Expert design versus Open Design

The classical approach to the problem of designing a new building or new residential area is to consult an expert or a limited group of experts. In the case of a new building, architects and structural engineers are consulted. In the case of a new residential area, additional advice is sought from urban planners and traffic engineers.

These experts provide a solution to the design problem which has to be 'sold' to the users of the building and project developers, or the future inhabitants of the residential area, representatives of pressure groups and local politicians. These interested groups are not at all happy with the design. The expert design, i.e. the design produced by a limited group of experts, does not reflect the wishes of all stakeholders. In particular the influence of the end users - seen by the experts as ignorant laymen - on the design is piecemeal, at least in their own perception.

To prevent these feelings of dissatisfaction, the aid of process experts is called in. They are asked to devise a decision-making process for the project which sets out what has to be produced when, and who should decide what. This, supposedly, enables the designers to work towards a result that, with some degree of certainty, incorporates more wishes into the final design. A consequence of this approach is a series of sub-optimum design decisions

Sjoelbak How Make
Figure 1.1 Sjoelbak (Dutch shuffleboard)

Experts

Figure 1.2 Expert design sjoelbak

Experts

Figure 1.2 Expert design sjoelbak leading to a total sub-optimum design in which, again, a lot of wishes are left unfulfilled.

The Open Design approach avoids these conditions of sub-optimality by giving equal weight to experts and laymen having an interest in the outcome of the design process. This will be explained below using a metaphor: the 'Sjoelbak' (Dutch shuffleboard, Figure 1.1).

A 'Sjoelbak' (pronounce as Shool-buck) is an originally Friesian family game. The disks, which are similar to ice hockey pucks, have to be pushed into four openings at the end of the shuffleboard. The expert design process can be visualised by the 'Sjoelbak' in Figure 1.2. This board has been made in such a way that the puck always ends up in the opening representing the design option of the experts. The choice of this option is determined by a struggle between the experts to direct the sides of the shuffleboard. The arrows in Figure 1.2 indicate this tug-of-war process.

This design process - typical of large, complex construction projects - has two fundamental shortcomings:

1. The possible contributions of layman-users and other excluded stakeholding parties are ignored;

2. Even if these contributions would be irrelevant - quod non - the perception of their being excluded significantly reduces the acceptance of the

Figure 1.3 Multi-stakeholder sjoelbak design

expert design.

To overcome these shortcomings a design process is needed which allows the taking into account of the wishes and preferences of a multitude of stakeholding parties. Such a design process can be visualised by the shuffleboard of Figure 1.3*.

The arrows represent the influence stakeholders can exercise on the position of the sides of the Dutch Shuffleboard. The ultimate position of the sides does not lead to one design outcome, but to several options. The decision as to which of these options should be implemented, can be dealt with by a democratic process, for instance by means of voting among the future users.

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