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SYLLABI : SCI-Arc Spring '18 - Free Agent Nation

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

VS s18 : Free Agent Nation

Vertical Studio Syllabi

By Professor Michael Rotondi, FAIA

Free Agent Nation: The Game, The Prototype, and The Space

A board game and project to facilitate Free Agency in the workplace


There will be two projects to focus on and to serve as gateways into this debate. Both will be prompts for deeper research and broader discussion about 2 main subjects, smart technology becoming our 4th skin and automation creating new business models, shifts in the traditional supply chains, and re-structuring of the workforce itself.

The first profound shift in our way of life and the first disruption in the human workforce occurred 10,000 years ago. The Agrarian Revolution, made possible by domestication of plants and animals, disrupted hunters and gatherers. Food production increased and populations grew enabling larger human settlements and eventually urbanization and the rise of cities.

The music industry did not see Napster coming.

The hotel industry did not see Air BnB coming.

The taxi companies did not see Uber coming.

The automobile industry was slow in seeing and accepting electric and driverless cars and…

We Architects and Designers do not see the disruptive forces of automation coming.

Project 1 Free Agents The Game: Design for Competition and Collaboration


Once simply a source of entertainment, games are quickly being recognized as valuable simulators for everything from teambuilding and management skills, to projecting future scenarios or missions.

In the new Free Agent Nation [Pink 2003] the traditional office has given way to the WeWorks and the SPACES of the world to such an extent that even major organizations such as Apple and Facebook have designed their campuses to mimic the workspace of free agents and failed miserably.

This semester we will ask the question “What is the workplace of the future?”


What if a game could be used as a tool to prototype future models?

What if going to work allowed you to tap into a group intelligence?

What if there was a space that acted like the internet?

What if information could be used as currency?

Problem / Project one: Design the Game (5 Weeks)

  • The first step will be to design the game board, pieces and rules for play.

  • You will all work together to design 1 game. It is up to you to determine the best process to achieve this. Elect a leader, vote on changes, employ an agile system.

  • Generally, the gameboard will be 4 sided with a path moving around the outside of the board.

  • This path will be broken up into an even number of stops (monopoly) where individual skill cards can be purchased for information tokens.

  • Each player will move around the board 4 times:

  • The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production

  • The Second Industrial Revolution used electric power to create mass production

  • The Third Industrial Revolution is using electronics and information technology to automate production

  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by a fusion of technologies (AI, VR, etc) that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres

  • Skills may also be traded to other players or sold back to the bank for a transaction fee.

  • Once a player has acquired the necessary skills he/she earns a character card to act as his/her avatar moving around the board (clue). We will need to determine the rules for what character is associated with what skills.

  • These characters can be used to add / remove / rearrange game pieces in the center of the board (mouse trap, rampage, lego, etc).

  • These pieces represent scaled components of architectural space such as furniture and walls but also additional elements such as climbing walls, holodecks, low gravity zones, etc.

  • At the end of each turn the player must present and defend his/her actions to the group. Once a consensus is made a note of the new configuration and the reasoning is entered into the game log and it is the next persons turn.

  • What do you win? How do you win?

This game is for serious play everyday.

This game is window into wonderland

This game is a tutor and teacher and mentor

This game is a supercomputer

This game is a hyper-connected

To design this game you will have to tap into the intelligence and experience of an adult and the innocence and imagination of a child. You will learn firsthand about the Beginner’s Mind, seeing as if for the first time, without expectation.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

This simple sentence, spoken by the Zen Priest Suzuki Roshi, cuts through the pervasive tendency of our expectations filtering out the possibility of recapturing the open qualities of a child's mind, to experience life in a way that is unburdened by the past and by previous knowledge. How might life be different if we approached it without preconceptions or prejudice, without knowing anything at all. Every interaction with the physical world would be as it once was before our minds were forced into routines and habits unencumbered by assumptions, discovering and inventing worlds within worlds from moment to moment. Experiencing many things for the first time, approaching everything with interest and curiosity. Every day would bring learning and surprises, after all evolution made us the ultimate learning organisms, individually and collectively, fueled by curiosity and a sense of adventure. Listening with all our senses and learning about and from the outer world we apprehend our evolutionary imperatives.

Play and Learning

Play is the basis for informal learning.

Play is one of the brain's best forms of exercise.

Play is vital for problem solving and creativity.

Play is vital to the development of social relationships, at any age.

Play opens the brain to new ideas via exploration and risk-taking.

Play brings joy.

Play is about the inner sources of spontaneous creation.

Play is about why we create and what we learn when we do.

Play is improvisational activity.

Play is improvisation.

Play brings joy.

Play is vital for problem solving and creativity.

Play, at any age is vital to the development of social relationships.

Play is one of the brain's best forms of exercise.

Play is, first and foremost, an expression of freedom.

Play and Speculation

In a world where the only constant is change and its scale is reaching thresholds beyond comprehension, we become aware of the increased interest in improvisation across a wide variety of disciplines. The basis for making decisions in an unpredictable world is our core principles and placing premium on spontaneity, inventiveness, and creativity. Improvisation is as fundamental to play as play is to learning.

Play and Learning

Our society tends to dismiss play for adults, perceiving it as unproductive. The notion is that once we reach adulthood, it’s time to get serious. And between personal and professional responsibilities, there’s no time to play. Quite the opposite is true, play is very serious and essential to our wellbeing. We must continue to exercise and grow our imagination, and to do so, as we get older, we need to play, by suspending disbelief, opening our mind, and believing once again that anything imaginable is possible.

Many animals play but mainly to practice basic survival skills. Generally, humans have the longest period of protected play, that begins in early childhood and extends until the rites of passage in our early teens, approximately 10 years. Children play to develop imagination, creating hypothetical scenarios to test and learn. During childhood we build the brain wiring to explore. Play is sometimes contrasted with work and characterized as a type of activity, which is essentially unimportant, trivial and lacking in any serious purpose.

A New Story : a knowledge web of many collected stories

We are beginning the next phase of the human enterprise, the fourth industrial revolution. This will be a significant shift over time requiring a cooperative alignment of friends and strangers working with common sense of purpose and not only in the worst of times. The problem we face trying to achieve this aspirational alignment is, we are without a common story. It’s all a question of story. The old story gave us guidance or rules, depending on your independence of mind, in reflecting on the 3 big existential questions, how did the world come to be and how did we fit into it. The answers informed by our former stories are no long effective. Our traditional story of the universe sustained us for a long period of time. They were written before we understood the concepts presented to us in Powers of Ten, before we knew of worlds within worlds and only of worlds beyond. The stories were written before the Fathers went into the desert to ponder the meaning of it all, had discovered the quantum universe where there is no predictable metric and uncertainty is a control point not a variable. Indeed, we need a new story so we can answer the questions of our children.

21st C Workers in a Gig Economy

Creative Sectors, arguably, provide the City with its greatest competitive advantage.

Creative Industries, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Media (STEAM) have been the fastest growing segments of the 21st C economy over the last decade, outpacing traditional economic drivers. The creative workforce and the culture they create, are what attracts others to the city.

A thriving creative workforce is a key feature of nearly every successful modern city. To grow a long-term Creative Culture with resilience, we will focus our architectural minds on the unstoppable trend in the labor force, self-employed creative workers and independent contractors choosing to be inventors rather than employees.

To put our current status in context, we are in the early stages of our centennial shifts that seem to reach full strength in the 3rd quarter of each century, thus 50 more years of disruption.

We will need to learn how to surf and creatively mine the disruption.

The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production.

The Second Industrial Revolution