Accepted paper:

STS and the Analysis of Design Research in Architecture

Authors:

Monika Kurath (ETH Zurich)
Bernhard Böhm (ETH Zurich)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses blind spots of laboratory studies inspired STS vocabularies in analysing architecture. Such concern the epistemic differences of knowledge production cultures in the hard sciences and in architecture and the translation of tacit and intuitive knowledge into written forms.

Paper long abstract:

Ethnographic analyses of STS scholars, known as the laboratory studies, have challenged the traditional conceptualisations of knowledge production in the hard sciences in terms of objectivity and universalism by pointing to the relational character and situatedness of scientific knowledge production. However, such relational and situational aspects are at the core of architectural research practices, which are based on the idea of creating something individual, new and using intuitive approaches. Thus laboratory studies inspired descriptions of the practical construction, the situated configurations and the alignments of persons and things in the architecture studio, consequently lack of the critical dimension that is inherent to the traditional laboratory studies. Using an empirical analysis of architectural design research projects at a UK architecture school, this paper argues that by applying a laboratory studies based research approach, originally developed for studying knowledge production in the hard sciences to the analysis of architecture, often omits the fundamental epistemic differences of the two knowledge cultures. Furthermore, with its strong situational orientation on the place where knowledge is produced, such an approach is likely to oversee translation processes that take place outside of the studio. However, particularly in design research these translations of the tacit and intuitive approaches into written texts and the ways these might transform the knowledge culture of architecture are of particular importance. Not least in times of harmonisation and economisation of research and higher education, such translations account for related demands like that of publications, academic promotion, peer review processes, research-funding institutions and evaluations.

panel T083
Doing theory by other means: how does architectural production challenge STS and ANT