Dr. Dulmini Perera



My research focuses on the complex systemic relations between ecological questions and questions concerning technology within the design context. I am interested in histories, theories, methods that emerge from design's encounters with other disciplines that engage with complex living systems (particularly cybernetics, systems sciences, process philosophies) and how the social and political aspects of these encounters keep influencing our present-day knowledge and practice models. My current research is organized around two main trajectories. The first involves a critical historical mapping of these interdisciplinary encounters between design, ecology, technology and systems theory. The second consists in contributing to a reflexive research and practice framework that promotes designerly ways of engaging systemic complexity (beyond providing technological fixes), which is beneficial for designers and others who deal with multiple crises of the present. I was awarded the Heinz von Foerster award (2021) for my emerging work on developing such a reflexive framework. As the principle investigator of the DFG-AHRC funded collaborative research project Enacting Gregory Bateson’s Ecological Aesthetics in Architecture and design I explore what an ecological theory of action could mean within such a reflexive framework. 

Wicked problems (design problems) are complex and messy because of the broader questions of social and political differences (power, inequality) surrounding technological systems. The changes required in design theory education that enable students to engage in wicked problems are not simply a matter of better articulating design’s complexity but also about developing forms of disseminating concepts that facilitate other forms of engagement. Methodological explorations of this content-form relationship are central to my teaching practice. I experiment with various dialogical and play models, further enriched by communicational and learning frameworks that emerge from cybernetics and systems theory. 

Research interests

cybernetics, systems thinking, systemic design
design theory, critical theory, philosophy of technology
ecological design, ecological transition, transformation research, design in time
wicked problems, design research methods
decoloniality, Global South
Futures research, cosmologies and stories, design fiction
Play, game design 


  • Perera, D. (2024) Design and Difference in a World of Contradictory Instructions. New Experimental Research in Design 3. Positions and Perspectives. Board of International Research in Design. Berlin: Birkhäuser. (forthcoming)
  • Perera, D.(2024). Orders of Change: Mary Catherine Bateson on Ecological Thinking, Narrative Practices and Attending to Worlds in transformation. TechnoeticArts,22:1,  (forthcoming)
  • DFG project relate conversation series conducted between June 2023- April 2024 exploring Gregory Bateson’s ecology of mind, questions of difference and design practices. Production team: Stefanie Hüthofer, Sketch Notes: Leonie Link

    Dulmini Perera in Conversation with Andrew Pickering, “Antipsychiatry, beyond normativity, ontological turn“,  University of Brighton, in-person , 2023. 

    Dulmini Perera in Conversation with David H Price, “Gregory Bateson, Applied Anthropology, Design“, Enacting Ecological Aesthetics Podcast, 2024, https://enactingecologicalaesthetics.podigee.io/1-neue-episode                       

    Dulmini Perera in Conversation with Anthony Chaney, “Gregory Bateson, Long Sixties, Ecological Consciousness”, Enacting Ecological Aesthetics Podcast, 2024, https://enactingecologicalaesthetics.podigee.io/2-new-episode

    Dulmini Perera in Conversation with Bruce Clarke and Evan Thompson, “Mind, Ecology, Enaction: Encounters Between Gregory Bateson and Francisco Varela”, Enacting Ecological Aesthetics Podcast, 2024, https://enactingecologicalaesthetics.podigee.io/3-new-episode                                             

    Dulmini Perera in Conversation with Madina Tlostanova, “Double bind, Decoloniality, the Question of Aesthetics”,Enacting Ecological Aesthetics Podcast, 2024, enactingecologicalaesthetics.podigee.io/4-new-episode 

