learning architecture


a PhD in live projects and architectural education

Why should I research live projects in architectural education?

Next month I’ll be heading through the process known at Queens University as ‘differentiation’. In some other schools it’s called ‘upgrade’ or something vaguely similar, but it is the panel-based interview process whereby my work to date (approximately nine months in) is assessed and permission to continue towards a PhD is either granted or denied.

At this, and at any other juncture when I am asked about my research, a poignant question ought to be asked. Why should I spend three years of my life (and a not insignificant amount of funding) producing research into this field?

As a first step on the path to answering this question fully, I did some calculations, based on the amount of peer-reviewed published literature I could find on architectural education initiatives and projects that might be said to fit the description of those I am studying.

The Journal of Architectural Education is a peer-reviewed journal published four times a year on behalf of the (United States of America) Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Ten years’ editions of the journal – from 53(1), September 1999 to 63(1), October 2009 – were searched for content relating that related to ‘live’ and/or community-based projects that engaged students of architecture with real clients and/or a real project.

Content was initially searched electronically by use of four keywords. These keywords were determined by their frequent appearance in the broader literature I’ve been studying in this first year of my studies.

  • “community” (15 occurences)
  • “community design” (9 occurences)
  • “design build” “design-build” “design/build” (43 occurences)
  • “live project” (2 occurences)

A total of 69 occurrences were found between 1999 and 2009. This included a number of duplicate results, namely articles with two or three of the above keywords. Removing duplicate results, 42 unique articles were found.

The remaining 42 abstracts and articles were then examined to identify those that were non-applicable to this study, and which had been returned through a different interpretation of the keywords. 21 articles were found not to describe projects as sought in the initial parameters, and were elimated. The 21 remaining articles all described initiatives within and outwith schools of architecture that matched the initial parameters.

Of these 21 articles, 19 were authored by participants in project described (academics, students or in some instances both). The remaining 2 were authored by persons not known to be directly involved in the project described.

So, not the whole answer, nor the whole argument. But I believe (and I intend to repeat this rather simplistic assessment of published literature for other key publications in the field of architectural education) that there is justification for a rigorous piece of comparative research (qualitative and quantitative) conducted by someone not directly associated with the projects under investigation.

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One Response

  1. I think it may be worth pointing out the time line of your study and previous studies in this subject area. You are suggesting you are finding limited material in this specific field (both limited in scope and authorship.) But I wonder, when was the bulk of the material produced and how is your current *contermporary* affecting not only what we know now but what we can understand about the study of the field so far? What is your hindsight offering the field? You are not just adding to an absence but adding a historical context that will reframe what exists and contribute to what comes next (and surely this re-framing will then affect what happens in the future and that is a strong argument for more study.)

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