustainable future?

Keywords: Explicate/ Implicate, Metadesign, Keyword-Awkward-Space, Awkward Continuum, Urban landscape

  • My relations with the issues expressed as a tetrahedron:

a) Myself as an implicate designer
– Identifying awkward space as a strange attractor governing the self-organization of the urban landscape, opening up creative potential. Working as a ‘systems interrogator, facilitator of living places.’ (Milan Jaros, 2005)
b) What is implicate designing?
– David Bohm’s Explicate and Implicate Order. Mechanical design approach / new approach to understanding and designing into the complexity of today – a more contextual, active, responsible design
c) A conceptual synergy tool
– The Awkward continuum – Understanding the qualities that a designer needs to be a part of synergy (dialogue) group - maladroit/adroit, and discovering new ways to approach envisioning the spaces that exist in between buildings to achieve a sustainable urban design - an urbanism of the awkward.
d) ds21 context of project
- metadesign, synergy and sustainable live-work communities -– we are brought together out of necessity, which is to address the environmental and social/ cultural events that are taking place and understand how a more synergistic design can permeate complexity to activate positive change.

What do I mean by a More ‘Implicate’ Practice of Design?

‘In terms of the implicate order one must say that everything is enfolded into everything. This contrasts with the explicate order…in which things are unfolded in the sense that each thing lies only in its own particular region of space (and time) and outside the regions belonging to other things.’ (David Bohm, 1980)

Where does the word ‘Implicate’ come from?

  • The word ‘implicate’ comes from the Latin verb ‘implicare’ and means to ‘fold inwards’.
  • The Quantum physicist and philosopher David Bohm proposed the idea of an ‘implicate order’ of reality in his 1980 book ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order’.
  • Bohm developed the theory of an ‘implicate’ order to grasp a post-mechanical understanding of reality that looks beyond the Cartesian grid, beyond conventional standardisation, and beyond object-based thinking. (All of which Bohm encapsulates in an explicate order.) The implicate order endeavours to understand the complexity of our day-to-day lives in a more holistic, relational, undivided, and non-fragmented way.
  • Bohm’s implicate order of reality is made up of many levels that are enfolded into one totality.
  • ‘Consider, for example, how on looking at the night sky, we are able to discern structures covering immense stretches of space and time, which are in some sense contained in the movements of light in the tiny space encompassed by the eye (and also how instruments, such as optical and radio telescopes, can discern more and more of this totality, contained in each region of space).’ (Bohm, 1980:149)
  • Each of these levels or set of structures ‘mutually condition’ one another, Bohm uses the example of the relationship between a cell and the whole body to describe this co-creative and co-dependent relationship.

How can Adding ‘Implicate’ to ‘Design’ create a deeply considerate design practice?

My definition of Implicate design

  • I think designers need to move towards a more implicate approach to designing
  • This means having an imaginative, local/global, inside/outside, cohesive, and inclusive understanding of the impact of their work.
  • Implicate design relies on an ensemble, a whole outfit of professionals brought together by necessity, optimism and curiosity to unfold solutions to current social and environmental challenges.
  • A more implicate design brings together designers on the ground and designers with an overview in a ‘mutually conditioning’ relationship just as a cell and a whole body co-create each other.
  • The architect Bernard Tschumi defines ‘practice as theory, a theory of contexts, and theory as practice, a practice of concepts.’ Perhaps as implicate designers we can put practice, theory, contexts and concepts in a tetrahedron and explore these relationships in a much more dynamic way.
  • A more implicate design will endeavor to understand as many relations as possible to unfold as holistic a solution as possible.
  • An implicate design is a living design, ever-changing, adapting, surprising and enabling.
  • In an implicate design solution there are many levels of consideration that are gently enfolded to enable the largest amount of potential for the design solution to succeed.
  • To move towards a more implicate design practice is to begin to regard design as being comprised of many levels that are enfolded into one whole.
  • ‘By remaining alert to contradictions and sensitive to new relationships, thus permitting the growth of a fresh understanding, we can keep up with our contact with the world, and in some ways we can anticipate what is coming later.’ (Bohm, 1980: 186)
  • Implicate design offers an alternative to the post-rationalized, to the superficially decorated, and to fragmented decision-making processes that we are subjected to everywhere we go, instead promoting embodied, intuitive, imaginative and transformational solutions and visions.
  • Implicate design relies on an ensemble of practitioners and professionals that can work together effectively, helping each other to realize the potential of each others ideas as well as the constraints they are faced with in their individual practice and discovering where overlaps and points of action emerge.
  • Implicate design replaces ‘design as an add-on’ with ‘design as an undivided totality’.
  • Implicate design considers design as a phenomenon exposed to many forces of transformation rather than a fixed and unchangeable end-product, leading to more ethically-aware and inclusive design solutions.

