Some Quotations about Design Synergyau_g

(N.B. these isolated quotations were taken from interviews and from workshop transcripts. They have been put together to create a narrative argument. Their new context may therefore have distorted the speaker's original purpose.)


“Aren’t we really concerned with the process rather than the produce (of synergy)? The product is useful to keep in mind but what we’re trying to develop is processes that are sustainable or synergistic rather than have our mind focussed too much on a product. Because when you have the product in mind you are trying to get there all the time and you ignore things that maybe you shouldn’t ignore in the process.” (Prof. Phil Jones)

“To look at any of these (body) parts, or anything, as separate from the universe as a whole means that you lose out on the inter-connectedness of it.” (Prof. Otto van Niewenhuijze)

“Space, time, energy and consciousness come together – we always have these four together. Working in synergy, pulling together ideas from different disciplines makes you rethink how you work.” (Prof. Otto van Niewenhuijze)


“There’s no point in investing in a future…I think it’s almost the very point in having kids…unless you are actually providing them with something worth having.” (Bill Dunster)

“Politics must have a purpose. Our meta-purpose must be to realise the potential for the collective and the State. If it doesn’t do that, it’s not a democracy.” (Dr. Ken Fairclough)

“I think the other reason (for slow progress towards more energy efficient buildings) is that the building industry wasn’t as organised as it is now. It was organised to resist change. The biggest problem we have in achieving another step-change (in terms of the energy performance), is in overcoming the resistance to change of the construction industry, as well as that of people occupying the buildings.” (Prof. Phil Jones)

“Something nobody has talked about is that it is not possible to ‘make poverty history’ without also stopping runaway climate change. It would only take a temperature change two degrees, in a large percentage of central Africa, to cause a breakdown of their entire agriculture system.” (Bill Dunster)

“We think that a 4 person, 11-ton household, which is the UK average, will probably cause the deaths of an equivalent number of people during its lifetime.” (Bill Dunster)

“There are some statistics that say for every 12 houses you build you throw one away in a skip and we need to address this sort of problem.” (Prof. Phil Jones)

“This (the Laban Centre) was presented as an example of green building - yet it makes every mistake in the book – lack of respect for the human body, our physiology, and how to be comfortable.” (Bill Dunster)

“The UK has somehow got to start thinking of itself as the south of France or more Mediterranean and stop looking at Germany and Scandinavia, so passive cooling from concrete slabs, walls and floors are essential and very high levels of insulation are also very important to stop heat coming inside and stop you losing heat in the winter.” (Bill Dunster)

“…at the same time we want to produce environments in the building that are healthy, comfortable, and productive…very often it is easier to sell sustainability on health, comfort and productivity than it is to sell it on energy saving and environmental benefits…. if you can increase productivity by having a nice building you can maybe save a company £1k-2k per sq meter per year. If you save energy, the most you are likely to achieve is £5 per square metre, so it makes an enormous difference, but we often use the wrong arguments to achieve sustainability.” (Prof. Phil Jones)


“And if we can make people more productive, then they are more profitable, therefore there will be public and private sector cost benefits (to sustainable urban / building design). Although they are more holistic in nature and difficult to quantify in the area where this holistic approach comes in. How do we measure the immeasurable? How do we measure the impact of a healthy building on reducing the cost of keeping people healthy? How do we quantify the cost savings through a higher productive workforce?” (Prof. Phil Jones)

“We have to find some form of analysing the situation and how to get there.” (Dr. Ken Fairclough)

"Maybe we need one big map that includes ourselves, and to locate lines of synergy between us in a visual way." (Anette Lundebye)

“I think the majority of the work needs to take place with respect to the prioritisation of the strands (of knowledge) within the group and where they overlap. Where the overlaps come, it seems to me that the main thing we need to work on now is to make a synergy between these strands, in other words where the overlaps occur.” (Professor Naomi Gornick)

“There is a wonderful thing in management-speak, which is called ‘creative abrasion’: you have to recognise that you have a group of 13 people with very strong opinions. You can’t change their personalities. However, you can turn the abrasion into something much more creative and much more positive. I think this should be acknowledged in any discussion guidelines - because otherwise it‘s not realistic.” (Professor Naomi Gornick)

“In the groups, the listening is just as important as the talking, and the reflection of what you have been listening to.” (Professor Naomi Gornick)

“I feel that each of these four hubs is extremely important, but without our hub (the communication group) you couldn’t function. The more we meet, the more the richness comes out. The individual knowledge from each person is invaluable and shouldn’t be lost.” (Professor Naomi Gornick)


