Sessions

1. Positioning the discursive practice (Thursday 8 October, morning)

This session explores the idea of discursive practice as a bridge between architectural practice and academia, in developing an architectural thinking, method or analysis that combines disciplinary research with research on exemplary building practice. The notion of ‘discursive practice’ addresses or frames the work of architects who believe that their experience and position as a practicing architect is integrally linked to architectural culture. Looking for a broader perspective, these architects examine architectural history and theory so as to position contemporary developments within history and to render these instrumental for their practice. Questions emerging from this concept include: Do practicing architects understand and use history in a different way to art historians? How do practitioners relate to conceptions of history? Are the methods of discursive practice inherently a-historical and intentional? As such, this session re-positions the practicing architect within the academic field and critically assesses the position of the emergent field of the academic architect-researcher. It describes the exchange between reflection, architectural theory, writing, and designing and making. Is there any such thing as ‘operative theory’?

Session chair: Lara Schrijver

2. The tools of the discursive practice (Thursday 8 October, afternoon)

How does the discursive practice operate, what are its tools? Architects pass on their knowledge within their offices and through their teaching positions – by observing, sketching, testing, and making. Architectural design constantly evolves : following dreams, aspirations and ideologies, the architect’s ontological doubt and imagination are expressed through structural contingencies, in sketches and drawings that preclude building. The design process is the research field, an intense dialogue with the context, programme, social and cultural forces, technological conditions, the clients and all kinds of personal motivations. This session questions the different tools through which a critical architecture is conceptualized and made, and from this perspective frames its position in an urban condition, as part of a society, as part of a culture. What happens when we abrogate a genealogy that binds architectural production to the elusive derivations of architectonic themes in the history of architectural theory? What happens if we start from the perspective of the thing made in drawings, competitions or journals, towards other frames as a-historical matrixes or networks?  As such, this session addresses the myriad links between the critical analysis of drawings and buildings and the writing of architectural history and/or theory, exploring tools where they are superimposed and reinforce each other.

Session chair: David Vanderburgh

3. Tools and techniques of the researcher: re-reading, re-drawing, re-modelling (Friday 9 October, morning)

How can project analysis be a form of critical interpretation and knowledge building? Is there such a thing as creative knowledge that contributes to a study of history? This session aims to go beyond written research and proposes other ways to make the tools of the architect visible and up for debate and critical assessment. What is the relation between research tools and design tools, structuring and building up a framework of knowledge? A central agent within this research is the design sketch and the architectural drawing in relation to the actual building. How do you capture pivotal moments within the design process and relate them to its reflection, influences and effects in time? What is the appropriate language of the analysis? What is the relation between re-reading and re-writing, and re-looking and re-making? How do you re-draw? Can tools be borrowed from the field of research by design?

Session chair: Helen Thomas

4. The lenses of the researcher (Friday 9 October, afternoon)

In this session we turn to the researchers and problematize the lenses at their disposal to study the discursive practice. The architectural practice does not only produce drawings but also art works, teaching notes and lectures, diaries and postcards, many of which have not been fully explored. This session addresses the role of the researcher in the selection and framing of his material.  Drawings, from the design sketch to technical details, reveal ideas on materiality, tectonics, structure and morphology. They represent the myriad forms an architectural practice can take. In addition to the practice of architecture however, there is also the teaching, writing, artistic practice and personal life of the architect and his/her office. What is the value of these varied sources, and how can we assess and contextualize them? How do the research lenses connect researcher and architect, how can they be made operational in research? What do new tools and media add to the formulation of the discursive practice, and what is their relationship with hand-drawn material? What should be considered ‘the archive’ of the current academic debate?

Session chair: Fredie Floré