Forum A+P Vol.26
Call for Papers for Forum A+P Nr.26
Crafting ‘Scientific’ Research in Architecture
‘Scientific research’ has gained a special, all-pervasive status in architecture, both in academia and practice. From digital modeling to tenure dossiers, from building performance to invocations of AI, from grant writing to politicians’ electoral statements, ‘scientific research’ holds a special value, which is the power of self-legitimation. While a particular ‘scientific’ research may be judged in terms of its scientificity, the value of the ‘scientific’ as such is rarely questioned. The ‘privilege’ of (the) ‘scientific’ (in) research lies in its presumed objectivity, universality, and hence, in its claim to truth. Paradoxically, it is in such claim that lies research’s commodification and politicization. Could there be, one wonders, a non-scientific research that would offer a different (claim to) truth from the ‘scientific’ one? There might well be, at the expense of no funding… The very drive toward scientific objectivity, however, is accompanied by a dispersion of different kinds of research, or “language games” – to borrow a term from Lyotard, which seem to undermine the very possibility of a scientificity that would govern all the different research dialects. In How to Write a Thesis Umberto Eco made quite an operative and a rather postmodernistically relaxed argument when he argued that for research to be scientific it must:
- deal “with a specific object, defined so that others can identify it.”
- say “things that have not yet been said about this object, or it revises things that have already been said from a different perspective.”
- be “useful toothers.”
- and provide “the elements required toverify ot disprove the hypotheses it presents, and therefore it provides the foundation for future research” (Eco, 27-30, 2015)
Scientific research has become popular, a sort of pop… There is not a ‘science’ but only craft(s) of scientific research. The 26th issue of Forum A+P invites contributions that dwell precisely on this divergence between science’s claim to truth on the one hand and the multitude of approaches on (the) ‘scientific’ (in and of the) research on the other. This issue invites contributions that fold scientific research upon itself to make it the very object of research and inquiry.
The coupling of the ‘scientific’ with ‘research’ may be new in architecture. In Le Corbusier, for instance, we find multiple references to science on the one hand and research (recherche patiente) on the other, but rarely we find the two terms coupled into one, as in ‘scientific research’. The relationship of architecture with science, however, has a long history. In 1946, Le Corbusier met with Albert Einstein in Princeton, NJ, seeking ‘scientific’ validation for his Modulor. His pursuit represents Architecture’s eternal desire to be bound to Science, seen in both its employing science for assembling material realities, as well as in the rhetoric of a scientific design process. The history of architecture is not void of architecture-science relations: Anaximander’s cartographies, Descartes tri-axial spatial matrix, Newton’s static and relative spaces, the cosmic Baroque geometry of Galileo and Kepler, Giedion’s histories of architectural technology, and Hannes Meyer’s call for the ‘scientization of architecture’ are some cases in point. Even passionate Borromini had to redraw the plans of San Carlino according to a geometrical scheme thirty years after the church was constructed to convey a sense of scientific objectivity… Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand’s modularization of architecture, Semper’s emphasis on technics, Auguste Choisy’s axonometric drawings of historical monuments, Wittkower’s drawings of Palladio’s villas, Colin Rowe’s repurposing of Perrault’s scientization of beauty through the dispositif of the natural and the customary, Eisenman’s generative analysis, Aldo Rossi’s rationalization and, thus, operationalization of the concept of type, Christopher Alexander’s coding of perception and objects (a veritable precursor of today’s smart city), as well as the digital turn in architecture – they all seek a specific relationship with science - scientific thinking and legitimation, objectivity and universality. Nor is the history of architecture void of monuments to scientists, for example, Boullée’s Cenotaph for Newton and Erich Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower. In ‘digital artists’ such as Nicolas Schoffer, Iannis Xenakis, Harold Bloom, Patricia Piccinini among others, both addressing and employing scientific perspectives from quantum physics, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies and so on, Modern Art and Architecture and their histories evince multiple liaisons with the History of Science.
Such a wealth of intersections of science and architecture suggest that it is impossible to separate and sometimes even distinguish between scientific research from its representation(s) as such. The latter consists of different languages, contexts, bibliographies, artifacts, frameworks, protocols, bureaucracies – broadly put, objects. This issue invites contributions that deal precisely with these objects of scientific research in architecture, broadly defined as an inter-disciplinary and inter-scalar approach to the built environment - from furniture, to building, to territory. This issue, then, is about the objects through which the scientific research is crafted, both in terms of its implementation and re-presentation as such, as scientific research. This issue proposes four kinds of architectural objects: historical, technical, textual, and territorial. But these are not meant to be strict categories, but a structure that might help, however little, to distinguish among a multitude of nuances and hybridity in our vast milieu of informatics.
Introduction from the Editors
The reasons why we do scientific research can be many, from those induced by personal motives to those related with larger, imbricated social concerns, groups, or networks.
Scientific research has gained a special, all-pervasive status in academia in general, and that includes architecture. From digital modeling to tenure dossiers, from building performance to invocations of AI, from grant writing to politicians’ electoral statements, scientific research holds a special value, that of self-legitimation. While of different kinds, origins, and know-hows, the scientific research is a product of intellectual labor, construction, and processing, rather than one of raw materials taken from nature, even if the (transformation of the) latter may be an object that scientific research. What is scientific research made of? And what are its results? Research is made of a combination of egos and subjectivities on the one hand and objects on the other. This combination is not simple but complex. That is, perhaps, why AI, which aims to replace many activities such as that of the driver, doctor, artisans, and so forth, has not yet replaced the activity scientific of research.
The very combination of the subject and object is at the very heart and origin of what constitutes scientific research. In How to Write a Thesis Umberto Eco gave quite a relaxed and operative definition of scientific research when he argued that for research to be scientific it must:
• deal “with a specific object, defined so that others can identify it.”
• say “things that have not yet been said about this object, or it revises things that have already been said from a different perspective.”
• be “useful to others.”
• and provide “the elements required to verify ordisprove the hypotheses it presents, and therefore it provides the foundation for future research” (Eco, 27-30, 2015)
Such “loose” scientific requirements trigger a multiplicity of research agendas and objects. The 26th issue of Forum A+P dwell precisely on this multiplicity.
The main purpose of research is the growth of goods that are the fruit of human intellectual processing. But how is this production related to the field of architecture or planning? What is the objective of the research in these two fields whose primary object of inquiry is the human-inhabited space? It is regarding such question that Edoardo Persico considers the quality of the form and settlements where people live as “the secret faith of the time". Substance of things hoped for.”
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