Dilemmas in Industrial Research - Exploring the Copenhagen Balcony Boom

Marie Stender


This article pursues a critical discussion on an industrial research approach based on the research project The Social Life of Balconies. The project emanated from heated public debates on Copenhagens balcony boom, with some arguing that balconies are inherently antisocial and others claiming they contribute to the social life of the city. The research project ethnographically explored how balconies affect social life between neighbours and city dwellers. Drawing on experiences in this project, the article discusses the dilemmas of industrial research co-funded by key players in architecture, housing and urban design. Applied research involving commercial stakeholders has obvious advantages, and it seems fair that such stakeholders support research on the societal effects of the built environments they create. However, this kind of research requires a clear division of roles and, even with full academic freedom, suspicions of bias may influence the perception and impact of the research. As we initiated the project The Social Life of Balconies, we formulated the research problem and defined the conditions of academic freedom. However, foundations or grant givers may determine the research focus in advance, and non-commercial stakeholders may cause researchers to be less attentive to ensuring academic freedom. The article argues that the contribution and validity of industrial research depends on the continuous balancing and considerate navigation of the industrial researcher.

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