Inside the context of Design Driven Research (DDR), it’s important to allow disruptions and to take more risks – society today does not want to take risks anymore, we are going in a direction where we want to have results even before knowing what we really want. What can we actually do to change this?
From the perspective of a supervisor, there’s a lot of change in direction, it’s important to accept that there is a variation from the traditional role we are used to. Several times we have to revisit what is essentially the goal of the research and not focus too much on the resulting presentation, changes could also come parallel to the knowledge production that comes out during the research process. So, in summary, my recommendation is about trying not to focus on describing and certifying the possible outcomes of research, but to rather open up, allowing the unexpected.
Bjørn Inge Melaas
My research is based on urban gardening, and choosing not to limit the scope too much, leading to a process that has been open and intuitive. The framework of artistic research has allowed following the threads I found more interesting without worrying too much about whether or not I was doing something that a PhD candidate was supposed to do according to the traditional standards of research programs. This kind of approach can produce original research and leads to surprising findings, but it is also extremely challenging to navigate and quite risky. However, we need this kind of disciplinary research, we need to try to change the world as we learn about it and we need to risk something to be able to move forward.
Support from supervisors and openness to such explorations is crucial to follow this path.
During my sessions, I and my supervisors discussed themes as diverse as soil biology, geology, planning, political ecology, psychology, industrial agriculture and urban gardening. The role of the supervisor is a challenging task: in every session there is a new thinker, a new field, and a new perspective that is brought into discussion and it is impossible to be an expert in every field involved. To reduce the risk of this kind of research it’s important to build a community around the researchers, this means having physical spaces shared with others who are working in the same way, building a community of friends, practitioners and academics in a wide range of fields that could be discussed together, organizing regular events to discuss the different aspects of the project and so on. It is also important to build a framework around artistic or design-driven research that makes sure that the nature of the research is understood, and in this sense, the CA2RE network really is a reference point.
I personally think that if this kind of community is not working, there is a risk that the uncertainty of the situation will force researchers into conformity and thereby we will miss out on the innovative potential of research.
Figure 1: Ilens Hage, urban gardening in Trondheim. Part of the artistic research project Ecologies of urban gardening, done by Bjørn Inge Melås, supervised by Markus Schwai
The research project “The embodiment of consolation: unlocking the interaction between mourning drawing and space” aims to uncover how architectural design through drawing can be implemented towards improving the mental well-being of someone in mourning. The research is based on my master dissertation which involved a series of hypothetical interventions in my childhood home, in search of a place to store the urn containing the cremated remains of my father who passed away a few years earlier. Engaging with this personal experience of loss allowed me to discover a social need for a new approach to the design of funerary architecture and to experience the therapeutic potential of architectural design firsthand, thereby giving me sneak peeks of what could possibly be an answer to this question.
Gaining a better understanding of a specific cultural context through personal experience relates closely with auto-ethnographic research. This resonates with a recent book, ‘The auto-ethnographic turn in design’,1 which through a series of essays, conversations and projects, discusses the topic and defines it as a unique form of knowledge production in which the designer is at the heart of the research and tries to make sense of his/her larger cultural context through creative production. So, where auto-ethnographic research relies mainly on the verbal and written reflections of observation made, design has the potential to communicate in a non-verbal way and to actively engage with the studied context instead of merely observing it. This is especially true for architecture, which has an even larger spatial impact than design.
Figure 2: Demuynck, E. (2022). Visualization of the current research approach as a multistoried building, allowing for an oscillation between the different research steps and between the different roles of the researcher. [Drawing]. Produced by the author.
This leads me to my first recommendation: given that Design Driven Research (DDR) is often aimed at developing a better understanding of a certain topic through design, exploring the correspondences between auto-ethnographic and DDR could prove to be fruitful for researchers that base their DDR on personal experiences.
For the 2nd and 3rd recommendations, I have visualized my current research approach as a multistoried building. The first step of the research involved building a deeper foundation for the findings from the master dissertation using a literature study and a study of known examples. During the second step, these findings are implemented in additional case studies with architecture students – also taking an auto-ethnographic approach – and ultimately in case studies with non-architect bereaved individuals.
