The role of the design practice as an arena for innovation

Typical monographs on design practice showcase the architect's generative concept sketch along with drawings and images of a final asset, but very little attention is paid to the environment within which creativity and innovation takes place. As such, the role of the practice environment and culture in shaping design innovation is often downplayed in comparison to the designer's agency which is usually given primacy over other influences. This paper presents a research framework and early findings of research which explored the culture of three design practices to gain fuller insights into their role in shaping design innovation. The particular focus is on the design of adaptable buildings, the development of which demands innovative design practices which challenge much of the traditional design orthodoxy associated with modern buildings. It examines to what extent certain tools, mindsets, and interactions play a role in shaping design outcomes, and explores how decisions are made, by whom, and at what point in the process. This comparative approach helps to reveal the different levels of organizational culture which enable creative solutions to burgeon. On the basis of these findings, a set of provocations are proffered for encouraging designers to think about the way in which they innovate and frame their design interaction and decision making.