Ann Pendleton-Jullian Announced as a 2017-18 Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University

Knowlton School Professor of Architecture Ann Pendleton-Jullian has been named a 2017-2018 Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS). Professor Pendleton-Jullian’s work at CASBS will advance the theory and practice of DesUnbound, developed through six design studios and articulated in her book, Design Unbound. Designing for Emergence in a White Water World (MIT Press, 2017).

“As an architect, my work has gravitated towards projects that are complex culturally, environmentally and technologically,” Pendleton-Jullian commented, reflecting on the progression of knowledge and skills not directly associated with architecture. “I have had to develop methods to interrogate contexts as rich entanglements of behaviors, motivations, and meaning associated with diverse human populations.” In the introduction to Pendleton-Jullian spring lecture at the Knowlton School, Associate Professor of Architecture Andrew Cruse framed it this way:

“Ann has distilled these projects to their cultural, technical and ecological essence; she has framed them not as the tame problems you might expect, but as wicked problems . . . problems that are difficult or impossible to solve because they are incomplete, contradictory, and have changing requirements. While these problems are most commonly found in fields such as economics, politics and environmental policy, Ann Pendleton-Jullian identifies wicked problems in architectural design. In doing so, she recognizes how spatial, formal and programmatic thinking can be a personally and professionally productive ways to address some of the most challenging topics of our time.”

While at CASBS, Pendleton-Jullian will engage in intensive multi-disciplinary research that re-visions ways to work on increasingly complex problems most often associated with the social sciences. Drawing from DesUnbound, a system of theories and tools aimed at impact on complex, often intractable, problems, Pendleton-Jullian builds an approach predicated on architectural design as a process for designing contexts in which things happen.  These contexts, Pendleton-Jullian stated, “can accommodate well practiced relationships and behaviors, or they can open up new possibilities of exchange, interaction and meaning creation.”

To go beyond simply studying complex social problems to creating tangible impact on them, Pendleton-Jullian argued that new methodologies “requires thinking and designing with an understanding that one cannot design for absolute outcomes in a world that has become radically contingent – where propensities override causality. The future emerges out of actions in the present as they are influenced and interpreted through actions of the past. If we want to have agency, if we want to create impact, we need to understand how emergence works. We need to think in terms of emergence and we need to design for emergence.” Her own work, while still passionately involved with making elegant meaningful things (she is working on a new University in Kenya and a house in Big Sur, California) has extended this focus into the domains of education, public policy, human health/performance, and the applications of implications of technology on both cities and society.

Pendleton-Jullian’s specific work at CASBS will focus on how to develop heterogeneous information visualization methodologies and ‘templates’ for real-time data and information collection that produce insights across radically multi-disciplinary problems. Bringing her architectural practice and teaching to bear upon her fellowship project, Pendleton-Jullian stated, “What architecture, as a discipline, has going for it – what it can contribute to making tangible progress on tough multi-disciplinary socially complex problems - is the propensity to work in a multi-disciplinary way.” She added, “It has also developed methods to visualize information across different domain vernaculars, some of which are data rich and others that capture intangible and qualitative information.”

Since its inception in 1954, researchers associated with the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences have explored vexing questions and concerns.  More than 2,500 fellows have flourished on the Center’s hilltop campus, among them luminary figures in the nation’s public and intellectual life: 25 Nobel Laureates, 23 Pulitzer Prize winners, 51 MacArthur fellows, and 26 National Medal of Science winners.

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