However, while conducting the research I noticed that it progresses less linearly than I had expected at the beginning, which is why I added a ladder in the building, allowing me to go up and down, to oscillate between the different research steps.
Hence my 2nd recommendation, with which I want to bring attention to the importance of recognizing this non-linearity in DDR and the uncertainty that comes with it.
For the 3rd recommendation, I return to the ladder of the scheme, which is also there as a counterweight for this uncertainty. It offers support when there is a lack of expertise needed to proceed with the research process, for example when I need to take on different roles within the cases (namely that of the experiencer, designer and/or observer). This is why the literature study includes publications from related fields such as bereavement studies or art therapy and also why I often rely on research methods coming from the social sciences (e.g. for interviews, observations, etc.). So the 3rd and last recommendation would be that for these types of research, which include DDR but operate on the border of the discipline, it would be valuable to find ways to include more expertise from other disciplines in conducting and evaluating DDR.
Johan Van Den Berghe
The concept of oscillation, which Eva depicted through the metaphor of the ladder, plays a very important role in the awareness of the concept of PhD research projects.
Do not take the linearity of research for granted, because it is simply not true. This directly connects to the concept of uncertainty that Markus (Markus Schwai, NTNU Trondheim) previously discussed, this is something that needs to be accepted as a given in research projects. There are not so many dogmas in research, it is actually about anti-dogmatic thinking and being open to all incoming signals.
It is also important to point to the empirical nature of research, which means that we need to pay attention to every incoming signal and take it into account, giving it a place in the process, which is not always easy for a researcher. Research can be a very lonesome business, so it is crucial to lean on people from other disciplines who can help mediate possible weaknesses in the margin of your work, and most importantly, make it possible to lean on your supervisor’s network, which goes beyond your supervisor alone. Addressing PhD candidates in particular, I would like to recommend leaning not only on your closest supervisor but also on your peers, talking to them and openly sharing uncertainties. A moment of discussion like the CA2RE conferences is a unique occasion to share uncertainties rather than demonstrate certainties, and take the occasion. Junior researchers need to be aware of the fact that there is an extensive network of people around, and that solitude is only instrumental when you need to focus on what you do. Take advantage of the generosity of the network we belong to, feel comfortable climbing the ladder and going up and down as many times as needed for your research, and if you need a grip on the ladder, we will try to give you one.
At TU Berlin we are developing a design-driven PhD program, working with 60 PhD candidates.
For me, the design-driven approach is highly relevant in our discipline today. I have been educated as an architect at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid which is a big institution, and I have also been teaching there for 14 years, in the last 3 years coordinating the PhD program with roughly 400 candidates, and surprisingly, none of them was a design-driven PhD. I always thought it was unfortunate, I had the feeling that, as designers, we were not fully using our skills in the research process to achieve knowledge.
I appreciated the metaphor that Eva (Eva Demuynck, KU Leuven) proposed. One of the aspects that I found more interesting about this “knowledge tower” representation is that in this multi-storied building, literature, references, and known basis were all pictured underground, whereas only personal experience was above.
When talking with Agata Kycia (PhD candidate, TU Berlin) about her presentation we were dealing with the fact that the CA2RE network involves a very wide range of disciplines and topics, therefore it is very difficult to focus on specific knowledge. Here at the CA2RE conference, we talk about many branches of art, architecture, and design. Hence, organizing the presentation in different knowledge fields can be challenging. Even though, going more in-depth about this, I recognize that we do not have so much expertise in the specific knowledge of each presentation, rather than how they are facing the research. The expertise of the panel members is more methodological.
I think this is a place where we talk about methodology, and in that sense, I think it is a very specific topic by itself that has its proper potential. If we use our own skills to produce knowledge, we explore the unknown with design: how do we communicate it afterward? How do we transfer the new knowledge to others? How can we make our discoveries understandable?
I think this is definitely an interesting challenge that we are currently exploring.
My reflection is connected to the topic of the way we do research.
I think that a good starting point for research would be to look closely into those places in which something is not properly working, exploiting that moment of uncertainty to pose to ourselves the questions that are going to stimulate our initial research phase.
