Between specificity and openness: How architects deal with design-use complexities

Liesbeth Stam*, Peter Paul Verbeek, Ann Heylighen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
89 Downloads (Pure)


Design-use relations are complex: architects influence social outcomes through design without having control over them. Making this complexity explicit during design is important, but difficult. Promising is work on human-technology relations in science and technology studies (STS) and philosophy of technology. With an eye to connecting this theoretical work to design practice, we study what architects already do: how design-use complexities figure during design processes and how architects deal with them. Based on a case study of the design competition for a new media building, we show two lines of reasoning in architects’ anticipation of use: specificity and openness. In doing so, we aim to provide insight into when, where and why they can benefit from STS and philosophical theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-81
Number of pages28
JournalDesign studies
Early online date25 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • case study
  • design knowledge
  • design process
  • design-use relations
  • architectural design
  • 22/2 OA procedure


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