John Warfield Exhibit

Taking on Major Problems

Warfield's career took a dramatic turn in 1966. He essentially left the academic world (though retaining an Adjunct Professor position at Ohio State) to take a position with Battelle Memorial Institute. Battelle was a research instutite with a wealthy endowment, which engaged in fields of study as diverse as urban planning and medicine. Warfield was hired as a Senior Research Leader to study the workings of complex systems. One of the first major projects he worked on was called "Planning to Meet Educational Needs in Ohio Schools," which published a report in 1970. He is shown at right leading a discussion on this project.

Warfield's years at Battelle were transformative. He later recalled that "in the third year, I proposed a project that was to change my career direction considerably." This was the Large City Design team, an interdisciplinary project that sought to completely rethink the way cities functioned.

Developing Connections for a Lifetime

Warfield's career was beginning to shift, and he found himself linking up with new colleagues from vastly different fields. The undated drawing at right, labeled "The Network," sketches out the wide ranging connections in Warfield's new world. At the center of the diagram is Battelle Columbus Laboratory (BCL) where Warfield worked, and branching out are other educational and research organizations connected to his work. Several of these people would remain lifelong peers of Warfield - including Alexander Christakis of the Academy of Contemporary Problems (ACP) and Andrew P. Sage of Southern Methodist University, and later, George Mason University.

Complexity and Systems

The Large City Design project was as much about understanding how scientists and planners work together, as it was about city design. From the start, the inability of diverse groups of engineers and social scientists to work together proved problematic. For several years, the project forged onwards, but produced negigible results. When a committee of external experts was brought in to study the work of the Large City Design project, they snidely remarked that "the group acquaint itself with real problems of real city design or renovation." Decades later, a report authored in part by Warfield reminisced about this project and concluded that "the team worked for about two years and produced essentially nothing."

New Career Focus on Systems

The Large City Design team had failed to reshape the way the modern city functioned, but its secondary purpose - the study of the interaction of groups working to solve complex problems - proved highly enlightening. The report mentioned in the previous section, belittling the work of the Large City Design team, summed up the problem: "effective processes were sorely needed that would enable highly capable individuals from different disciplines to aggregate and integrate their beliefs in a design setting."

Warfield tackled this problem aggressively. He channeled all of his efforts into systems engineering concepts, looking for methodologies, both accepted and experimental, for solving complex problems. He continued to use his growing network of colleagues to flesh out new concepts. At right, Warfield (center, first row) attends a workshop on systems engineering in February 1971.

International Networking

With a new career path firmly in place, Warfield began to aggressively research and disseminate his new thoughts on planning. His work took him around the world, to interact with professionals and researchers in the international community. In 1972, he traveled to Taiwan for a seminar on urban problems. Shown here is the colorful invitation to a luncheon at the Hotel China, held by T.S. Chang, one of the key figures at that seminar.