Within the CA2RE network, we are not all designers, so this makes me question the nature of the expression research-by-design or design-driven research. As architects, we have different skills and we use them to develop new approaches in research, in opposition to scientists, who follow a more strictly scientific path and don’t share nor approve our type of approach.
I think that our research method can be reassumed in three phases: observation, representation, and transformation. They’re deeply interconnected—when observing you can represent, when representing you are actually observing, and then you can transform. These three phases are not all design-based, the basic concept of design is something that is connected to the concept of drawing. Although they are not the same, we can draw without designing and we can design without drawing, and sometimes drawing can be used also as a creative process that can produce knowledge. However, in that case, I would not define it as research-by-design but rather research-by-drawing.1
Claus Peder Pedersen
With the CA2RE network, in a way, we promise to look at the overview of what goes on across Europe, maybe even beyond, in terms of design-driven research. To be provocative, we could say that the organization is not quite at that point yet. There are a lot of different things going on, different interests that are very practice-oriented, programs that other practitioners have already established, and programs that address design-driven approaches which is more focused on career-developing. So there is really a wide range of engagement with this topic and even though we have fruitful discussions and always new nuances of understanding design-driven research, we are not yet in a stage where we can make clear recommendations in terms of promoting research knowledge. We might still be missing a few publications that could change the view. What we have here with the CA2RE network, is a very particular conference format that works between being a learning environment and a more traditional conference program, in which there is the chance to put something at stake, to risk, to discuss also unfinished work in progress all together.
Three recommendations in the form of three questions:
1. How can we build on extended disciplinarity?
One of the most interesting things about the last few CA2RE conferences is that we had people from various artistic backgrounds and that led to many interesting discussions where different notions of creativity and different frames of reference really seemed to elevate the topic in a new way.
2. Is there a challenge in focusing on individual research or design contributions?
We as a network, challenge the very notion of authorship in some ways, though, we carry out a very traditional conference format where mostly young researchers present from an individual viewpoint. Isn’t that an old-fashioned understanding of authorship even though we also have researchers and designers who work with different forms of collectiveness and user involvement?
3. Is there a way of extending our network to be better and having post-doctorate and more experienced researchers also present?
Now we might be in a situation where experienced researchers can discuss how they taught PhD students their way inside the design-driven research approach. Wouldn’t that require other formats of presentations as well?
Aida Español Villanova
My recommendation starts with a book. The title of the book is ‘Differences: Topographies of Contemporary Architecture’, 1996, written by the architect and critic Ignasi de Solà-Morales. The book is a collection of previously published articles by the author. And I believe that some of the ideas are very much relevant to the ongoing discussion of CA2RE. I have extracted 7 notions. These can be read as connected ideas, but also as contradictory pairs.
The first concept, topographies, should be seen as an umbrella where the other 6 following concepts are embraced. “The ‘Topography’ of contemporary architecture is the pursuing of a knowledge of architecture based on its representation. Topography is the representation of a place that reveals the knowledge of the place not as a type or class but as the place itself. Topography is geographical but it can also be architectural. Places are physical but they can also be mental. Such places are particular, singular, and their description should not eradicate their individuality. Topography, then, is the representation of the particular, but it is a form of representation that articulates rather than depicts: it reveals multiple topographies, rather than representing or reproducing one in the manner of a graphic simulacrum.” (page 6)
“From a multiplicity of platforms, criticism today can undertake the production of maps or descriptions which, like topographical charts, reveal the complexity of a territory - its form the result of geological agents operating in silence on an apparently immobile mass that is nevertheless cut through by currents, flows, changes, and interactions that give rise to incessant mutations.” (page 16)
”When we acknowledge that what constitutes the significant core of a given phenomenon is not so much its belonging to a particular genre or type as its radical singularity, the problem becomes that of the instruments with which we are to recognize the singularity. In recent years historiography has sought to address the delicate question of how to analyze the specific as the specific. This is, from the perspective of philosophy, the problem identified by phenomenology: that of arriving at knowledge of things in themselves on the basis of a science, grounded not in abstract principles but in representation. Rather than imposing a framework, or a categorizing system, upon something, phenomenology seeks to derive a framework from the things in themselves.” (page 5-6)