  • This image, by the artist Pia Ronike illustrates what happens when a design is resolved out of its given context and plunged into an unsuspecting environment. This is an example of an explicate design. Here we experience design as an ‘add-on’, formulated and resolved inside a computer, concerned with numerical targets and abstract concepts. Often, architecture of this nature leads to spaces of alienation, more recently described by anthropologist Marc Auge as ‘non-places’.
  • In contrast, implicate design is design as ‘undivided wholeness’. Design that encompasses many different levels of structure that are not fixed but constantly adapting to each other throughout this enfolded unity. We might also call this ‘holistic design’ or ‘total design’ or ‘systems design’. This is an approach to design that helps us to actively understand a totality.
  • Implicate design supports and works towards a further understanding of dynamic living-systems.
  • For example, the concept behind Attainable Utopias is this idea of creating a movement towards a positive vision that is flexible and adaptive to change. The aim is not to reach a fixed Utopia steeped in perfection (and impossible) but to participate in a transformative process with a utopian compass pointing towards more sustainable, coherent, diverse and creative future. (Ken Faircough, 2003). AU members are engaging in a constant process of unfoldment, thus, operating from within the implicate order of things, working to soothe a crackling complexity.

How can a more Implicate Design help to inform our ‘Metadesign’ Methodology?

How are we defining metadesign?

“…co-creation: a shared design endeavor aimed at sustaining emergence, evolution and adaptation.” (Giaccardi, 2005)

  • I find the term ‘metadesign’ uncomfortable to use because it implies that there are a group of designers that have a higher level of understanding than a ‘designer’. I think it is imperative to consider the relationship between the different and varied types of knowledge and experience that feed into a holistic design. I think that my use of the term implicate design can inform our metadesign methodology by acknowledging the enfolded levels of structure that ‘mutually condition’ each other to create a total design.
  • That means acknowledging to co-creative and co-dependant relationships between the designers as makers, the designers as creative thinkers, the designers as managers and the non-designers in our metadesign ensemble.
  • Implicate design also informs our methodology by differentiating itself from explicate design.
  • It in forms metadesign methodology by borrowing the term ‘ensemble’ to describe the interdisciplinary team that make up the metadesign group, pulled together in time and space by a shared vision for the future.
  • Enfolded make up – structures folded inside structures
  • Implicate design suspends thought and action in time and space and imaginative solutions and dreams emerge in an unending process of reinvigoration.

Examples to illustrate explicate and implicate design solutions

An explicate design

St.David’s Spa Hotel, Cardiff
As you can see, to make up for the lack of thought that has gone into this building’s design the architect has placed a ‘wave shape’ on the top of the building. This is an example of design as post-rationalised, an after-thought, a superficial decoration to enhance or mask the buildings credibility.

A More Implicate Design?

Edouard Francois, the Flower Tower, Paris

  • The architect has chosen to improve the façade of this building by constructing window ledges all the way around, at every level, and be-decking them with plants.
  • The building looks alive!
  • Everyone in the has to water the plants to sustain the vitality of their building.
  • This creates a sense of co-ownership and shared responsibility.
  • It encourages interaction between the inhabitants and a shared sense of pride.
  • This is an exciting and meaningful temporary solution that re-invigorates the community it represents.

c.f. Planting paradise (external link) by (Otto Van Nieuwenhuijze).

An even more implicate design?

BedZed? Beddington Zero Energy Devlopment, Bill Dunster Architects
‘I think what’s not really working at the moment is that there isn’t evidence of an alternative and viable concept coming through. It’s just a series of micro-initiatives that don’t add up to very much, especially when presented to the general public. So if the design synergy project really works, it will take all of these ideas, join them up, link them together and create a really big picture...that, in theory, is a workable alternative to the status quo.’ (Bill Dunster, 2005)

An even more implicate design…

  • The Attainable Utopias Dream Exchange – this will work on the basis of ‘joining up dreams’
  • This, together with the whole notion of Attainable Utopias entails designing at a more implicate level.
  • Groups of people with a wide variety of skills and knowledge can together to develop and to realise visions that extend far beyond the possible.

