What is architectural research

the first stone

Architectural Research 2.0: An Old New Understanding of Science

The first stone can be laid or thrown. In our new section, contributions appear that can do both: They are theoretical texts by authors with provocative theses on architectural practice that are controversial. Marc Kirschbaum and Kai Schuster get the ball rolling: Join the discussion - by letter to the editor and at www.architektbda.de/der-erste-stein!

Due to today's professional framework, research is increasingly moving into the focus of architecture. On the one hand, this affects the universities, which have to position themselves more research-oriented due to academic requirements such as the increased research pressure in connection with the harmonization of technical colleges and universities, or the pressure to raise funds. On the other hand, offices in which architectural research forms an essential instance and condition of knowledge for architectural creation have to get by without their own research budget: Offices such as OMA / AMO, MVRDV or Lacaton & Vassal have long recognized that architecture today does not require close analysis the construction task can begin by itself. What is needed is rather a "service phase zero"1, with which complex conditions influencing architectural creation can be recognized, systematized and implemented.

This also makes it clear that the architecture as a whole is being confronted with new demands that were far in the background up to now. In architecture, compared to other disciplines, there is no research tradition that strives for a supra-individual increase in “knowledge” in a permanent process. Research traditionally tends to focus on structural and structural issues, which do not, however, concern the genesis of architecture itself: but it is precisely this where there is obviously a need for research and a need to catch up in order to design and implement today's complexity and requirements for architecture.

Architecture research 1.0: The architect as a one-person empiricist
From an architectural perspective, research is a blank slate - at least when it is understood as a scientific and methodical search for new knowledge, as is generally the case in scientific discourse. Architects have traditionally been trained neither in scientific work nor in its various methods. The architect is not a classic scientist, he is neither generally identified as such, nor does this reflect the self-image of the profession.

At the same time he was and is a goal-oriented "researcher" who at least in the sense of a "one-person empiricism"2 must combine the tangible environmental conditions with their own experience and thus become an empirical sample alone. The architect takes different sources of information, processes them based on a specific question and comes to a solution based on individual cases or simply decrees a new “theory”.3 Compared to the scientist, however, he does not always reveal all the criteria - also not because he cannot always name them himself.4 In this sense, “research” creates cultural goods or buildings through an exploratory and artistic approach, which cannot be understood in the scientific criteria grid of validity, objectivity and reliability, but which still achieve application-oriented results. A contradiction? No, because the one-person empiricism of architects does not aim at any generally valid statements, but rather a design that can also be implemented on a case-by-case basis. It is therefore about "applied architecture research", with individual case analyzes that are "made easy". This is how it is “conveyed” in architectural training and later retained in professional life. Applied architectural research means, above all, to convert the “research object” into a creative / intuitive design through concise and targeted “analysis”, which is ultimately the actual goal - and to which the analysis should contribute.

When we speak of research in the context of architecture, this also means that two traditions of thought come together, which almost inevitably lead to systemic difficulties: The creative process of design is supplemented with research and its methods of clarity and namability. The general skepticism of architects towards research, science and theory can be characterized as follows: "Knowledge does not create art"5, or in other words, theoretical reflection does not lead to the design. This professional attitude activates a design habitus in the specific task6which is reflected in professional actions. The vague field, which today is often described as architectural research, is mostly characterized by the fact that on the one hand there are "research-oriented projects" which mostly lack innovative content and which hardly lead to a design, or "innovation-oriented projects" which lack the basics and which based on the designer's “one-person empiricism”. This easily creates a defensive gesture of scientific architectural research with the following dynamic: first research is carried out, then - since it is not obviously applicable - everything is forgotten and then, as always, waiting for the design inspiration and thus again distancing itself from all research. What is missing is the link between research and design practice, which also allows the question of whether architectural research can - and will - be a scientific discipline in the strictest sense. In this respect, research in architecture has so far hardly been able to provide scientific results worth mentioning.