”What makes it possible to delimit the specific conditions of each individual, subject, or work of art are its differences. Knowledge of the same permits only tautology. The possibility of being able to attribute particular characteristics to a given situation or object is founded on difference. Recognition of difference leads to the affirmation of the plural. A plural culture is one that makes of differences its profile, its distinctive outline, its characteristic features.” (page 7)
”Joseph Kosuth wrote in 1969 ”Art indeed exists for its own sake”, formulating the principle of art´s autonomy. The rediscovery of Marcel Duchamp by conceptual artists signified, on the one hand, the disappearance of all reference to anything beyond the universe of artistic products itself and, on the other, the prioritization of the communicative-linguistic orientation in the understanding of artistic activity. The conceptual artist puts the idea before the materiality of the object…What feeds this work is the artists’ self-interrogating reflection on their activity as producers of art and on the work´s self-referentiality.” (page 75)
”The explication of architecture exclusively in terms of architecture itself is a slack excuse, an attempt to deny the evidence of much broader relationships… This is not to assume, however, that reality is stratified, and that for each level of architectonic event there is a corresponding and analogous level in philosophy or art.” (Page 7–8)
”Art is not the object: it cannot be identified with an artifact that we appropriate independently of the process by means of which it was conceived and realized. The process is more important than the work of art. More important than the finished, isolated object are the ideas that made it possible. Artistic communication is produced at the moment we are able to understand the object as the result of a structure, as an always provisional state that proceeds from prior studies and that will make subsequent development possible.” (Page 75–76)
“Reality will always be more potent than thought.” (Page 11)
University of Ljubljana
My thoughts and recommendations are very much linked to my personal perception of design and architecture in general. I am interested in the relationship between spatial and social themes and I see the designer as some sort of public servant whose job is to detect design problems, recognize how they affect their surroundings and attempt to solve them to benefit society. We as designers can choose to either work with the system and play by its rules, or to play a subversive stance and object to it through our work and research.
I often see that we are very defined and limited by the way we interpret the world as professionals within our discipline, and this sometimes can prevent us to learn the intricacies that are actually very important in order for us as designers to progress and find better answers to our questions. I have become aware of that when my own work required a multidisciplinary approach, so therefore I suggest looking for recommendations also outside your own discipline, cultivating relationships with non-architects and non-designer as well as speaking with other professionals from different fields as much as possible. It is also important to have some healthy doubts regarding statements that are made by respected others and test the conceptions in the field by getting involved directly whenever possible. I challenge you to observe and test more outside of our field and to work on demystifying design and research topics to non-architects, to have discussions outside our offices, classrooms and conferences. As much as we as designers need to present to each other, it is equally important to get fresh information from outside, and this is the only way our discipline can stay relevant and grow in complexity.
Recommendations for hosts, researchers, and panelists, involved in the Design Driven Research field.
To the hosts: take care about the selection of research topics, we have to go for rigorous, relevant and fresh research, which might carry some potential to contribute to knowledge, and even if it’s not that obvious yet, we still need to pursue a strict method of selection.
Agreeing with what Claus (Claus Peder Pedersen, Aarhus) said, I also suggest involving more post-doctorate and experienced researchers in the discussion, who could include rigorous research directly from their practices as well as their PhD programs. I suggest providing a variety of places for the events which will lead to a larger variety of communication modes, performativity, and different kinds of discussions. Provide the timeframe needed for immersion into the specificity and singularity of the situations, otherwise, we will only stay on the surface without enough time.
To researchers: position yourselves. Position yourselves in the context you are working with and in the context of your previous and future work. The audience can’t guess what you talked about at your previous conferences if they were not there, don’t assume that people know everything about your work, we need some hints about where you are coming from and where you are going.
At last, to the panelists: when presenting material at a conference during the early stages of research, focus on its relevance, and only after that you can begin focusing on the contribution. Sometimes it is difficult to identify where and how we are maneuvering in a cycle of research, but that’s what the conferences and the communication are about, finding that all together.
The CA2RE network is a family that provides a trustful, inclusive and open environment for the assessment and discussion of doctoral projects, and has always been a key to collecting, sharing, learning and building a considerable amount of data and experience between all the participant institutions.
