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ARCOM Conferences

34th Annual Conference – Belfast, UK
3-5 September 2018

Track 3: Reconceiving multidisciplinary collaboration for managing design in construction: Moving forward from the fragmentation-integration dichotomy

Lead: Mustafa Çıdık, London South Bank University (selcukcidik@gmail.com); David Boyd, Birmingham City University; Vedran Zerjav, University College London

“Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon, 1988). Design in construction, whether of M&E installations, structural systems, spatial relationships, production systems or management programmes, is a multidisciplinary undertaking. The success of this multidisciplinary work requires collaboration. However, this is often seen as a problem because of the fragmented nature of the disciplines and their different value creation logics, which can be in tension with each other (Bygballe and Jahre, 2009). Nevertheless, many have challenged the simplistic notion of total integration that is espoused (e.g. Baiden et al., 2006; Jorgensen and Emmitt, 2009) as misapplied to a complex situation. Thus, the current framing of management of design merely around the ‘fragmentation-integration’ dichotomy has led to an inappropriate language and an unproductive focus on the problems of differences between various disciplines.

Consequently, there is a struggle in articulating the inherent diversity of construction design in a uniting and productive manner. Hence, there is a struggle in establishing effective organisation and management that see this diversity as something that needs to be cultivated rather than resolved. The current misapplied and problematic vocabulary, concepts and theories on construction design is a growing issue especially in a world where a myriad of support technology is being developed and used relying on them. These technologies claim to help organising and managing multidisciplinary design based on a rationalism defined around the fragmentation-integration dichotomy, thus reproducing and normalising its shortcomings (Çıdık et al., 2017). However, in practice, construction design is a highly iterative process with the contributions of practitioners being entangled and path dependent, and it is the effectiveness of the interplay among various practitioners that determines success and failure. Therefore, the technological changes planned around the main stream fragmentation-integration debate are affecting the autonomy and interdependency of various actors and agencies in construction design impacting on their ability to perform and innovate successfully. It is impossible to explain the desired productive relationship in construction design, which relies on synergy, within the dichotomy of paradigms; either engineering, where design is a technical support role following a hard-sciences mental model, or architecture, where design is seen as the creative role following an artistic mental model.

In this track, we seek papers that address the shortcomings of current theory and research on construction design management and organisation. It is promoting a new productive relationship which requires empirical, theoretical and methodological insights and a repositioning of research.

Issues might include, though not restricted to, the following:

Ultimately, the track is encouraging a critical debate in a practically-relevant manner to reconceive the effective management and organisation of construction design.


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