Sharing is one of the humanity’s most basic traits; we intrinsically recognize the benefits of pooling resources within a community in order take advantage of varied abilities and access in order to fulfill needs. Sharing is the key driver behind civilization’s move towards collective living – first in small settlements and eventually in megalopoleis. The impact of sharing goes beyond simply satisfying the necessities for survival and extends itself into the social and cultural dimensions of our communities. In constructing an urban commons, composed of collectively managed and shared resources, we shape our physical, social, and cultural environments
This article was originally published by Common Edge as "The Confused and Impoverished State of Architectural Research."
For a discipline that thinks of itself as learned, scholarly research eludes the architectural profession. This is a long standing problem. “Failure,” John Ruskin wrote in his 1848 introduction to The Seven Lamps of Architecture, “is less frequently attributable to either insufficiency of means or impatience of labor, than to a confused understanding of the thing actually to be done.”
Roughly 150 years later, Harry Nilsson—surely singing to architects—opined in his song, Joy that if you’re unable to find the answer to a question, you may not have a question worth asking (and probably don’t have a problem worth solving). In between Ruskin and rock and roll, is William Peña, the author of the architectural programming guide, Problem Seeking, who nearly a half-century ago wrote that “you can’t solve a problem unless you know what it is.”
Jeremy Till's paper "Architectural Research: Three Myths and One Model" was originally commissioned by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Research Committee, and published in 2007. In the past decade, however, it has grown in popularity not just in the UK, but around the world to become a canonical paper on architectural research. In order to help the paper reach new audiences, here Till presents an edited version of the original. The original was previously published on RIBA's research portal and on Jeremy Till's own website.
There is still, amazingly, debate as to what constitutes research in architecture. In the UK at least there should not be much confusion about the issue. The RIBA sets the ground very clearly in its founding charter, which states that the role of the Institute is:
The advancement of architecture and the promotion of the acquirement of the knowledge of the various arts and sciences connected therewith.
The charter thus links the advancement of architecture to the acquirement of knowledge. When one places this against the definition of research given for the UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), “research is to be understood as original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding”, one could argue that research should be at the core of RIBA’s activities. This essay is based on the premise that architecture is a form of knowledge that can and should be developed through research, and that good research can be identified by applying the triple test of originality, significance and rigor. However, to develop this argument, it is first necessary to abandon three myths that have evolved around architectural research, and which have held back the development of research in our field.
As a profession with the power to alter people's cities and neighborhoods - and indeed therefore their lives - architecture is often a controversial business to be involved in; many members of the public have learned to be suspicious of any plans for development in places they care about, often turning architecture into a villain to be fought. One proposed solution to this conundrum is to include public participation as much as possible, but many architects are skeptical of such an approach. At a time when the responsibilities of architects are being eroded by engineers and project managers, what would be left to architects if the public is allowed control over the design? Seeking to understand this challenge, in this interview from MONU Magazine's latest issue on "Participatory Urbanism," Bernd Upmeyer speaks to Jeremy Till, a British Architect, writer and educator who has written extensively about the need to for architects to relinquish control and involve local communities in their design process.
Bernd Upmeyer, on behalf of MONU, spoke with the British architect, writer, and educator Jeremy Till. He is the head of Central Saint Martins and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Arts, London. Previously he was Dean of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster, and Professor of Architecture and Head of School of Architecture at the University of Sheffield. Till’s research and writing concentrate on the social and political aspects of architecture and the built environment. His written work includes "Flexible Housing," "Architecture Depends" and "Spatial Agency." In 2005 he was one of the editors of the publication “Architecture and Participation” to which he contributed a piece entitled "The Negotiation of Hope." The interview took place on September 3, 2015.