Research Project 1

Architectural Spaces and Values of Design: Technological, Functional, Ethical, and Aesthetic Aspects

1. Uncovering Evidence of Design Integration

This project relates innovation to design in its relationship with industrial and corporate conception. It is considered that current formal innovations are associated with consumers’ identity values and meeting their needs and lifestyles, following criteria aimed at the sustainable development of diversified and fragmented production. Consequently, the responsibility of design encompasses many considerations to succeed, both in terms of high commercial acceptance through meeting consumer desires and social needs. Therefore, the focus is on project resolution, as since 1999, industrial design has adopted Design Based Learning (DBL) on three distinct stages for development: problem analysis, problem solution, and project report. Moreover, it is about sustainable development goals (SDGs). Accordingly, the leading philanthropic organizations are stimulating programs and partnerships with corporations. Hence, this project analyses the corporate planning phases under the DBL application during the design project. On the one hand, the analysis emphasizes the company’s legitimacy and the necessary sustainability practice by adopting environmental, social, and corporate governance. On the other hand, it questions Peter Behrens’ legacy regarding the standardization of corporate identity. Nonetheless, it is worth highlighting that the critical aspect is not the aesthetic; instead, the ethical aspects of the construction of the corporate image. Finally, through a theoretical foundation, the SDGs and the responsibility of design concerning the global and local contexts in its potential for social transformation are discussed. As a result, it is verified whether design integration is evidenced.

2. Designer’s Social Responsibility

The aim of this project is addressed to the design challenges regarding planning and involvement with the entire social structure. The focus is on the construction of knowledge, identification of problems, and search for solutions as primary factors of the designer’s social responsibility focused on the ethical values of sustainable development. Accordingly, this approach is outlined in three parts. The first refers to the historical background of the early impacts of the technological revolution on urban life, and consequently, on the values of a “romantic nature” in opposition to industrial development. In this respect, the bases for a worldview and utopias concerning a “back to nature” sense are presented with origins in European Romanticism. In the second part, the environmental scenario of sustainability is analyzed in its economic dimension, focusing on the social context of the emerging political agenda as the main challenge for corporations in the 21st century, which respectively concerns the challenges of architecture, design, and urban planning. In the last part, the sustainable development goals are discussed in terms of their complexity. The responsibilities of planners in design and architecture, especially for urban design, lie in planning for long-term purposes. The conclusion of this project is sought through qualitative research, verifying the need for planning based on ethical and aesthetic aspects of public policies for urbanization solutions.

3. Communication Design: Reducing Visual Pollution Toward a Smart City

This project aims to clarify technological development considerations of the communication design involving urban space, with cities’ empirical research moving toward the Fourth Revolution and sustainable development goals. Thus, the central question of this project analysis is: How to integrate the physical and virtual spaces through communication design toward a smart city? In this way, it has become increasingly necessary for communication design focused on media in urban spaces to solve some problems of “visual pollution.” The urban signage system is a communication system with its own language and codes. It is an international language of public spaces in large cities due to an empirical development process focused on functionality rather than aesthetics. In addition, the focus is on inhabitants’ perceptions of their urban environments and how they orient themselves and behave in the face of everyday experiences. To this end, regarding a smart city’s contemporary goals, one must primarily consider the interactions in urban centers through digital technology. However, urban interventions through digital technology must have a social meaning in their applications in visual settings, conditioning the aesthetic aspects as new concepts and, mainly, the functionality to serve everyone through a technicization of the organizational and implementation processes. In this sense, design communication has practical significance in daily life in society, due to its importance to solutions for communicative and signaling systems, as moving images in the sense of flow and connectivity. Consequently, this project qualitatively verifies the extension of the virtual world concerning the urban physical space in its implications on metropolitan daily life.

