Designing Fast & Slow



University of Greenwich | Undergraduate 2018/19



This year Unit 3 continued its fascination with the intersection of craft and technology, the real and the virtual and the digital and the analogue by exploring the concept of time in both the design and construction of architecture. Inspired by Nobel Prize Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s recent book, Thinking Fast and Slow, we began by examining the speed of the design process itself. We researched examples of the role that time plays in our creative process and built environment before applying them to our own unique design proposals that embodied our own individual theory of time in design, function and creation.


Kahneman describes two systems of thought, the first, System 1, is fast, automatic, instinctive and emotional whilst the second System 2 is slow, effortful, deliberative and logical. Unit 3 broke down the design process into a series of explicit fast and slow tasks intended to exploit the advantages of each system. Students used the learnings from their tasks to build an understanding of how time plays a role in the design and construction of architecture. We used the untiring energy of the fast brain to create a large amount of energetic, creative and instinctive output and the logical slow brain to rationalise our outputs into functional, pragmatic designs.


We used our exploration of time to address some fundamental questions. We investigated the role that speed played in sustainability and in our society, should we build slowly to last for generations or does speed and agility provide an opportunity to address contemporary modern issues through the use of constantly updating and upgrading technology. We looked at the concept of flow and asked if there is a benefit to the designer or maker in the act of creation that reveals itself at an optimum speed to provide personal satisfaction and psychological wellbeing. We analysed the products of different design processes and asked if there is a fundamental difference in the character and value of something that has been made over time by a human hand as compared to an identical item that is artificially created.


We mapped the pace of activities within our buildings and asked how architecture plays a role in facilitating them. How do building typologies such as stadiums speed us up and others such as shopping malls slow us down. We looked at how the intelligent and creative use of cross-programming can allow different, even opposing, functions to share the same space over the course of a day, a week or a year


As a point of departure, we took inspiration from Christian Marclay: The Clock at Tate Modern. We applied our observations to our site in Fish Island, Hackney Wick and created a series of site investigation mappings that explored the overlooked relationship of craft and cartography in constructing notions of territoriality.


For the main project, students designed infrastructure for the crafts and artisans in Fish Island, a once largely industrial area with a long tradition as a home to artists and creative spaces. Students considered how spaces containing activities taking place at different speeds could co-exist in their design whilst providing support structures and networks for the local creative community.











Connor Meighan