The architectural studio can be seen as a model for other scientific disciplines whose aim is to foster exchange and interaction within a given field or between fields.
Can the hybrid research space of an architectural studio serve as a reference model for other research areas? When it comes to collaboration between different research groups in different areas, one of the main problems regularly evoked is that of the ‘silo mentality’ where each group remains within its own frame of reference and does not engage with related research fields. There is no communication or exchange of content, data, and information of a different nature, and this hinders fruitful exchanges between groups and between different levels.
Nowadays, as all research fields are becoming globalised and hybridized, training that encourages its participants to switch research or reference fields could be of great value for the development of the natural and the social sciences.
The architectural studio – whose achievements are shown in this book – is resolutely pursuing this task: those participating in its work must acknowledge and engage with different research areas; they must integrate readings and perceptions at various and different levels; and they must be capable of analysing and testing existing techniques in order to develop and incorporate new techniques within a global vision whose real (pragmatic) stamp is the formulation of a specific (architectural) project responding to a specific programme.
This attitude leads, for instance, at our lab to questioning in depth the relationship between engineering sciences and architectural design. What is the relationship between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ (or even ‘curiosity-driven’ versus ‘problem-orientated’) research in the field of civil engineering and architecture? What is the relationship between the scientific dimension of architectural research and project work as ‘artistic practice’? The architectural studio can be understood as a ‘research centre’ in that it is a place of experimentation – a laboratory where experimentation is practised in order to achieve the tangible production of new structural forms. Even the challenges of sustainable development are concerned with the issue of architectural form. The question arises: How can one introduce a process of formal and technological innovation within a perspective of sustainability?
In order to be successful, a construction project needs for those involved to have a mutual understanding of each other’s disciplines. For example, in working with timber, one can say that the anisotropic character of timber demands specific, often pragmatic, engineering solutions combined with accurate, detailed planning and a good coordination between civil engineers and architects. As well as technical knowledge of the material itself, it is important to transmit the knowledge and the values necessary for timber construction that go beyond the demands of the material. Therefore the teaching challenge is to foster the mutual comprehension of different disciplines involved in the building process in order to facilitate collaboration and promote the successful implementation of constructive solutions to structural and aesthetic issues.
As is evident in this example, the studio process is one that requires an open and interdisciplinary attitude – but that is just part of the picture. It also requires the capability to switch common reference systems. People who are more used to thinking and behaving in terms of rational values might be obliged in such an interdisciplinary context to accept a different frame of reference, that of motive, feeling or perception of texture and the atmosphere that comes with it. The opposite might also be true: a person whose main reference lies in the field of perception and emotion might be required to undertake a rationally dominated investigation.
The architectural studio can therefore be seen as a model for other disciplines where exchange in a given field or interaction between fields is desirable.
The architectural studio can also be seen as a hybrid space where the invention of new architectural or scientific programmes might occur. The expression ‘architectural programme’ must be understood in a broader sense than that in which it is commonly used. Invention of an architectural programme is an essential element in the role an architect plays within society. In the context of architectural research, an even broader scope arises for such an act of invention, since new modes of social organisation and land use may emerge from the combination of the various research initiatives undertaken.
8 July 2012
Text published in Veillon Cyril, Maillard N. (ed.), Best of 2012, editions Archizoom, Lausanne, 2011, pp. 15-16