Solution space versus solution point

The real life examples of the preceding sections illustrate an important feature of Open Design: by establishing a solution space (or feasible region) in which the architect has complete freedom, the way is paved for the realisation of creative architectural ideas. Ideas that are both valuable in the sense that they increase satisfaction of stakeholders, and feasible in the sense that they fit into the solution space. In conventional design practice, by contrast, the starting point is one feasible design, a solution point. Usually other designs - representing other solution points - are subsequently made to accommodate criticism on the first one. Such alternatives, therefore, tend to be merely incremental deviations from the first design.

In the example of the residential area of Section 3.3, a new architectural concept was generated within the agreed solution space. Without the Open Design approach, this interesting concept would not have survived. The designers of the municipality were actually very surprised that another design, fundamentally different from their own, turned out to be possible within the agreed constraints. They had assumed that within these constraints only slight deviations from their own design would be possible. That this assumption turned out to be wrong was, understandably, a shock to them.

Thinking in terms of a solution space is particularly important when the solution space is made up of several parts which are connected by narrow 'corridors'. For two decision variables, we can represent that situation as shown in Figure 3.6 (one may think of the metaphor of two ponds connected by a narrow channel).

If a solution point in Part 1 is used as the starting point of a trial-and-error process, it is extremely unlikely that any solution in Part 2 of the solution space will ever be found.

Example: Hoorns Kwadrant Delft

The municipality of Delft wished to build some 2 000 houses on a residential area called 'Hoorns Kwadrant' which was owned by the neighbouring village of Schipluiden (Van Loon et al., 1982). The municipality of Schipluiden was only prepared to sell the site if considerably less houses were to be built. They felt that other-

Figure 3.6 Solution space made up of two parts connected by a small 'corridor'

wise the region would get too much 'an urban character'. In a trial-and-error process the number of houses to be built was reduced to 1 650. The municipality of Delft refused to give in any further in view of the financial feasibility of the project. The municipality of Schipluiden still considered the number of houses far too great.

To resolve this stalemate situation - which had lasted for years -the help of open-design consultants was called in. It then transpired that financial feasibility was ensured in two areas:

• In the range of, say, 1500 to 2 500 houses. Then ground would have to be bought from both farmers and greenhouse owners.

• In the range below 1200 houses. In that case no expensive ground purchases from greenhouse owners would be needed.

The latter revealed that the implicit assumption the Delft municipality had made - the lower the number of houses the lower the financial feasibility - was not correct. The project was actually implemented for some 1 200 houses.

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