Horst Rittel, one of the first to formalize a theory of wicked problems, cites ten characteristics of these complicated social issuesRittel, Horst. “Dilemmas in a. Horst Willhelm Jakob Rittel taught design and architecture for over. 30 years, yet he never designed a building or otherwise practiced as an architect. (We might. Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Authors; Authors and affiliations. Horst W. J. Rittel; Melvin M. Webber. Horst W. J. Rittel. 1. Melvin M. Webber. 1. 1.

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Chanpory Rith and Hugh Dubberly. Full article originally published in Design Issues: Volume 23, Number 1, Winter Memoriam originally published in in University of California: Horst Willhelm Jakob Rittel taught design and architecture for over 30 years, yet he never designed a building or otherwise practiced as an architect.

We might now recognize him as a design planner. Even so, Rittel changed the field of design—linking design and politics—and started a line of inquiry which continues today in the field of computer programming and information science—design rationale.

Rittel served as a sort of funnel transferring knowledge developed during and just after World War II from the sciences and engineering to the design professions. At the University of California Berkeley, he also introduced ideas from cybernetics into his teaching. In his writing, Rittel also explicitly linked cybernetics, feedback, and the design process.

If anything, the systems models of OR and cybernetics are more relevant to the practice of design today than they were when Rittel first introduced them. The same year, Wurster also recruited Christopher Alexander.

The movement flourished from approximately to Its members advocated a systems view of design projects and introduced a range of methods emphasizing a rigorous, rational or scientific approach to designing. Most models of the design process—for example: Within just a few years, the movement found its assumptions under attack—particularly its claims of rationality and objectivity—and two founders, Alexander and Jones, both publicly repudiated the movement.

Having become convinced design is argument, Rittel set out to develop ways to support and enhance the development and tracking of arguments during the design process. He hoped these systems might also make both the design process and the political process more transparent. His efforts, while cumbersome, form the basis of an on-going line of inquiry within computer science known as design rationale. To date, over papers have been written on this subject.

Many reference Rittel, and he is widely regarded as a seminal figure in the field. In sum, Rittel remains significant to designers for two reasons. First, he articulated the relationship between science and design, specifically the limitations of design processes based on the 19th century rational view of science.

Second, he proposed principles for dealing with these limitations. Unfortunately, these principles are not widely taught. The following annotations are for works which we will feel are most relevant to designers. This is a very subjective and arbitrary list. In choosing works to annotate, we considered how often a work was cited, its date of publication, and its uniqueness in relation to other works.

These works are presented in chronological order. The Universe of Design: Finds these methodologies—and the 19th century view of science in which they are rooted—insufficient for innovation and design which are inherently political and subjective, rather than neutral and objective.

Rather than a single definition, proposes some properties of design. Instrumental Knowledge in Politics.


Presents the ineffectiveness of political decision-making systems as a symptom of a limited model of knowledge. Also emphasizes that improvements entail political involvement in contrast to the cherished neutrality of traditional science. Thus, implies a new type of science which is rigorous but sheds objectivity in its goal to generate useful instrumental knowledge.

Concludes by countering attitudes of defeatism to this idea, advocating a rkttel for better political decision systems despite formidable obstacles, seeming futility, and potential abuse. In addition, criticizes the inadequacy of existing Newtonian-based scientific and professional processes, because wicked problems cannot be solved by traditional and formulaic processes.

Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving – Wicked Problem

Suggests that the ideal planning model is a cybernetic—goal-oriented and involving feedback—process. Issues as Elements of Information Systems. Outlines Issue-Based Information Systems IBISproviding an early model of design rationale systems that aim to explicitly capture, structure, and represent the deliberations and reasonings that occur during planning processes. Specifies that these systems center around issues, questions of fact, positions, arguments, and model problems.

Considers these systems beneficial because they make the design process transparent, provide a history of previous and existing states of discourse, and are adaptable to rapidly changing language. On the Structure of its Problems. Identifies organizing the discourse during the planning process as its central issue. The State of the Art in Design Methods.

Identifies the theoretical and practical applications of the argumentative ritttel of the design process as areas for further development. Designing Crutches for Communication. Elsevier Science Publishers B.