4. Evidencing Design Values for Sustainability in Environmental and Urban Spaces

This research project integrates the art and technology of producing images and its relationship with the social sciences and humanities. This project focuses on two strictly convergent studies involved in environmental and urban spaces—the interactions between nature, architecture, framing photography, moving images, and media—to understand the current value of the aesthetic realm and its effect on sustainable development. This project explores space and time modalities in the interdisciplinary exchange between perception studies and moving images, theories, and editing effects—montages of fragments of environmental and urban scenarios. The objective is to prioritize the potential of cinematic representation: moving images in the transition from nature and architecture to a screen-mediated environment and framing photography through photosensitive surfaces and their digital counterparts. Some important aspects are considered, such as the inclusion of new subjects and objects in the field of perception. The potential use of cinema as an instrument of social transformation with the political-cultural power to form critical thinking is highlighted. These ideas are further related to the perception of movement: how one moves or is mediated in an environment or urban space and the limits of space digitization. This process implies a visual values as narrative that involves memory as much as the act of seeing. Memory is a process in which visual sequences are perceived and coordinated in the imagination. Insights are also shaped by how environmental and urban perceptions influence this interplay. Therefore, a conception of space is not developed independently of forms, nor is it entirely autonomous. However, the space-time perception of the elements of internal and external spaces or the connections between them always reflects the visual narrative’s conditions and material effects. In conclusion, this research project should offer theoretical, critical reviews and an in-depth analysis of the socio-historical importance of practical possibilities for environmental and urban spaces evidencing visual values for sustainability.

5. Visual and Material Culture of Design: The Industry 4.0

Digital technologies stimulate creativity and design projects overcoming obstacles that involve the search for solutions, understanding, knowledge, and, above all, a better human capacity for communication and relationships with environments and artifacts in the urban context. However, the actual stand of research results in this field is insufficient to guide design projects through digital technology aiming at sustainable development goals based on functional and ethical design parameters. In such a context, predictions about the quality of life become highly uncertain in the face of technological resources and advances. To state that such a context is positive does not mean legitimate solutions, better human conditions, and better behavior but industry 4.0 interests, that is, the fourth phase of the liberal production and market system, which invests in new projects and developments for the path of humanity and capital’s future sustainability. It is about sociocultural transformations and consequences in the face of technological innovations. Therefore, this research aims to investigate design projects involved in processes of sustainable development goals, industry 4.0 advances, and decision-makers’ interests. To this end, digital presence is approached based on industrial revolutions, highlighting the technological transformations—algorithmic rule, Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence—that are directing society toward a significant change regarding the space and time of visual and material experiences. Thus, this research seeks to identify the limits of artificial intelligence’s capacity to solve complex human problems involving design-based learning (DBL): problem, analysis, and resolution. Hence, new attempts during the human-machine learning process are tested to address problems unsolved by artificial intelligence highlighting human values and goodwill in the decisions, choices, and solutions that determine the future of humanity—when and how the decision can be made. The theoretical and methodological approaches are developed to deepen design questions as social phenomena that incorporate meaning and materiality in creative solutions. This is qualitative research focused on design, digital technology, and the creative use of materials, images, and techniques. The emphasis is on collecting descriptive data through direct interaction between the researcher and the object of study—spatial representation, intelligent environments, and artifact mediation between humans and machines, humans and humans, and machines and machines as varied experiences of actions and behaviors of the actors involved.

6.  Design, Architectural Spaces and Interactive Media 

This research focuses on architectural space’s relationship to the urban environment and social and cultural factors. The aim is to carry out a visual-aesthetic analysis of designing architectural space — virtual and physical. From this point of view, the imitation process (mimesis) is analyzed through values of order and rules in content changes and collective imagery. The expected results are innovative visual narrative forms in contrast to the process of mimicking. This visual research concerns the experiential aspects of images that affect the dichotomy between illusion and reality. For this purpose, a visual analysis is essential based on the symbolic factors of the images and the current context. The focus is on updating the visual narrative amidst the challenges posed by technological convergence as an image model and aesthetic experience, as well as new narrative forms in dynamic image technologies today. In this sense, the dialectic between the natural — understood as the truth and the reality of the perceived things — and the artificial — the representation of what is perceived in the world — is reviewed considering the sociocultural and technological context. The representation of space, the structures, and objects that define this context are considered, including the structure of digital mise en scène guided by the transformation processes of visualization and narrative forms. This complex environment design problem in the face of new forms of communication is empirically verified through the visual means offered by digital technologies. The results are ultimately shown in terms of overcoming classical geometry in the representation of spatial structures.

