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On the Nature of Wicked Problems: A Symposium

UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design

Saturday, October 26, 2013 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (PDT)

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Symposium Attendee
This ticket is for the symposium, which is a event open to the public.
Ended Free  
Symposium + Workshop Attendee
This ticket is for the people who have been invited to the symposium and the workshop the following day.
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Event Details


On the Nature of Wicked Problems

A Symposium 

It has been 40 years since Berkeley Professors Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber articulated the concept of "wicked problems," problems that are challenging because they are ill-defined, complex and constantly changing. In their seminar article in Policy Sciences, they argued that the profusion of wicked problems throughout social policy domains such as urban design and city planning posed dilemmas for the scientific approach to problem solving, which was developed to deal with "tame" problems.

The notion of wicked problems is still widely embraced by designers and policy makers working on issues ranging from climate change to health care reform. Yet this formulation, rooted in modernism and emphasizing positivist science and technology, has been subsequently challenged by alternative epistemological approaches such as Marxism, feminism and post-structuralism.

The Wicked Problem Symposium will critically interrogate the history and evolution of Rittel and Webber's idea of the "wicked problem," and appraise the utility of wicked problem thinking in the light of contemporary issues of significance to society.


Events will take place Wurster 112, unless otherwise noted.


9:30 - 9:45 Welcome & Opening Remarks (Jennifer Wolch, CED & Wei-Ning Xiang, GIURS)
9:45 - 10:15 Remembering Rittel and Webber (JP Protzen & Michael Teitz, CED)
10:30 - 11:45

The History of Wicked Problems (JP Protzen, CED, Moderator)

  • Michael Batty, UCL 
  • Barry Katz, IDEO/CCA 
  • Alice Agogino, UC Berkeley
  • Hugh Dubberly, Dubberly Design
  • Panel discussion/questions
11:45 - 1:00


1:00 - 2:15

Theoretical Critiques of Wicked Problems (Ananya Roy, CED, Moderator)

  • Avigail Sachs, University of Tennessee 
  • Niraj Verma, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Eric Paulos, UC Berkeley
  • Panel discussion/questions
2:15 - 2:45 SNACK
2:45 - 4:00 Wicked Problems Today (Wendy Ju, CED, Moderator)
  • Björn Hartmann, UC Berkeley 
  • Terry Winograd, Stanford 
  • Kim Erwin, Institute of Design at IIT 
  • Panel discussion/questions
4:00 - 5:15

Wicked Problems in Planning, Ecology and Environmental Ethics  (Judith Innes, CED, moderator)

  • Judith Innes, CED 
  • Bryan Norton, Georgia Tech 
  • Brian Head, University of Queensland, Australia
  • Panel discussion/questions 



Artwork courtesy of Patrick Hoesly under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

Have questions about On the Nature of Wicked Problems: A Symposium? Contact UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design

When & Where

UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design

Berkeley, CA 94720

Saturday, October 26, 2013 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (PDT)

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UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design

The COLLEGE OF ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN is UC Berkeley's Home for Environmental Design Theory, Research, Innovation and Practice. CED stands among the nation’s top environmental design schools. It is one of the world’s most distinguished laboratories for experimentation, research, and intellectual synergy. The first school to combine the disciplines of architecture, planning, and landscape architecture into a single college, CED led the way toward an integrated approach to analyzing, understanding, and designing our built environment.

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