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Systemic Design for Health

Supervisor(s) Koen De Wandeler
Campus BXL
Language EN
Studio or individual? individual
Max number of students? 2


Description of the project: This master project critically examines the role of architects, designers and urban (ADU) professionals in their engagement with other stakeholders and with the practice of planning, designing, building, and managing health care as an integral part of the post-pandemic built environment. It deals with aspects of a decarbonized, regenerative production and reproduction of inclusive health care facilities that positively affect the carrying capacity of the human habitat.

Eligbility & expected output

This master project is intended as a further reflection on the August 2024 WHO-Téchne summer school, which the Faculties of Architecture of KU Leuven and Chiangmai University (Thailand) jointly organized in collaboration with WHO-Téchnne (https://www.who.int/groups/techne) and the WHO Country Office Thailand. Therefore, candidates for this master project ideally would have participated in one of the faculty’s electives/ studios in collaboration with WHO-Téchne and/or partners in the Global South. Above all, they need to be familiar with ecological thinking launched in the 1970s and have previous interest and/or experience in sustainable architecture and design and/or initiatives that promote circular economy and/or inclusiveness. They should have a keen interest to delve into recent literature on systems thinking, systemic design and systems practice and willing to produce an output that takes systems thinking as a thematic entry point for furthering the output of the WHO-Téchne summer schools.

Study trip? (+ timing): Selected participants will work in team with the academic promotor throughout their dissertation. In a first instance, they will work in team to familiarize themselves with the rationale, methodology and outputs of the successive summer schools conducted in collaboration with WHO-Téchne (2022, 2023 and 2024). Along with a literature study on systems thinking and systemic design, every student will be given the opportunity to collaborate — online or on site (TBC) ­— with one or more particpants in the 2024 WHO-Téchne smmer school. and practice. A write-up of that literary and collaborative explorations will be expected by the end of the first semester and serve as literature review for their dissertation. Next, every student will be encouraged to engage as an observer / participant in any of the KU Leuven electives, courses, design studios, or workshops that are relevant for thei ellaboration of the disseration.

References/Further reading: 

Acumen Academy (n.d.). Systems Practice. An 8-week online training course. https://acumenacademy.org/course/systems-practice/

Adam, T., & de Savigny, D. (2012). Systems thinking for strengthening health systems in LMICs: need for a paradigm shift. Health Policy Plan27(Suppl 4), 1–3.

Barbero, S., & Pereno, A. (2020). Editorial: Relating Systems Thinking and Design. Systemic Design and Co-creation processes for Territorial Enhancement. Strategic Design Research Journal13(2).

Dens, S., Nieto-Sanchez, C., De Los Santos, M., Hawer, T., Haile, A., Solari, K., Cisneros, J., Vega, V., Solomon, K., Addissie, A., Yewhalaw, D., Otero, L., Grietens K. P., Verdonck, K., & Van Acker, M. (2022). Drawings as tools to (re)imagine space in interdisciplinary global health research. Front. Public Health,10, 985430. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2022.985430

De Wandeler, K & Lo, A. (2022). International Multidisciplinary Summer School: Systemic Design for Health – Infectious Diseases Prevention and Control (T. Gerdpratoom & Z. WintNwe, Eds.). Thammasat Design School.


De Wandeler, K. & Lo, A. (forthcoming). Exploring Systems Thinking and Systemic Design: Insights from a Summer School Experiment Addressing Urban Health Crises. Journal of Architectural/Planning Research and Studies (JARS), 21 (2)- 2024.

Hensel, M. U., Hensel, D. S., & Sevaldson, B. (2019). Editorial RSD5: Linking systems-thinking and design-thinking in architecture and urban design. FormAkademisk12(2). https://doi.org/10.7577/formakademisk.3406

Jones, P. (2014). Systemic Design Principles for Complex Social Systems. In G. Metcalf (Ed.), Social Systems and DesignVolume 1 of the Translational Systems Science Series (pp. 91-128). Springer Verlag. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-4-431-54478-4_4.

Jones, P., & Van Ael, K. (2022). Design Journeys through Complex Systems. Practice Tools for Systemic Design. BIS Publishers.

Khan, A. (2021). Thinking Tools for Systems Thinking, Technology. Architecture + Design5(2), 134-139. https://doi.org/10.1080/24751448.2021.1967051

Meadows, D. H., Meadows, D. L., Randers, J. Behrens III, W. W. (1972). The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind. Universe Books.

Meadows, D. H. (1999). Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System. The Sustainability Institute.

Meadows, D. H. (2008). Thinking in systems: a primer (D. Wright, Ed.). Chelsea Green Publishing.

Monat, J. P., & Gannon, T. F. (2015). What is systems thinking? A review of selected literature plus recommendations. American Journal of Systems Science, 4(1), 11-26.

Murphy, R., & Jones, P. (2020). Leverage analysis: A method for locating points of influence in systemic design decisions. FormAkademisk13(2). https://doi.org/10.7577/formakademisk.3384

Omidyar Group (2017). Systems Practice Workbook. Omidyar Group. https://docs.kumu.io/content/Workbook-012617.pdf

Peters, D. H. (2014). The application of systems thinking in health: why use systems thinking? Health Research Policy and Systems, 12(51). http://www.health-policy-systems.com/content/12/1/51

Stroh, D. P. (2015). Systems thinking for social change: a practical guide to solving complex problems, avoiding unintended consequences and achieving lasting results. Chelsea Green Publishing.

Torrens, J., and Webb, R. (2022). Compound urban crises. Ambio51(6), 1402-1415.

Van Ael, K., Vandenbroeck, P., Ryan, A., & Jones, P. (2018). Systemic Design Toolkit Guide. Namahn.

Image: Lego Design Charette, KU Leuven – Thammasat – Téchne Summer School ©Adrian Lo