Adaptive Design

Design up to now is widely conceived as directing the complex assembly and composition of elements into consumable “products” (including buildings). This process also typically bestows a consciously created veneer of aesthetic novelty onto these products, as a way of promoting their (temporary) desirability. (Though often characterized as great art, it is only rarely regarded as such by later generations.) This linear process continues with the rapid obsolescence and disposal of the products, and the creation of new and improved products (with fashionably new artistic veneers) to replace them.

This is a fundamentally unsustainable process.

Adaptive design is a continuous (and continuously beneficial and profitable) process of transformation, in which novel aspects are typically combined with enduring and recurrent ones. Artistic aspects have to work in service to this evolutionary pattern, and not be allowed to dictate it. Design, according to this definition, creates a transformation “from existing states to preferred ones,” as the great polymath Herbert Simon put it.

From: Toward Resilient Architectures 5: Agile Design