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The Architect as the Inventor

Part 2 Dissertation 2005
Irene McGee
Queen's University Belfast, UK
Dissertation Synopsis: The Architect as the Inventor, Irene McGee

The aim of this research was to overcome the contradictions in the present methods of integrating wind energy collection and conversion into architecture. Current methods use designs for wind turbines developed for the open landscape well over a hundred years ago. Attached to modern buildings, they are the “horseless carriages” of the twenty-first century.

This work explores the use of an alternative and powerful design method that recently emerged from the former Soviet Union. TRIZ, the ‘Theory of Inventive Problem Solving,’ takes a radically unconventional approach to design that, unlike many previous design methods, is philosophical and open-ended. Great stress is laid on problem formulation and analysis of function. TRIZ challenges and helps the designer to identify and eliminate contradictions and trade-offs in a design task, to make use of all the available resources – even seemingly negative factors - and to identify technologies where others may have solved these or similar problems. Using the principle of ideality, it leads the designer closer to the ‘Ideal Final Result’. Using TRIZ theory, this investigation will apply the inventive problem-solving tools to the integration of wind energy collection into buildings, and will propose alternative solutions in the form of new concepts and inventions.

This research first of all establishes the need for new energy collection methods. Analysis then highlights current forms of wind energy collection, and examples of how architects are at present attempting to resolve the integration problem. The application of TRIZ tools to a particular wind generator prototype highlights many aesthetic and architectural contradictions. The dissertation then shifts to a design and innovation-based study.

This dissertation also discusses the importance and success of inventing and why there is a need for such a method. Due to the vast extent of TRIZ, the entire extensive thought process could not be documented within the limits of the text.

Irene McGee

Irene McGee took up the challenge of applying to architecture a philosophy and method (‘TRIZ’) hitherto unknown among architects. She was able to exploit the approach to produce some extraordinarily creative results in her area of interest: the integration wind energy into architecture. Her insights have changed fundamentally the way we will look at this in future.

However, as its title, ‘The Architect as the Inventor,’ rightly suggests, this work has far wider implications. It has shown how genuine technical - and visual - innovation need not be a minority sport. By demonstrating a theory that is a basis for action, the dissertation goes some considerable way to bringing theory and practice in architecture closer together again.

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