7. Digital Ecosystem, Art and Science: Cooperating Actors and Design

The concept of digital ecosystem refers to the milieu featured by information and communications technology (ICT). It considers the connections between actors and actions based on collaboration, focusing on design and architecture projects and artistic performances with the application of digital devices. In this way, this research focuses on the evolution of the arts and applied sciences in the face of the socio-economic, political, and cultural scenario in the context of environmental protection. On the one hand, there are currently no concrete design research results that involve collaborative behavior—actors and their actions—to present dynamic system model solutions for the urban environment and sustainable development issues. On the other hand, there are deliberate claims about technological innovations, products, and services that shape public spaces and constantly change collective urban life without being able to evaluate the results of a context that may already be outdated as a system model. From this perspective, this research explores the possibilities of digital connectivity and interactivity between the urban and natural environments as an innovative solution that uses artificial intelligence for sustainable infrastructures. Furthermore, the inductive method of qualitative analysis is used based on the principle that it is a new phenomenon related to sociocultural changes. To this end, the possibilities of overcoming the classical geometric concept of space are explored through hybrid spaces with immersive experiences. This research topic aims to contribute to science by exploring the traditional notions of humanism versus digital humanism and is focused on society’s challenges in the face of Industry 4.0 (the fourth industrial revolution). Overall, it discusses a digital ecosystem concerning new technological development opportunities for collaborative actors, environmental issues, sustainability, architecture, design, art, and science.

8. Expanding Public Spaces

Smart City’s Empirical Research in São Paulo and Berlin [1] 

Recent studies have demonstrated that urbanization does not create ways of life but instead offers support for the possibilities of specific models that satisfy the expectations of public life. However, these models have not yet been investigated or analyzed in detail. Under these conditions, this research evaluates the digital environment as part of a complex visual culture, which implies current ethical, social, and political values toward sustainable public spaces. In this context, the environment of arts’ interplay and the principle of utopia as a critique of sustainable environments’ intentionality, which determines possibilities, will be addressed through imagined and utopian models becoming reality. The hypothesis of this research applies to the possibilities of digital connection and interactivity with urban and natural environments as innovative and sustainable infrastructure. This hypothesis will be verified following two determinants. The first is the adopted environment spatial models toward industry 4.0. The second is the transformative structure through new media, creating realities, intelligent environments, and interactive communities. Therefore, the core question is: Would the basis of a smart city be in the interactive communicational structure; in the capacity of human communities to cooperate intellectually, ethically, and democratically; or in the capacity of artificial intelligence as a solution to complex human problems toward the fourth industrial revolution?  Methodologically, an interdisciplinary approach in the arts, humanities, and social sciences related to digital practices is addressed. The aim is to investigate paradigms involving the effects of new technologies associated with different cultures and interpretations. Hence, this approach analyzes the urban and natural environments, restructuring the fragmented values of nature and culture’s differences and similarities in global cities like Berlin and São Paulo. The expectations for social solutions are seen as the main challenge of an intelligent environment made possible via information and communication technologies aiming at sustainable development goals.


  1. In 2022, this research project was presented to integrate the USP Global Cities Program at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo, where it was accepted in March 2023 for development after evaluation by the university’s scientific program committee. The goal is to promote research, advance scientific and technological progress, and establish international networks (e.g., connecting Brazilian and German researchers). The implementation of this project targets the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development following the Charter of the United Nations. That includes the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a focus on the 11th goal of sustainable cities and communities, aiming for sustainability in urban public spaces under the supervision of Dr. Fraya Frehse.