Architectural Design as a Laboratory for Social Innovation:
The Fun Palace Story

Lubomir Popov

Associate Professor in Interior Design
Bowling Green State University
Ohio, U.S.A.


The goal of this paper is to construe architectural design as a laboratory for experimentation and social innovation. The objectives are to showcase the creation of a groundbreaking social solution to a frustrating sociocultural situation; to highlight the emergence of interdisciplinary collaborative practices; and to depict design as a workshop for social invention. The methodology is informed by the pragmatism and interpretativism of Symbolic Interactionism, as well as investigative approaches developed by Kenneth Burke and Erving Goffman. The Fun Palace project is utilised as an information-rich case that offers plentiful information for analysis and for delineating a new way of thinking about architecture’s role in social innovation. This project can be construed as an embodiment of design exploration, interdisciplinarity, and invention. This paper draws attention to the development of new social institutions, organisations, and activity systems in the process of architectural design and brings forward the social design component of architecture. The professional diversity of the Fun Palace interdisciplinary committees indicates the complex nature of design with its multiple facets and aspects. This example of collaboration and cooperation is yet another contribution of architecture toward dealing with complex problems and developing novel social practices. The paper also provides thought-provoking material for reinterpreting the traditional scope of architectural design, as well as for redefining the architectural profession and its role in society.

Full paper as PDF