Design by Discourse by Carey Lyon

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This PhD reflects on the processes, methodologies and completed projects that have defined my creative practice over three decades. The creative works examined within this dissertation, and which have been the substantive focus of my reflections, were developed through my work as a founder (with Corbett Lyon) of the architectural practice Lyons. From these reflections I have identified the role that discourse, and the discursive, has in my design practice, both as a means of making design, how it finds its way into the completed architectural projects. The discursive is discussed in two ways, as a noun referring to discourse in the manner of a field of knowledge, but also as an adjective to describe ways of practice, both formal and informal, that create a type of creative sociability, through which talk develops an influential agency.

Talk, and other forms of discursiveness in my design processes, are proposed as a primary means of making architecture, different to the conventions of designing by drawing. This includes talking about, and talking through architecture, and also where the architecture itself talks back. Such discursiveness is proposed as having agency, by positioning my creative practice as a form of continuous speculation. This discursive model of design allows me to reframe a design approach as an opening up of a series of enquiries – with my clients, within my mind, within the practice of Lyons, with questions around the public and community, and directly with the design process itself. These discursive explorations open up a varied array of fields of enquiry, each of which overlap, blend and interconnect.

From this overlapping, the process becomes one of developing a design out of its accumulated entanglement. This then becomes another proposition in which such discursive intricacies and talk become directly embedded into my completed designs, and what I have termed the discursive object. The projects designed through this methodology can therefore be considered as having the same character of openness as the process itself, and are equally intended to remain as a kind of open question or enquiry, to be an expression of the inclusionary, the plural and the multiple. This is extended to become a proposition for the design of public buildings in contemporary democratic Australia (which has formed the primary basis of my creative practice) and for these to also have the quality of being speculative, like a perpetual work in progress.


Examiners: Prof Geoffrey London, Prof Felicity Scott  Supervisors: Prof Vivian Mitsogianni, Prof Paul Carter

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