Amos Rapoport and Graeme Hardie
This chapter consists of two major parts: a general approach or methodology for studying built environments in developing countries and an application of the specific method in a field study in Southern Africa.
The objective is to identify and differentiate between what are called core elements of a traditional environment and peripheral elements (those disappearing or being replaced by new, highly valued elements) and to create supportive environments incorporating both.
The design of environments for developing countries is particularly important because the problems are acute, and in urgent need of better solutions. The importance of such design is not only intrinsic, however, but also extrinsic; it is as a point of entry into broader issues and an exemplar for design generally and how it should be carried out (Rapoport 1983d:240-54).
Design is seen also as a responsible attempt to help provide settings appropriate for specific groups of people; as a problem-solving activity which must be based on an understanding of environment-behaviour relations (EBR). Conceivably, a designer might design an environment that he intensely disliked if it were appropriate and supportive for the group in question. The designer’s satisfaction comes from a problem understood, analysed and solved.
In order to be useful, an EBR approach must be based on theory; on a cogent, coherent overall conceptual framework. EBR is more than a tool to aid in programming and design; it needs to be seen as an emerging new theory of design.
The purpose of theory is to set goals and objectives and to provide criteria for making choices among alternatives. The purpose of such criteria is to guide the answer to the question: what should be done and