Model: Operation-Architecture

The Operation-Architecture model is a co-evolution model for ship design processes. Its function is to generate and evaluate concepts that connect how a ship is used (operation) with the systems it is made of (architecture).

The Operation — Architecture model, created by Etienne Gernez and Kjetil Nordby

Linking ship architecture and maritime operations

An analysis of published material in the ship design research literature shows that current ship design processes are centred on the ship and its systems, and not their use by human operators. On the other hand, when we work with field studies, we collect data about both the existing technologies onboard the ship, and their use by human operators.

The Operation-Architecture (or OPAR) model was created to concurrently design for how the ship will be used, and what systems will enable this use. OPAR places the human-centred representation of the ship operations next to the technology-centred representation of the ship, and proposes design activities that connect these two representations.

Human-centred ship operations

We model the ship’s operations as the combination of work tasks carried out by the ship’s crew when engaged in the operation of the ship. This includes both what tasks the crew are engaging with, and what is their experience when engaging with these tasks.

The human-centred perspective on ship operations relates to the following type of questions:
What do ship crew do, where, when, how?
What systems do they use?
What is their experience with using these systems?
What ideas do I get when I see/hear/experience their experience?
What do they think about these ideas?
What ideas do they have themselves?

Ship architecture

A number of ship design researchers, for example David J. Andrews from University College London, make the distinction between the “ship architecture”, which refers to the built parts of the ship (with their allocated location and function) and the “ship design”, or the process leading to the development of the ship architecture. We adopt the same approach and propose to model the ship’s architecture as the combination of the systems that make up the ship.

As such, the ship architecture needs to be built to support the operation of the ship. The ship is an assembly of floating workplaces. environment where the ship crew live and work. Each work place needs to include ergonomic requirements, with working and resting surfaces, and a specific attention to all interfaces, both digital and physical.

To that respect, ship architecture relates to the following type of questions: How does the system(s) support different work tasks, different sequences of work tasks?
Are the fundamental components of a workplace considered in the architecture?

Generating and evaluating concepts

Because ship design is an iterative process, OPAR also includes design activities related to the generation and evaluation of concepts. Based on the design cases we worked with in the ONSITE project, we have included a preliminary list of design activities in OPAR, covering four different functions:

  1. Observing and documenting end-users’ experiences in their context of use: field observation, interviews, layout mapping, scenario mapping
  2. Analysing field insights: task analysis, function analysis, system mapping
  3. Facilitating the collaboration of the different participants to the ship design process: collaborative data analysis workshop
  4. Generating and evaluating operational and matching architectural concepts: paper sketching, paper mock-up, video enactment of operational scenarios combined with 3D CAD modelling

Practical use of the model

We recommend starting the design process by undertaking a field study on a ship to map the working and living conditions of the end users of the ship, as well as how they are currently performing ship operations. Using these field insights, we then recommend analysing how the existing systems on board the ship enable its human operators to use the ship and identifying design problems that might impact the safety and efficiency of ship operations. From this analysis, we recommend sketching what architectural solutions might enable the human operators to perform their work in better conditions.

However, the way in which the design activities are combined when using the OPAR framework does not need to be predefined. More loose processes can be used, going back and forth between initial and preferred situations, in the dimensions of operation and architecture.

Connection with the Design-driven field research model

When a designer works with field observations, the workplace of the observed operator becomes the designer ́s workplace. This means that field studies generate a connection between design activities that take place at sea onboard ships, and ashore.

In their model of design-driven field research, Sigrun Lurås and Kjetil Nordby proposed that designers engaged in a field study are performing three types of design activities: data collection, reflective activities such as sketching or prototyping, and experiencing life on a ship. The OPAR framework combines these three design activities with others design activities that are carried out by the design team after the field study.

The activities proposed in Lurås and Nordby ́s model of design-driven field research are one example of design activities that are included in OPAR

Beyond ship design

The OPAR model is inspired by a model of design processes created by Mary Lou Maher. She proposed that design processes could be seen as the co-evolution of problem and solution spaces, where designers iteratively explore and connect each space. Design researchers Kees Dorst and Nigel Cross then used Maher ́s co-evolution model to analyse creativity in design processes. They observed that “a creative event occurs at the moment of insight at which a problem- solution pair is framed. […] Studies of expert and outstanding designers suggest that this framing ability is crucial to high-level performance in creative design.”

This means that the activity of generating connections between different dimensions of the design space has the potential to stimulates designers ́ creativity, and that it has the potential to yield more innovative outcomes. As such we are planning to use a similar approach to OPAR in our research about co-design and design processes in the context where the design participants have different practices and representations of the artefact they are designing.

Further reading

The framework was introduced in the journal article “Connecting Ship Operation and Architecture in Ship Design Processes”. Etienne Gernez’s PhD thesis explores in details the foundations, uses and implications of OPAR. The framework is also presented on a medium post in the ONSITE project.

We also recommend Maher´s work about co-evolutive problem-solution models, and the use of this model made by Dorst and Cross:

Maher, M. L., & Poon, J. (1996). Modeling design exploration as co-evolution. Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering, 11(3), 195–209. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8667.1996.tb00323.x

Cross, N., & Dorst, K. (1998). Co-evolution of Problem and Solution Spaces in Creative Design: observations from an empirical study. Computational Models of Creative Design IV, JS Gero and ML Maher, Eds., University of Sydney, New South Whales.