The Flexible Scaffold: Design Praxis in the FEW Nexus

Greg Keeffe*, Sean Cullen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Considering the way architects and urban designers work is critical to the implementation of Food-Energy-Water (FEW)-research when imagining the future of cities. Current FEW-research places emphasis on decision support systems, backed by quantification driven approaches to analyse the FEW-nexus. However, it forgets the heuristic, iterative process of design, that is different for all designers or design teams. As such, this chapter explores how architects and urban designers engage with place, the context of landscape and urban settlement, and data, the metrics by which the FEW-nexus is analysed. Proposed is a view that designers continually oscillate between content and form, iterating designs that access data or information on a need-to-know basis. Reflections between content and form are defined as ‘enquiry’, testing of content in the design process, and ‘validation’, scrutinising the implications of a design on the FEW-nexus. Consequently, it poses the question of how much a designer really needs to know within the process and whether they place greater emphasis on truth or validity as a modus operandi? The complexity, messiness and interconnectedness of the city requires a design approach that current FEW decision support systems do not take into consideration. The projective, conceptual and speculative operatives of design allow for new ways of viewing the FEW-nexus but requires flexible frameworks and mediums that enable designers to scale and frame propositions based on FEW-literate information at hand rather than in-depth quantification and data collection. Ultimately, design is an effective, rather than efficient, practice that considers wider social, cultural and environmental implications on the city and its residents.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransFEWmation: Towards Design-led Food-Energy-Water Systems for Future Urbanisation
EditorsRob Roggema
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
PublisherSpringer Nature Switzerland
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)2522-8412
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-61977-0
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2021

Publication series

NameContemporary Urban Design Thinking


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