Architecture research 2.0
Let us begin with what is there: it is not the case that architects are fundamentally not interested in research and systematic gain of knowledge, it is above all foreign terrain for them, on which they were not trained and socialized. On the other hand, they almost automatically use the aforementioned analysis instrument to locate themselves. This is not bad either, it is somewhat limited and could be meaningfully supplemented by methodological approaches from other disciplines, precisely because architects are “generalist researchers” and their foresight in thinking would also have a broad methodological basis.

Architectural research 2.0 does not mean, however, wanting to introduce a scientific approach to architecture. This late-1968 logic of first wanting to understand everything and to penetrate it scientifically in order to then design it is now more than ever an undertaking that is doomed to failure. Precisely because our culture is characterized by complexity and dynamism, architecture research 2.0 aims to expand the creative, intuitive and speculative potential of architectural experiments: experiments that combine a complex analysis (service phase zero) with the design and none between the two (anachronistic ) Separation see more. Architectural research can only be sustainable if it is understood as an "architectural science"; a science that gets rid of an overly rigid objectivity and allows several "objectivities". Architectural research 2.0 as “architectural science” tends to follow the ideal of systematic discovery, an Alexander von Humboldt understanding of science7that does not place objectivity above discovery.

We tried out our understanding of architectural research in several interdisciplinary design studios and practiced architectural research together with the students (for example "Lifestyle and Architecture")8). In such design studios, the aim is to understand the numerous scientific findings architecturally and not to end the process with the actual research result, as the scientist can. For the architect, the essential process only begins here - and this also makes it clear to the interested scientist what difficult task and high expectations are placed on architects today: to recognize the abundance of cultural and social developments themselves, to grasp them methodically and then To implement the draft.

Architectural research 2.0 is characterized by the fact that the discipline of architecture does not perceive itself as inferior in the scientific context, but asserts itself in it through the qualities that are, however, still too latently named. The real potential lies in the combination of creativity and structure, at every point in the design process. In this sense, scientific architectural research necessarily needs design motives and competence, since only a "designer" can judge which dimensions of what has been researched can actually be integrated into the design - this is the core of research in architecture, everything else is research on architecture and thus nothing more as an outside scientific perspective.

In this respect, architecture research 2.0 ideally does not mean random and personal interest-driven action, but is linked to the idea of ​​a new professional gesture of architecture that needs to be socialized at universities.

Marc Kirschbaum is Professor of Architectural Theory and Design at the SRH University of Heidelberg. Kai Schuster is professor of sociology and social psychology with a focus on architectural psychology at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. Both authors are founders and partners of the pragmatopia - architektur.stadt.leben office in Kassel.

1 see Marc Kirschbaum: Service phase zero. Generalism and architecture, in: Marc Kirschbaum, Silvia Bartnik: architektur.generalistische, information system planning, Kassel 2008, pp. 9-22.
2 Klaus Selle: Public Space - Terra incognita? Comments on the status of a difficult discussion, in: Umweltpsychologie, 7 (1), 2003, pp. 70-79.
3 z. B. Le Corbusier: Outlook on an Architecture (1922), or the “Charter of Athens” (1933).
4 see Walter Schönwandt: Planning in a Crisis? Theoretical orientations for architecture, urban and spatial planning, Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 2002.
5 Wolfgang Schulze: Knowledge through questioning, in: Kirschbaum & Bartnik, 2008, p. 83.
6 Habitus in the sense of Bourdieu understood as a normative attitude (of a “class”), based on a constant value system, which leads to a certain practice / implementation; see Pierre Bourdieu: The subtle differences. Critique of Societal Judgment, Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / Main 1982.
7 cf. Alexander von Humboldt: Kosmos. Draft of a physical description of the world, Eichborn Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2004.
8 see in more detail: Marc Kirschbaum, Kai Schuster: As You Like It, in: Kay von Keitz & Sabine Voggenreiter: plan06 - Wohnen3, plan project, Cologne 2007, pp. 78-85.

A replica of the first stone by Werner Oechslin (der architekt 1/13, pp. 10-11), a “second stone” by Hans Albeshausen, architect BDA from Frankfurt / Oder can also be found in issue 2/13 on p. 6 .