Inge Mette Kirkeby


For an architectural researcher it is of importance to know what kinds
of knowledge architects use when designing to ensure that research
can produce knowledge which feeds into the design process, and this
article addresses the question of research based knowledge in relation
to architectural practice.

Empirically the article is based on results from seven qualitative semi
structured interviews with practising architects in order to get firsthand
knowledge of the design process and the sources from which the
practitioners gain knowledge. It was made clear from the beginning of
the interview that the meaning of «knowledge» was to be taken in its
broadest sense ranging from hard facts and rules, to understanding
and inspiration. Theoretically the article draws on two distinctions. The
first is inherent in the set-up of the project: research-based knowledge
versus knowledge used by architects. The other distinction is contextindependent knowledge versus context-dependent knowledge. Important theoreticians for the analyses are Flyvbjerg (knowledge/ phronesis), Schön and Kreiner (design process) and Lave (communities of practice). The interviews clearly illustrate that architects make use of a wide range of different kinds of knowledge, and also that the architects themselves are aware of that they navigate with ease between the different layers of knowledge. They stress the importance of as well factual knowledge and experience from seeing other buildings or experiences from working on previous projects and with others from as well own as other professions. But they also stress the fact that they lift out knowledge from things they meet on their way objet trouvé. It may be the shape of a bottle of perfume, a literary novel, a new application for the iPhone. This knowledge extracted from one situation to be transferred into another has
similarities with the way we use metaphors. The value attributed to objet
trouvé may be due to the fact that in architecture we deal with loosely
structured problems where frame and solution will be developed in parallel.
And where the knowledge to used cannot be defined a forehand
and therefore not be searched systematically. But can be recognised
when it «turns up». Also the act of transferring metaphorical knowledge
demands an active participation which seems to suit the creative process

The results show that while practitioners do not distinguish between
research and practice in own work, they pay little attention to research
conducted in established research institutions, and that problematises
the relation between professional research and practice as activities carried
out in separate institutions.

Finally is recommended to consider new ways of collaboration between
researchers and practitioners.

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