The Business of Research

As guest editors for the internationally renowned journal Architectural Design (AD), Deborah Saunt, Tom Greenall and Roberta Marcaccio have brought together acclaimed practices and writers from around the world to question what research means within the practice of architecture. Exploring the emerging landscape of practice-based architectural research, contributors ask how academia and the wider public can both participate and benefit from the shifts happening within practice.

The journal is available to buy here
A quick survey of architects’ websites around the world will show that the term 'research' features prominently among the range of services offered by contemporary practices. But, while educational and professional institutions also agree on the centrality of research, what does this mean on the ground, for the way practices are structured and operate? Publisher Wiley asked DSDHA to explore this as guest editors for AD — one of the world's most referenced architectural journals — with contributors as diverse as Rotor, Asssemble, OMA, Superflux and Foster + Partners. 

The emphasis on research as an integral part of practice is indicative of a recent shift, yet little has been done to reveal its value. Traditionally thought of as the exclusive domain of academia, today architectural research inhabits a grey area between theory and practice. 

On the one hand a wave of venturous practitioners and new types of institutions, such as RMIT University in Melbourne or the London School of Architecture (LSA), have been recasting architectural education and theoretical speculation within practice, whilst shifting funding models, globalisation and digital media have been forcing academia to question its role. In so doing the traditional architectural studio has been turned into a learning environment where architectural research can be seen as an end in itself as well as a potential source of business intelligence. 

These modes of working destabilise traditional roles of academia and practice by questioning their separation and demanding a new definition of the term ‘research’, one that is relevant to both parties as well as to the wider public. 

In order to understand what form and value research assumes in this emerging landscape, our edition of AD, 'The Business of Research' gathers together contributions from international scholars, researchers and a number of practitioners who have been successfully recasting intellectual speculation and learning within their own studios. 

The volume features an example of DSDHA's grounded research methodology, using  photography as a tool to research the evolution of the Smithsons’ Economist Plaza and to guide our project for the ensemble's restoration, as well as our cutting-edge research into the future of cycling in our cities.

The contributions advance a series of hypotheses on the value of research and how academia and the public could participate, while also raising questions in terms of the opportunities and risks. What emerges is that the most valuable research, whether it is subsidised or self-funded, independent from the project or integral to it, is the type which successfully breaks the binary opposition between the domains of learning and business, which structures an open dialogue between different audiences, simultaneously speaking the language of practitioners as well as academics, engaging clients, the public sector and the general public alike, allowing each party to question assumptions and together evolve the disciplinary discourse. This type of research acknowledges that good architecture requires multi-headed teams with specialisms in different fields who have discovered ways to work collaboratively and to share authorship.

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons, Oxford
Commissioning Editor: Helen Castle
Managing Editor: Caroline Ellerby

Guest Editors: Deborah Saunt, Tom Greenall, Roberta Marcaccio

Anne Boddington (Kingston University), Alison Creba, Lionel Devlieger (Rotor), Daniel Davis (WeWork), Harriet Harriss (RCA), Rory Hyde (V&A), Lara Kinneir (LSA), James Soane (Project Orange), Ziona Strelitz (ZZA), Leon van Schaik (RMIT), John Zhang (University of Westminster)

Featured Practices: Assemble (Jane Hall), Foster + Partners (Michael Jones), iredale pedersen hook (Martyn Hook), OMA/AMO (Carol Patterson), Frederik Weissenborn (Public Practice), Superflux (Anab Jain, Jon Ardern Danielle Knight) and DSDHA (Deborah Saunt, Tom Greenall, Roberta Marcaccio)

Counterpoint: David Green (Perkins+Will)

  1. Projects
  2. Projects
  3. Research
  4. Research