Thesis Studio 12
Wicked Issues/Wicked Deliberations

Studio leader: Associate Professor Greg Missingham


Something wicked this way comes …

Horst Rittel’s term for problems that, unlike ‘benign’ problems, are hard to define, have no ready-made procedures for solving them and have no simple test for whether they are solved was ‘wicked’. But, in offering proposals for situations or dealing with issues, designers do much more than ‘solve’ problems. Deliberative thinking is being reflective about the task, reflexive in regard to your own thinking and evaluating the outcomes of carefully considered options investigated experimentally.

Suppose that you’ve been invited by a select committee to use your professional design skills to tackle a wicked issue of your choice, where designing is a research endeavour and method, experimental and investigative. Your report will be interested in deliberative investigations and consequent proposals – systematic, argued and evaluated on the basis of evidence and reasoning, covering options canvassed, rejections, why rejected and why various matters are included. And, deliberative does not mean dry and lacking poetry.

Projects will come out of the explorations rather than be defined by program or building type, they will be for actual sites and students should expect to design works of about 1,000 m2 (± 25%, say) in area, allowing time to experiment with the design a number of times and to think both about the results and what to do next. Be prepared to spend up to six weeks running three parallel approaches: your normal approach, an approach suggested by your chosen issue and an approach “at right angles” to those two. Outcomes will be design(s) that are reasoned proposals resulting from thorough prior investigations of carefully generated options. Documentation will cover all investigations, experiments and schemes and should include reports, drawings, models and diagrams. Mind you, just like the designs, ‘reports’ will be experimental or innovative in form – for they too are desirably subject to deliberative experiment, investigation and evaluation.


Dorst, Kees, 2015, Frame Innovation: Create New Thinking by Design, Design Thinking, Design Theory series, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Missingham, Greg, 2015, Wicked Deliberations: research and design studios, in: Crawford, Robert H & André Stephan, eds, 2015, Living and Learning: Research for a Better Built Environment: 49th International Conference of the Architectural Science Association, Melbourne, VIC: Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, pp. 846-855.

Nelson, Harold G & Erik Stolterman, 2012, The Design Way: Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World, 2nd edn, Design Thinking, Design Theory series, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Rittel, Horst & Melvin Webber, 1984, Planning Problems are Wicked Problems, in Nigel Cross, ed, 1984, Developments in Design Methodology, Chichester: Wiley, pp. 135-144. 

Schön, Donald A & Martin Rein, 1994, Frame Reflection: Toward the Resolution of Intractable Policy Controversies, New York: Basic Books/HarperCollins Publishers.

Steenbergen, Clemens, 2008, Composing Landscapes: Analysis, Typology and Experiments for Design, trans Donald Mader, Basel: Birkhäuser. UniM Archit High Use

Architecture 2020_summer