Figure 3: CA2RE+/CA2RE Delft: Recommendation, Mathias Ballestrem, HafenCity University Hamburg, 28. 03. 2022
At a certain point, such openness can easily become a dilution of what really needs to be done. There are two main approaches in design-driven research here inside the CA2RE family. The first one uses design practices techniques and media for researching specific phenomena. The second one employs original and creative designs as a process of knowledge production and artifacts as a form of knowledge. We already have a title for the first one, which is a PhD, namely Doctor of Philosophy, but we are still missing a title for the second approach. I don’t think that a Doctor of Philosophy equals ‘Doctor of Architecture’. CA2RE is a unique opportunity to formulate an effective document for establishing this kind of design-driven research in the European scientific landscape. We already know from discussions of policy papers—like the “Florence Principle” on the Doctorate of the Arts or the EAAE Charter on Architectural Research—that this approach carries a great weight inside the public debate on research policies, and we as partners of the CA2RE+ project, have the opportunity to write such a paper.
Building a disciplinary methodology for the ‘Doctor of Architecture’ would mean narrowing down and agreeing on essential aspects of it—not to exclude someone or narrow down the CA2RE community but rather to fill a gap that we are almost obliged to fill. The CA2RE family can, and will, remain a very open and creative community, but it also needs to impact the European research and funding policies in a way that enhances research possibilities in architecture.
Figure 4: Zoom-out/zoom-in strategy of the combination of the participation in PEP and CA2RE by Marta Fernandez Guardado in 2022 (based on the visual representation of the feedback development of the student project Bunker+ by Joel Berger and Pierre Musy presented at ETH Zürich in WS2020).
Marta Fernández Guardado
My design-based research is a thing-based exploration of personal space for the development of a conceptual and methodological tool to identify and consolidate the personal experience of inhabitation, and it is already in its final stage. To date, I have presented my research in conferences of design-based research a total of six times: three times in the biannual symposium organized by the PEP, Practice-Based Doctoral Program at TU Berlin, and three times in the biannual conferences organized by the CA2RE Community for Artistic and Architectural Research at various European universities.
While the PEP presentations function as regular internal evaluation by the committee that directs the doctoral program at the architectural faculty where I promote, the CA2RE presentations serve as unique external feedback by different members of the wider scientific community of artistic research with expertise in diverse fields and different approaches to design-based research. The alternation of my participation in these two events – PEP and CA2RE – has offered me the possibility to establish a ‘zoom-in and zoom-out’ strategy that has been extremely helpful for me.
In PEP I present the current status of my work in relation to the overall path of my dissertation journey according to its guidelines. The exercise of reflecting on my current standing position within the full research development means also to discuss aspects that might not be the immediate focus of my concern, but it surely helps me to step out of the small picture of the present moment and reevaluate and reorientate my path to the goal. The PEP members know my research well and have participated in my previous steps, and they continuously and consistently support me towards the end of my journey.
In CA2RE I share the specific aspects in which I am engaged in the moment of presenting from the situation I am immersed. The intense and in-depth examination of one particular aspect of the research question temporarily detaches me from the full map of my trajectory, but it certainly allows me to pause and take the necessary attention and time to resolve a particular struggle that could impede my development. The CA2RE community reacts directly and spontaneously to a limited unresolved section of my work and supports me to attack my current matter of concern from all possible directions.
This personal observation doesn’t mean that both PEP and CA2RE do not allow you to share your work from the small or the big picture, but this is the strategy I have found for myself to navigate between these two. In fact, sometimes I have received criticism for either lack of context or lack of detail at these two events but having supervisors who belong to both networks has made it easier for me to articulate them. Thinking retrospectively, I can only encourage other fellow students to explore to the fullest the possibilities of sharing their work also beyond their home institutions in events like CA2RE, and sincerely thank its community for its diversity, immediacy, freshness, and open-mindedness.
Politecnico di Milano
DAStU_ Department of Architecture and Urban Studies
About Community and Contextualization
When preparing the contribution for the Delft conference, we – Fabrizia Berlingieri, Gennaro Postiglione, Alessandro Rocca, and Jacopo Leveratto as the Politecnico di Milano core team, together with Enrico Miglietta – deliberately wrote some individual reflections on preliminary findings and possible trajectories for the CA2RE project. Even without discussion among us, the summa turned out to be a shared perspective on the values of community and contextualization. I am now presenting them on behalf of the Polimi group.