Can we attain Implicate Design by Acknowledging the Awkward?

KEYWORDS: Adroit / Maladroit, Awkward Continuum
Design Defining 21st Century = 21st Century Defining Design
"the society we’re working within is actually totally unstable...and if you care about the future, the next 50 to 100 years, then there’s no point in continuing as normal if we haven’t made our best endeavours to prepare for a resource-constrained future."
(Bill Dunster, 2005)

  • At its best, design is visionary.
  • It can make that which seems impossible, possible.
  • It can create a bifurcation in a society's culture or a leap to a higher level of organisation.
  • At its worst, design is repressive.
  • It can impose constraints on communities and impose blank facades on the imagination.
  • in his 1970 book ‘Utopia or Oblivion’, Buckminster Fuller confronts a future catastrophe facing our whole planet.
  • He warns us how mankind alters the environment, how the altered environment alters human behaviours, and how the whole process accelerates.
  • David Bohm defines the '9-to-5', mechanistic, object-based reality that most of us operate within as the ‘explicate order’.
  • This is a kind of reality in which design is used as merely an ‘add-on’.
  • Design is a fragmented and superficial aspect of the manufacturing of products and buildings.
  • It is not properly connected to the innately 'good-feelings' of human beings.
  • Nor is it respectful towards the natural environment that sustains us.
  • This is a supine mode of design that supports disembodied desires for passive, 'non-space', artificial environments.
  • It is uncomfortable, insensitive, thoughtless, alienating, reckless, speedy, unsatisfying, and tasteless.

David Bohm's idea of Enfoldment

  • What I mean by implicate design is an approach to reality as being enfolded, an acknowledgement of the many levels that inform a design decision that will impact on everyday life and our environment.
  • A design that is conceived of by a group of people in a given context – perhaps within a local environment...these people can work together to actively unfold solutions, like peeling away the leaves of a cabbage.
  • What qualities do designers need to be a part of a ‘metadesign’ ensemble?

Proposing an awkward continuum

My metadesign work is concerned with awkward space that emerges within a system. I am particularly interested in the planning of our built environment. I define awkward space in this context as the blindspots that punture the cities we live in. Awkward space denotes areas that remain unresolved in between that which is designed and now functions according to a plan. Awkward space might also be the remnant of a past pedestrian flow that has become turbulent and changed its course. Therefore these sites may mark out a kind of pattern of turbulence, drift, unpredictable behaviours in the city's self-organisation. I would like to investigate awkward space as the starting point in identifying spaces of creative potential in the city. To achieve a sustainable built environment we will have to start engaging at a deeper level with the spaces that exist in between the buildings - how can the public be aware of the issues facing their immediate urban environment if they cannot engage with that environment?

Designer as visionary
Designer as negotiator
Designer as technician
Designer as creative

I have been teaching on the MA Design Futures course at Goldsmiths College for three years. Design Futures is an multidisciplinary design course and the range of professional and cultural backgrounds of the students is very rich and diverse. This year we have an architect, design manager, experience designer, graphic designer, interior designer, textile designer... to name a few. Each of these individuals have chosen to spend one year out of practice to deepen their understanding and identify relationships between the environmental, social, ethical and cultural contexts surrounding their work. They are 'redesigning' their role as designers through writing dynamic proposals, framing new questions, identifying clients needs, understanding the skills and qualities and values they have to offer. But this is no easy task. What does a metadesign CV look like? All of these designers are great non-linear thinkers, they are bridge builders in between specialisms, agents in unfamilar systems, catalysers of new paradym thinking. Some clumsily sit in between art and design. Most have departed from a problem-solving approach to design to develop new methods of searching for positive solutions through envisioning and questioning what could be possible for the future.

The Awkward Continuum

I would like to propose the Awkward Continuum as a tool to map the skills of a metadesigner against the context of a proposed urban design intervention. With this tool the metadesigner will be able to chart their levels of inclusion in a design against the constant adaption of that design. So there is never an end result but instead the designer is part of a flow.

  • An awareness of the above skills is imperative.
  • Perhaps this continuum can be used to coax the transformation from awkward, through, and into adroit.
  • This would curb/curve it into a solution.
  • It might chart the unpredictable.
  • It would take a purposely unmechanical approach.
  • It would use left handed, back to front logic.
  • It would shake up the contexts to find meaning.