EDRA came into being during a period of social awareness and social unrest. Consequently, our agenda, the social aspects of the environment, was clearly a product of the times. The 1960's were a period of new horizons and new visions. In fact, at that time a vision was closely linked to a hallucination. Although we believed in something that was not perceptible at the time, we had no illusions.
EDRA was not only a child of the 1960's, but also a born-again organization, an outgrowth of the Design Methods Group (DMG) that had ceased to exist as a formal organization after its first meeting at MIT in June 1968. A small group of 30 conference attendees formed by Henry Sanoff, agreed to expand the interests of DMG at a meeting to be held tentatively in North Carolina the following year. Participants of this original meeting, sometimes referred to as founding members, included John Archea, Dan Carson, Gerald Davis, David Stea, Ray Studer, Gary Winkel, Tom Heath from Australia, and from the UK, Chris Jones, Tom Maver, and Tony Ward. Gary Moore and Henry Sanoff were asked to Co-Chair the Founding Steering Committee. Similarly, there was agreement at the original meeting to combine the independent efforts of organizations and publications seeking similar goals in order to overcome duplicity and redundancy for both the organization of the groups and the participation of the members. In the interim, and after much deliberation about the appropriate name, the Environmental Design Research Association, was formed by Henry Sanoff, in August 1968, who organized the first meeting in 1969. He also served as its chair until 1973 and incorporated EDRA as a non-profit organization in 1972 in North Carolina.
EDRA was initially conceived as an organization that would not only include the interests of the DMG, but SIGCAPUS which stood for Special Interest Group on Civil Engineering, Architecture, (City, Regional, and Transportation) Planning, and Urban Data Systems of the Association for Computing Machinery, and the Architectural Psychology Newsletter, the singular effort of John Archea. EDRA was concerned with expanding the horizon of environmental design to include concerns about people as a vital ingredient of change. As a result, a concerted effort was made to add social and behavioral scientists to the already formed nucleus of designers. Several other related publications of that period included, Esser's, Man and His Environment Newsletter, the Directory of Behavior and Design, compiled by David Stea and Ray Studer; Environment and Behavior, edited by Gary Winkel; and the Design Research Society Journal published in England.
The early years of EDRA were marked by an unbridled optimism. There was a belief that a clear and conscious understanding of the design decision process coupled with a similar understanding of the methods and techniques used by the social sciences would provide the foundation necessary for ameliorating problems in the environment.
EDRA 1 was organized by Henry Sanoff, held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in June 1969, and sponsored by NC State's, School of Design, and UNC's Department of City and Regional Planning. Sidney Cohn, representing the planning interests, served as the conference co-chair.
The original call for papers included issues related to visual perception, operational gaming, advocacy planning, design education computer augmented design, decision theory, design methods, artificial intelligence, environmental management, information systems, behavioral responses to design, environmental quality, and communication systems. John Archea described this period of EDRA as that of 'inclusive images,' which would encompass behavior and the environment, or a holistic vision of the environment. This multi-disciplinary attitude grew out of an interest in general systems theory at that time, and was viewed as way to effect environmental change. This earlier vision of improving the environment for humankind has been more recently replaced by one of organizational efficacy.
Excerpted from EDRA: "The Beginnings” by Henry Sanoff