Layering the Built Environment – A Cybernetic Perspective

In March 2023, we visited The School of Cybernetics at the Australian National University in Canberra. Across a day of sharing research, work and ideas, we recognised how aligned cybernetic approaches are to the ideas behind Integrative Briefing. Layering, pace and change, concepts that originated through Frank Duffy’s (DEGW) work and built on by Stewart Brand are useful lenses to explore the built environment as part of a cybernetic system encompassing humans, technology and environment relations. This was observed through the System of a Sound installation which was on display at the school, and a version is also accessible online. In this guest blog, Josh Andres, discusses cybernetics and the System of a Sound installation.

The built environment, with its architectural structures, infrastructures, and embedded technologies, can be framed as a cybernetic system comprising the interdependency between humans, technologies, and the surrounding natural environment in complex ways.

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LLV Life (Part 3): Insights from an inhabitant

Lindfield Learning Village (aka LLV) is a progressive K-12 comprehensive school which opened in Sydney, Australia in 2019. In Part 1, we heard from the perspective of a new Year 5 student to the school. Part 2 gave insights into the process undertaken to create LLV. In this next installment, we hear from the heart of another inhabitant – a citizen, a parent and as well, a teacher.

Image: Lindfield Learning Village Vision & Values cards

When I first read an article about UTS Ku-ring-gai being closed down to open up a new K-12 school, I was intrigued. The article didn’t say much about what the school would be like, but it spiked my interest.  I followed the progression of the new school closely, I would even drive by randomly to see whether the building site would give any indication of when the school would be opening and what it would be like. 

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Discursive sonar: The theory of mapping meaning applied

We met Jane Cherrington in 2021 whilst she was authoring a review on education. Through our conversations we learnt about Jane’s role as a sense maker and navigator in branding and recognised how her approach was core to integrative briefing. We asked Jane to articulate her praxis and here is her response…

Education 5.0. I am no educator. How then to author a review? How do you make sense of a sector, in all its complex plurality as a visitor to its space? Meaning can seem so concrete, powerful, solid on arrival. But stand back, and take a good look across any space – of cultures, sectors, groups – and meaning’s inherent instability is visible, formed as it is through individual and ongoing re-interpretations of words, stories, objects, experiences, actions, all in hot debate. Contested and contesting forms swirling in tides of incoming information; massive, complex oceans of sensory inputs (data) we swim (drown) in minute by minute, hour by hour. When overwhelmed and seeking sense, volume usually equates to form. The ocean is made of ‘this’ say the monitors. Eddying currents of less or more slipping beneath the surface of such collective registry say no, it is also made of ‘that’. Collapsing ‘that’ into ‘this’ is so common, because landing any idea of ‘truth’ of a situation does require anchor into a sufficiently common recognisable framework. A normative narrative curve. But is this acceptable when there is no normal? What hope then for integrity of navigation if truth is instability? Dissonance. Chaos even.

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The Minotaur

Reflecting on ancient Greek myths, Andreas Markides ponders on how the stories of Icarus, Daedulus and the Minotaur continue to exert a hold on us and whether they are metaphors for our current day systems and the constraints in which they impose on our lives.

Image: Pasiphaë (1943) by Jackson Pollock, from Flying Too Close to the Sun : Myths in Art from Classical to Contemporary

For me, one of the most fascinating of myths has been that of the Minotaur, the half-man half-bull creature that lived in the labyrinth. Over the years I would on occasion stop to consider questions about this myth. How could a human mind conceive such a monster? What gave rise to the beast and what is its significance? What is the myth trying to tell us?

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Elevating the human experience – Creating a sense of belonging

Fiona Young started the new year with an experience at the hospital emergency department. Her experience is a direct reflection of the outcomes of the New South Wales Health Elevating the Human Experience initiative which considers patient, family and caregiver experiences through a constellation of seven key enablers foregrounding principles of kindness and compassion.

I’d never been to a hospital emergency room before and based on stories from friends and family it didn’t sound pleasant. Relentlessly long wait times with many other people, in stereotypical, aging hospital spaces.

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Better Integrative Briefing: Country, Community and Cultures

The Collective Environment (bringing together both the natural and constructed) requires diffusing siloed thinking and allowing for a circular process through time where design informs the brief and briefing informs design. To achieve this approach, we can learn a lot from Indigenous ways of thinking. In this guest blog, Marni Reti explains what it means to design with Country.

An Indigenous world view is concentric, not linear. All people and things are a part of Country, inclusive of all things that were and all things that will be – both naturally occurring and constructed by people. Therefore, what we design, what takes up space, becomes a part of the Country it occupies. This is one of the many reasons why we, in Australia, acknowledge Country at every event and encourage everyone to know which Country and whose land we stand on. It also means designers have an inherit responsibility to Country and the communities that it affects.

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Andreas Markides reflects on the relevance of one of Plato’s most famous stories from 360 BC to our world today. The story of Atlantis reminds us to beware of “predictable surprises” and reinforces the need to strategically change behaviours by re-setting our moral compass and initiating small scale actions.

Image: StockByM

The myth of Atlantis is probably known by most people and the story is so captivating that some have even gone in search of it. However, very few have paid due attention to the word ‘’myth’’ which is very significant because that is exactly what Atlantis is – a myth!

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Exploring Regenerative Practice in Architectural Design Processes

Through her practice-focused PhD research, Angelica Rojas has developed an approach that recognises the ability for design processes to enable individual and collective agency, support communities through significant change and increase living systems awareness. In this guest blog on Regenerative Practice, Angelica discusses projects as an opportunity to not only develop design, but also ourselves through an ongoing commitment to reflection and learning.

The Venny adventure playground Kensington, Melbourne. The story of the relocation process of the Venny illustrates how design process can be a medium to support children wellbeing and potential . Photograph Source: Project records City of Melbourne. Photographs by Andrew Wutks.

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Through storytelling, Andreas Markides reminds us of family and reinforces our concept of “the collective environment”, one human environment integrating the natural and constructed.

Image: Graham Beards.

My family have recently returned from a holiday in the Loire valley, France. We all fell in love with the beauty of the region. A majestic river surrounded by lush countryside and picture postcard villages, dotted around this magnificent landscape.

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Te Whare Pūkākā & The Agile Collective (Part 2)

In Part 1Nick Kapica and Nick Mouat discussed the creation of the Te Whare Pūkākā activity based staff workspace at the College of Creative Arts (CoCA) at Massey University in New Zealand. In Part 2, they share the story of the enabling of the CoCA staff workplace.

Food and drink to forge relationships. Image courtesy of Nick Kapica.

Te Whare Pūkākā, a new Activity Based Workspace for staff at the College of Creative Arts (CoCA) at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand opened in 2015. From day one, Te Whare Pūkākā evolved and responded to user needs. The Agile Collective was proposed as an idea for a group to facilitate Te Whare Pūkākā and evolve its operation without focusing attention on a single individual. The collective would use agile project management to develop evolving working practices within the Te Whare Pūkākā community. Using ‘agile’ in both workplace and project management definitions, the Agile Collective would revisit the original keywords and workplace concept to provide users with an improved workplace experience. By forming a ‘collective’ the responsibility for this evolution aimed to not focus on an individual and thus avoid hierarchical structures.

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