….if you give it a name then suddenly it can be identified and then applied.” (Prof. Otto van Niewenhuijze)

“Everyone talks about ‘sustainability’ yet we all get confused by the word. If we are confused, then we will very unlikely to make things better. You don’t have to be a genius to realise that terms such as ‘sustainable business’ and ‘sustainable consumption’ are dangerously self-contradictory. We figured that a quest for ‘synergy’ might have a longer lifeline than the idea of ‘sustainability’.” (John Wood)

“One of the ideas I would like to connect you to is that of contagious health. It’s a term I created because it describes quite well what is going on. Here, in Belgium a city is now rethinking how it can give value and meaning to a city development site they are now working on. And around these groups (of experts from various disciplines working on the development of this project) now is this notion that has taken form….if you give it a name then suddenly it can be identified and then applied.” (Prof. Otto van Niewenhuijze)

“There is a good range of vocabulary in the group. However, although we share a great deal there is a mismatch in the vocabulary coming out of our different specialisms. We need to create an environment to project our ideas into." (Professor Milan Jaros)

"….synergy cannot be guaranteed within a self-organising group….you cannot actually manage something that will produce a new outcome.” (Professor Milan Jaros)

"I think that an overlap between our respective works is an interest in identifying spaces within to unfold potential.” (Professor Milan Jaros)


“The activity we have today will become a practice; we need to make our activity practical. ‘Man is a toolmaker’. We should see ourselves as toolmakers and make different synergetic tools to make something very practical and useful.” (Dr. Vadim Kvitash)

“I think we need to start from some kind of practical process. I think if you have an agreed mission then we use our synergy tools to help you…our focus will become more apparent.” (Andrew Carmichael)

“I think that, in order to develop a theory, you need an actual subject. It could be anything. Even a discussion about a bottle of water might be enough upon which to develop a philosophy. Remember how much fun we had when we all came together to do the dancing? We had a choreographer and a melody and everyone was dancing to it. If we were all dancing to different music, it wouldn’t have been so beautiful. I think we need to establish the same tune.” (Jan-Marc Petroshka)

"there can be no theory without experiment…” (Professor Milan Jaros)


“Synergy basically is about self-empowerment. If we were to apply rules you would lose that self-empowerment. You’re back to what somebody else presents.” (Prof. Otto van Niewenhuijze)

“I think the essential part of synergy is that it is based on the autonomy of the participants, so that synergy acquires autonomy, which by definition would mean that nobody is leading it in the form of directing it. But, yes, a co-ordinator is always helpful in a group, who can just recap what happens and who can sort of recap the agenda and recap what comes out of it. A summariser is very helpful.” (Prof. Otto van Niewenhuijze)

(reflecting upon the possible purpose of the group). I would like to see my own skills in a new disciplinary context. When you’ve talked about interdisciplinary work in design you easily tend to fall into a stereotypical view of what the other disciplines might be. It’s usually a variation on science, engineering, psychology and cultural studies…in our group there are people that go way beyond those traditional boundaries.” (Prof. Martin Woolley)

“As designers, your environment - and your position within it - is very important. I think that the idea of dance, whether it was dance in the end or not, the idea of using space, movement and positioning as part of the tool kit seems to have a lot of potential.” (Prof. Martin Woolley)


“Dealing with other disciplines is not as neat and tidy as we’d like to think it is. I think it requires a special kind of facilitation to get over that.” (Prof. Martin Woolley)

“I am interested in the infrastructure that supports the built environment. This is something that is often forgotten. We tend to build or refurbish buildings without thinking too much about what support we need. The infrastructure includes transportation, water, waste, sewage, energy systems. It also relates to green and blue structures, landscapes, water features in the city, so we have got to get this balance again.” (Prof. Phil Jones)

“We always design things to meet supply and supply always increases. So we are always trying to meet an increase in supply rather than reducing demand. It’s not in our thinking to reduce demand so much, because consumerism is all about increasing supply and that’s where the whole economy is driven, but we need to reduce demand if we are going to achieve sustainability.” (Prof. Phil Jones)

“Accessibility vs. mobility. We designed our cities to make people as mobile as possible. Whereas we should be designing to make things as accessible as possible for people.” (Prof. Phil Jones)

"Our awareness to the relevance to certain things would shift after discussions within the group” (Denis O’Brien)

“Just as it is good to have agreement within a group, it is healthy to have some frustration within it. Both are important.” (John Wood)

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