  • Perera, D. (2024). In the Context of Time: Why Annetta Pedretti’s cybernetic-architectural practice at 25 Princelet Street matters, Architectural Research Quarterly (forthcoming)
  • Perera, D.(2024) Learning About Design’s Colonial Pasts and Narrative Games, in Derek Jones, Naz Borekci, Violeta Clemente, James Corazzo, Nicole Lotz, Liv Merete Nielsen, Lesley-Ann Noel (eds.), The 7th International Conference for Design Education Researchers, 29 November - 1 December 2023, London, United Kingdom. https://doi.org/10.21606/drslxd.2023.021
  • Perera, D.(Ed.). (n.d.). Buildings, Narratives and Minnette De Silvahttps://www.uni-weimar.de/projekte/projectminnettedesilva/ .(experimental formats)
  • Perera, D. (2023, March). Engaging the complex past of Minnette De Silva’s buildings through narrative games: Some preliminary reflections.Buildings, Narratives, Minnette De Silva. Bauhaus University Weimar. https://www.uni-weimar.de/projekte/projectminnettedesilva/on-the-making-of/
  • Perera, D. (2023). Design Fictioning of a Second- Order Kind: Runaway Cybernetics, Futures of Work, Possibilities of Engagement. Enacting Cybernetics, 1(1): 1, 1–24. DOI: doi.org/10.58695/ec.3
  • Perera, D. & Fry, T. (2022). Contra-Innovation: Expanding the innovation imperative in the context of futuring, defuturing and fictioning. Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal, 1https:/doi.org/10.58279/v1002
  • Perera, D. (2022). Designing in the Context of Time:on Annetta Pedretti, Practicing Cybernetics and Futuring. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design(RSD 11)Symposium, Brighton, United Kingdom 
  • Perera, D. (2022) Annetta Pedretti vs. a world out of time:Explorations in Cybernetics, Design and Futures in ISSS annual Conference, advances in systems Science and Systems practices
  • Perera, D. and Fry T. (2022) Second Order Design Fictions in End times, TripleAmpersand online journal, The new centre for Research and Practice, https://tripleampersand.org/uses-second-order-design-fictions-end-times-conversation/
  • Perera, D. .(2021) Cautionary Tales of a Whacky Kind: On the Uses of a Design Imagination that Avoids Consensus, Journal of Architectural Education, 75:2, 325-328,  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10464883.2021.1947712
  • Perera, D.(2021). After work: questions concerning transition imaginaries towards a post-work society and the use of second-order design fictions as frames that resist consensus in Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design( RSD 10) 2021 Symposium. Delft, The Netherlands, https://rsdsymposium.org/after-work-questions-concerning-transition-imaginaries-towards-a-post-work-society-and-the-use-of-cautionary-tales-as-frames-that-resist-consensus/
  • Perera, D. (Ed.). (n.d.). After Work:A Series of Cautionary tales. https://www.uni-weimar.de/projekte/afterwork/. (experimental formats) 
  • Perera, D.(Ed.). (n.d.). Designing Interactive Card-Kits Introducing Tomás Maldonado's Work. Critical Ecology Matters. https://www.uni-weimar.de/projekte/criticalecologymatters/.(experimental formats)
  • Kousoulas, S and Perera, D.. “All is In-Formation: Architecture, Cybernetics, Ecology.” Footprint: Delft Architecture Theory Journal, Issue#28, Sommer/Frühjahr, 2021. https://doi.org/10.7480/footprint.15.1
  • Kousoulas, S and Perera, D., “Five Points Towards an Architecture In-Formation, ” All is in Formation: Architecture, Cybernetics, Ecology, FOOTPRINT 28 (Spring/Summer 2021), 3-8. https://doi.org/10.7480/footprint.15.1.5663
  • Perera, D. “Towards a Playful Architecture: Crisis, Sense Sense-Making and Questions Concerning Method,” in Architectures of Life and Death: The Eco-Aesthetics of the Built Environment ed. Andrej Radman and Stavros Kousoulas (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2021), 189-205.
  • Perera, D. “Wicked Problems, Wicked Humor: Fun Machines as Strategy” in FORMakedemisk Research Journal of Design and Design Education, January 2020. https://doi.org/10.7577/formakademisk.3378
  • Perera, D. “Wicked Problems and Humor Machines.” in OZ Journal, bearbeitet von Olivia Ashbrook and Tara Bray, Kansas: Kansas State University, 2019. http://www.ozjournal.org/journals/tocs/v41.html
  • Graafland, A and Perera, D., eds. Architecture and the Machinic: Experimental Encounters of Man with Architecture, Computation, and Robotics . Dessau: Anhalt University Press, 2018. https://www.deutsche-digitale-bibliothek.de/item/3PB5OABMD3V75CAQNOYWNPRDD3QWUAPL
  • Perera, D. “ Architectures of Coevolution: Second-order Cybernetics and Architectural Theories of the Environment,  c. 1959-2013.” Ph.D. diss., University of Hong Kong, 2017.
  • “Beyond Autopoiesis: Embodied Cognition in Francisco Varela and the Case of the Barefoot Architects.” in Production Sites: Resituating the Culture of Architectural Knowledge, bearbeitet von Sophia Psarra und Sandra Löschke, 26-27. London: Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, 2015.
  • “Rethinking Reflexivity in Design Studios: Selves in Design to Design of Selves.” in 19th World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics Proceedings Volume II, bearbeitet von Nagib Callos und Shigehiro Hashimoto, 382-387. Florida; IIIS, 2015.
  • “Revisiting the U-Machine: Gordon Pask and Stafford Beer’s Adaptive Controllers and Post-humanist Design Epistemologies (1955 -1965).” in Critical and Clinical Cartographies International Conference Proceedings, bearbeitet von Andrej Radman und Stavros Kousoulas, 25-38. Delft: Jap Sam Books, 2014.