Figure 5: CA2RE+ in Delft, 28.03.2022, photo by Fabrizia Berlingieri
The CA2RE+ experience had the extraordinary effect of comparing precisely, with the same tools, research-driven research in different schools. The plural soul of the CA2RE consortium resulted, over the three years, as a representative sample of the numerous facets that characterize design-driven research: prototyping, self-reflexive practices, critical observation of contemporary phenomena, media innovation, etc. Different approaches for different schools. However, along the way, the main finding is that similarities and differences intersected the consortium geographies in unpredictable ways: sometimes traditions have been respected and enhanced; in other cases, models and references crossed, creating unexpected relationships far from their original place. This cross-fertilization proved how important it had been the effort to establish a common ground between us as a community. This common ground further sustained a progressive engagement to develop and promote unconventional research paths where the methodological specificity of design-driven research (DDR) could be more clearly formulated. It relates to the consciousness that we, as architects, designers, and artists, are familiar with non-verbal media deriving from an endogenous aspect of our disciplines, that is, to be constantly trained in vision. It is an essential component of our research, the betrayal of which only weakens our contribution to scientific knowledge development.
Indeed, the core of the whole CA2RE+ project has been, as stated in the delivered application, the transfer of design studio behaviors and tutorials to design-driven doctoral research (DDDR) supervision, moving from a typical text-based dialogue to a visual-based experience with shared exchanges around and with drawings and artifacts as moments of mutual learning.
The CA2RE+ project increased the number of PhD presentations and panelists compared to previous CA2RE activities, from which it stemmed out, widening its community of research practitioners (by design/drawing) and improving its network. By applying the didactic approach of design studios to DDDR supervision, the CA2RE+ consortium has managed to substantially advance the doctoral training model from being a support to an experiential learning-through-evaluation experience. Therefore, further actions do not concern the application of replicable protocols. On the contrary, they must insist on the importance of contextualization in DDR training and supervising processes.
Despite the enormous differences among the individual subjects, positions, and tools, coming from diverse disciplinary practices, the supervising processes in this field should encourage candidates to conceptualize research by considering it as a bearer of meaning that can be transmitted, shared, and replicated. It should address evaluation at the balance between personal interest and the topic relevance within the design community, considering that research objectives ultimately remain the observation, critical reflection, and the transformation of reality.
The supervising process should promote innovation in the selection of the subject and mainly in the definition of a specific and contextual process to investigate it. It should encourage looking for a shareable sense of situated rigor that could better respond to a final principle rather than a modal strategy, thus promoting a research philosophy that is open to the evolution and integration of new theories. To do so, the most important thing for candidates, supervisors, and heads of doctoral programs interested in developing and promoting DDDRs, is to find or build a community of reference or a Community of Critical Practices. It is only by establishing an immersive discursive environment and a climate of trust that candidates and supervisors can identify their position within the scientific community. It should stress not only through a projective form of individuation but also by the intersection among different research practices, which could offer a counterpoint to a self-reflective form of positioning through a comparative perspective. The results from CA2RE+ are something we should take care of and nourish. Since it is from the strengthening of this specific Community of Practice, we can enforce the position and role of architectural design culture within the schools of architecture and more widely within our contemporary design culture. CA2RE-for could be the next step toward the trajectory initiated with CA2RE and CA2RE+.
The recommendation is to develop this crossing further, thus strengthening the relationship between professors and candidates from different countries and schools. Beyond expanding its network to even more international audiences, indeed, the next CA2RE should increase educational activities to value our community as a faculty. Intensive courses, workshops, and masterclasses could be the next common ground where professors and candidates from various programs participate, strengthening relationships and exchanging knowledge.
Politecnico di Milano—KU Leuven
This reflection on the recommendations for the CA2RE+ Consortium stems from genuine individual experience and seeks to draw some insights from it. I have been privileged to participate in the events by witnessing in some way the two sides of the operation, as a presenter starting with the event held in Gent in 2019 (OBSERVATION), and as part of the organizing committee for the Milano 2020 event (COMPARISON), presenting various aspects and moments of my investigation on a total of four occasions.