The Reasoning of Designers. Argues that design is a planning activity that involves models, that the reasoning of designers is a process of argumentation unlike problem solving, and that design is political and associated with power.

Also asserts that design is subjective and that designers are responsible for their judgments. Maintains that advancement of the design field requires a new science of design, and proposes three tasks: Rittel, a pioneering theorist gittel design and planning died of lymphatic cancer on July 8, in Heidelberg, Germany.

He was born in and grew up in Berlin, where he attended the Gymnasium Adolfinum. Infresh out of school, he found employment in the Maschinenfabrik Deutschland in Dortmund as an operations researcher. There Horst first became fascinated with the concepts that later became the focus of his career: His role was that of mathematician and statistician, developing socioeconomic prediction models and evaluating sociological field research.

Simultaneously, he pursued the study of sociology and mathematical logic at the university. They are difficult to classify, because they are scattered in the professional journals of disciplines as disparate as chemistry and law, computer science and policy science, or ritttel and information science.

The writings, however do have a common core. Horst saw the theme of his work to be the reasoning of designers: He called it the science of design.

As he said, he had the good fortune to participate in the development of the science of design from its beginning. At Ulm he argued that dichotomies purporting to distinguish systematic versus intuitive, and rational versus nonrational design are untenable.

Rather, he asked, to what degree can and should design processes be made explicit, and to what extent can and should they be made communicable to others. For only communicable processes can be taught, hodst only explicitly formulated processes can be critically scrutinized and improved upon.

In Rittel was called to Berkeley. I could not have found a livelier, more stimulating and resourceful place in the world.

Wicked problem

He always horet how their thinking had influenced his own; he considered them to have been the pioneers of the idea gittel design and planning are most important subjects of scientific inquiry. His Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning proved to be a seminal treatise. The notion of wicked problems led Rittel to a radically new hofst of design and planning processes and of methods appropriate hoest their resolution.


He described the design process as inherently argumentative, in which the designer continually raises questions and argues with himself and others over the advantages and disadvantages of alternative responses. Methods that support argumentation and facilitate the identification of questions, responses, and arguments, he called methods of the second generation to distinguish them from their earlier methods of operations research.

In Rittel received a call to join the architecture faculty at the University of Stuttgart. Yet, he had not abandoned Berkeley for Stuttgart; he simply became an international commuter splitting his time between the two institutions.

In more recent times Horst was involved with what he termed natural intelligence-enhancement. He had been a stubborn skeptic of the ambitions of artificial intelligence researchers, who seek to create computer programs that simulate intelligent behavior, or better yet, that surpass human intellectual capabilities. To him this was the story of the Golem, or of Faust and his homunculus, all over again. Before horsy premature death, Rittel ritttel working on a general theory of technology, that is the description, analysis, and theory of instrumental knowledge.

He was asking how we might more effectively trace the consequences of applying a technology, and how we might construct a combination of technologies in pursuit of desired results without also generating horsy and undesirable side- and after-effects, the nightmares of designers. Horst considered his work in chemistry, for which he received international recognition, to be a special case of this general theory.

Over the years he had developed an algebra of chemistry which allowed him to trace the outcomes of chemical reactions over as many steps as desired. But, typically for Horst, he was interested in what others discarded.

He wanted to find what happens when residues get thrown eittel as in the effluents of sewage plants. He had outlined a theory of mishmashes, but it will fall to others to elaborate it. Incomplete as it is, the rich and innovative work of Horst Rittel, even if it is not yet fully recognized, has opened new directions and has yorst stamped many generations of students.

This is a fantastic site, thank you. We have a job to deal with high road fatalities in Nigeria which you,ll agree is a wicked problem. Volume 23, Number 1, […]. Did you ever meet the man? He was an inspiration to everyone he met, stimulating and thought provoking, he thought very deeply.

Wicked problems cannot be solved in a traditional linear fashion, because the problem definition evolves as new possible so…. He was one of the most popular lecturers at that time, vying for students with Christopher Alexander, who was a faculty member during the same years as Rittel. I donated all my class notes to Prof. Post-Modernism and the adulation of star rittwl. He deemed this class […]. It became a popular subject for authors in many disciplines, and writing on […].

Horst Rittel matters because he saw a connection between science and design and was able to articulate it to designers.

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