  • Invited speaker, Historicizing Minnette De Silva, organized by Alliance Française de Kandy, held as part of celebration of International Women Rights Day, March 2023.
  • Invited speaker, Fictions, Frictions, ASC Speaker Series, January 2023.
  • Workshop with PSF team on sense making , complexity and improvisational tactics at Anticipation 2022 Conference, Tempe Arizona, USA. 18 November 2022.
  • Invited panelist, Design For the Planet, Round table disscussion organized By the Design Council UK at RSD 11, October 2022
  • Organiser of RSD focus Different Stories in Design: Provocations From the Work of Gregory Bateson at the Relating Systems Thinking and Design 11 Symposium, October 2022
  • Podcast session on Design research, produced by FH Bielefeld, August 2022. (forthcoming online)
  • "When a theoretical text is a bundle of issues and fictions:Reflections on the development of a didactic prototype for engaging the ideas of Tomás Maldonado" presented at Didactics of Architectural Theory conference, organized by Hochschule Oldenburg, 29-30 June 2022. 
  • 'Politics is Broken' short intervention on topic presented at Challenging Times Hothouse 2022: The Case for a New political Imagination, organized by Madina Tlostanova and Tony Fry, Linköping University, Sweden. 11-13 May 2022.
  • 'There is Always Time for One More Story: Design Fictions and Questions of the South,' invited lecture at Colombo School of Architecture (CSA), Sri Lanka. 03 February 2022.
  • "Muddling through worlds of environmental justice: Wicked problems, difference, systemic tools” lecture presented at Research Seminar series fall 2021, organised by the  faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong, 30 September 2021.
  • (together with Desiree Foerster, Satinder Gill, John Maccalum, Muindi Manuel Muindi, Teoma Nacarato, Sha xin wei) “prototyping social forms, the process germ bank” a workshop based presentation at the GFM JAHRESTAGUNG 2021, Wissensökologie, organised by university of Innsbruck, 27 September 2021
  • "Second-order Design Fictions on Automation: on the uses of Second order cybernetics in a world characterised by cyberneticisation" presented at The Art and Science of the Impossible: The human experience, organized by International Society for Systems Sciences(ISSS), 11 July 2021.
  • "What comes after method?, play" presented at NERD_For 2021 Conference, organized by HAW Hamburg/ Centre For Design Research and Board of International Research in Design, 10 June 2021. 
  • Co-organizer of the event together with Ecologies of Architecture Group (TU Delft Theory), Design_Space: Technicities and the Built Environment, 09 June 2021, 16.00-18.30. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBiBAgxC5FM&t=2265s
  • Framing to Reframe: Rethinking the Role of “Meta-learning” Graduate Architectural Design Research, presented at European Association for Architectural Education (EAAE), position paper workshop, 23 April 2021. https://vimeo.com/558425998
  • “Educating design practitioners operating within systems characterized by structural instabilities on frames that lead to reframing the design work,” presented at Stories of Practice, 52nd Annual Conference of cybernetics Society, held in partnership with the ASC, 12 September 2020, https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cybernetics-society-annual-conference-21st-century-stories-of-practice-tickets-116720784007
  • “Wicked Possibilties, Difference” presented at Wicked Possibilities: designing in and with systemic complexity hosted by Ben Sweeting, Tom Ainsworth and Sally Sutherland, Radical Methodologies Research and Enterprise Group, University of Brighton, 15 July 2020. Link to short film: https://vimeo.com/466236425
  • “Change of Change and Environmental Justice,” lightning talk presented as part of The Existential Tool Kit for Climate Justice Educators, hosted by Racheal Carson Center, Organized by Jennifer Atkinson and Sarah Jaquette Ray, Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j931BqrfHg
  • “Institute of Utmost Environmental Justice: Wicked Problems, Systemic Tools, Global South” Paper für die internationale Konferenz Mapping For Change, Labor-K und VolkswagenStiftung, TU Berlin, Berlin, 16.-18. Januar 2020.
  • “Spectrometry: Rethinking Serge Chermayeff’s Spectrum Diagrams in the Context of Wicked Problems. ”Paper präsentiert auf der internationalen Konferenz New Instrumentalities , Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Madrid, 12.-14. Juni 2018.
  • “Living Networks: The Biological Turn in System Sciences and Architectural Theories of the Environment.” Paper präsentiert auf When Walls Become Membranes: Intersections between Architecture and biological sciences in the 20th century, Politecnico di Milano, Italy, 2.-4. May 2017.
  • “Afterlives of the Autopoietic Machine, 1972-2013: Autopoietic Theory in Architecture and its relevance to the Anthropocene.” Paper präsentiert auf Politics of Environments: Architectures, Natures and Data, Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn, Estonia, 21.-22. April 2017.
  • “The BCL Project: Technologists, Postwar Laboratory Networks and Environmental Histories of Architecture.” Paper präsentiert auf How to write Environmental Histories of Architecture , University of Sydney, Australien, 11.-12. März 2017.
  • “Beyond Patternism: Lessons from Biological Computer Laboratory, BCL (1960-1980).” Paper präsentiert auf der 12. internationalen Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA), Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom, 19.-21. November 2015.
  • “Compassionism: Conversing with Gaia in a Post-human World.” Paper präsentiert auf der internationalen Konferenz für Philosophy after Nature by Society of European Philosophy/Forum of European Philosophy, Universität von Utrecht, Niederlande, 03.-05. September 2014.