Architecture in the Making
Architecture as a Making Discipline
and Material Practice


About Architecture in the Making

The architectural profession is facing new challenges: Sustainable development promotes advanced building technology; the re-use of the existing building stock will be an increasingly important task; urban development have to integrate different fields of knowledge; advanced ICT tools influence design practice and modes of production.

Current challenges represent opportunities for the architectural profession in creating sustainable built environment, and the potential of architectural thinking in managing complexity can contribute to research. For this we need to develop integrated theories and methods, clearly based in architecture as a discipline, in which design thinking stands at the centre. This strong research environment defines the built environment as a material culture, and the architectural profession as a “making discipline”.

From this perspective, connecting to sustainable development, four research themes are identified:

  • Material mechanisms
  • History
  • Investigative modelling
  • Alteration

It assembles a unique set of leading Swedish researchers, international scholars and architectural practitioners, to create a dynamic research platform promoting the potential of architectural thinking in research on complex issues in built environments.

Concentrated research projects will be combined with externally oriented activities which will make significant contributions to theories and methods in architectural research as well as practice.

Architecture in the Making: Architecture as a Making Discipline and Material Practice forms a research environment and platform to review and develop theories and methods in relation to architectural practice with architectural thinking and making as its point of departure. With the intention to develop theories and methods grounded in the practice of architecture, the built environment is defined as a material culture, and identifies the architectural profession as a making discipline and a material practice, i.e. working and developing knowledge through the formation of artefacts and spaces as well as systems and processes shaping the built environment. From this basic perspective on the field, connecting to sustainable development and the contemporary challenges in the profession, we identify four integrated themes for this research environment: Material mechanisms, Investigative modelling, Alteration and History.

Hosted at Chalmers, the environment gathers researchers from LTH, Chalmers, KTH and UMA together with national and international participants from architectural practice as well as international scholars. The scope of work spans from research-by-design projects to historical studies and from detailed issues of projective practice to questions of policy-making. The research environment initiates and offers funding for research projects and forum activities by senior and junior scholars, as well as supporting post-doctoral and doctoral studies. Particularly the research environment aims to create dialogue and synergies between existing research cultures within the Swedish Schools of Architecture. A particular emphasis is on the creation of fertile interchanges between academia and architectural/engineering practices.

The Research Themes

Alteration

In post-industrial societies clusters of ‘problems’ in the built environment revolve around the question of how to re-use and transform the existing. There is an urgent and obvious sustainable significance in re-use, at the level of urban resilience, urban identity and energy use. In this situation architects’ core activities are increasingly concerned with what can be termed alteration.
But educational, practice and procurement structures in architecture and the building industry are still mortgaged to the logic of new construction, and architectural agency remains tied to ideas of original intention and authorship.
Alteration, then, calls for a fundamental re-thinking of the role of the architect at all levels from education to implementation. As of now, only the beginnings of a ‘theory’ of alteration as a central condition of architectural practice exist. This theme addresses these urgent matters and relates to changes in the architectural profession.

History

History deals both with precedent and building culture. Architectural knowledge is to a large extent a repertoire of models for architectural thinking inscribed in the material culture of buildings.
History can also give an understanding of ‘building cultures’, the systems of procurement and construction that surround architectural thinking. The time aspect of architecture is central for sustainability, not to be limited to the buildings as “finished”, but including their making and development. We need to develop theories and methods for an “extended field” of architectural history, including an understanding of the dynamics of building cultures and of new techniques that are entering history, including digital tools that reveal the behaviour of existing environments both socially, climatically and materially.

Investigative Modelling

ICT technologies and digital tools have fundamentally affected architectural practice during the last decades. They have changed the organisation and process of design and have reconditioned the conceptualisation of architectural projects and their materiality.
Projective modelling programs and visualisation methods, increasingly adapted to hands-on, embodied interaction, effect the interface between architectural design and other disciplines, and create new areas of consultancy in design disciplines. Simulation, that quantitatively model highly complex systems, reconfigure the boundaries of what can be tested within projects. Yet architectural practice plays into an industry of procurement whose structures tend to be remarkably traditional. There are areas in which the potential of digital processes is hardly being exploited or where the potential of designerly thinking is currently limited. This theme deals with issues of changes and potentials in processes of architectural production.

Material Mechanisms

New technology changes collaboration in the building sector as well as the possibilities to imagine, produce and analyse material assemblages; scientific developments in material technology and biology change notions and understandings of how living systems evolve and maintain themselves, and how material systems emerge and interact with their contexts; new knowledge, techniques and parametric tools produce dynamic understandings and experiences of material structures and environments. This theme addresses demands of integrated thinking, how technological development influence notions of materiality and making, and what theories architects use and need in the analyses and generation of artefacts, assemblies or systems. Studies will consider both the formation of assemblages and the role of artefacts in design and research processes.

AiM in Figures

In August 2013 the environment involved 61 researchers, of which 41 core researchers (defined as with ongoing research directly funded and/or co-funded) and 20 affiliated researchers (with external funding for research and/or participation through other projects, institutions or companies).

The researchers include 20 senior researchers (professors, visiting professors and artistic professors), 13 mid-career researchers (associate and assistant professors) and 28 early career researchers (doctoral students, post-docs, and practitioners).

Of the involved 61 researchers were 26 female (43%) and 35 male. The newly recruited staff members involved in the core group consist of 4 PhD students and 5 post-docs, of which 5 were female and 4 male, and 5 were of international background.

The strategy in the beginning of the programme concerning staffing has been to allocate resources to senior researchers with the intention to give time to write needed reference texts from previous and ongoing research, but also to start building a long-term sustainable environment through support and recruitment of young researchers.

Team of researchers August 2013

  • Professors: 14
  • Visiting professors: 4
  • Artistic professors: 2
  • Associate professors: 10
  • Assistant professors: 3
  • Post-docs: 7
  • Doctoral students: 17
  • Others (Architects, Art Historians): 4

Total (core and affiliated researchers): 61



As part of both the development of the environment and as a means to communicate our activities some of the lectures and seminars arranged are available online. Visit our Youtube-channel here.