As a candidate of the Milanese Doctoral School, I can say with certainty that the impact of participating in a multitude of occasions has been critical, both in terms of enriching my doctoral research and my path as a young researcher. The first shift for personal exploration through design came when encountering the research, methods and disciplinary frameworks even just glimpsed during the session at the Faculty of Architecture of the Sint-Lucas School in Gent, then in the other presentations in the different European Schools. In most of the candidates’ explorations, and certainly in the more advanced ones, the quality of the research was often flanked by the contamination of methods and strategies, where subjective viewpoints were analyzed via rigorous, often experimental processes, rather than through rigid paradigms, both regarding the strictly architectural discipline and to artistic practices in general.
This invitation to an open, frank, non-judgmental dialogue has produced, at least for me, in the moment of encounter, the possibility of approaching ways of doing research that completely subverted and enriched my initial premises. It also allowed me to become acquainted with affine research developed in a different School, thus leading to an initial series of meetings, then to a research stay, and finally to a joint PhD programme between Politecnico di Milano and KU Leuven, which imbues my research with diversity on multiple layers that I now consider an indispensable prerogative for its conclusion.
As already mentioned, in the wake of the previous notes, I also believe that the possibilities offered by a program of continuous exchange of perspectives, of frequent peer-to-peer dialogue, should be preserved and continued to be nurtured with increasing intensity.
My first ‘recommendation’ would be that this CA2RE, or CA2RE-for, continue to be a contact zone for researchers, even expanding beyond European borders, and configuring its archive as a repository of knowledge that is kept open and accessible. By shaping itself as a platform for debate on design-driven doctoral research, both physically and virtually, where the skills and interests of individuals and various institutions are brought together, it can continue to strengthen existing ties and build opportunities to create new ones. Secondly, I hope that it will continue to be a point of reference for research in the fields of architecture and the arts that work on the value of the artifact, through the tools of the researchers' disciplines. By offering moments for field-testing of experimental research and studies, it could also promote their development through workshop formats in the individual partner universities. Finally, in order to densify this network of connections, I wish that it will continue to look for ways to facilitate the movement and dialogue of doctoral students and researchers at all levels, through funds and projects designed specifically for this purpose, fostering this fertile contamination of research processes.
Lusófona University of Porto
This text follows CA2RE+ Delft workshop speech taken from the contributions of the consortium and of Lusófona University of Porto (ULP), Edite Rosa, and the PhD student, Yara Abastour. It addresses recommendations concerning the three years of the CA2RE+ program and the consortium Design Driven Doctoral Research (DDDr) shared understandings. It covers recommendations for communication with peers, institutions, stakeholders, and PhD students. For this, it adds feedback from the ULP PhD candidate participant as well as findings taken by the representative as an observer from one of the CA2RE+ Delft learning-teachings model sessions composed by participants from other institutions. It closes with some questions for future reflection.
The Delft workshop looked back over the three years of the CA2RE+ program in terms of shared achievements. The consortium narrowed and added precision for a common definition of Design-Driven Doctoral research (DDDr) and simultaneously embraced existing diversity, opening the scope and forms of operating this research. DDDr is therefore understood as the inherent nature of the design field (features, characteristics, qualities, properties, attributes) achieving the universal knowledge, objective of a PhD research. Knowledge of the creative fields, explicitly pertinent and original, where findings are described in words, (as transdisciplinary media) but its core lies on direct reference to the means or products of the design practice.
The DDDr relevance resides mostly in its supportive design action-research process that combines theory and praxis to transform a particular experience to give rise to general knowledge, applicable to an indeterminate number of concrete objects, in an inexhaustible universe of design studies.
DDDr is a systematic questioning, a process of rigor, objectively reasoned, and argument-based demonstration with contributions necessary for disciplinary advance, where its procedures and methodology largely determine the reliability level of its achievement and results “Its reliability is determined by its methodology.”1
DDDr methodologies recommendations
DDDr procedures must raise design questions, use design tools, require the search for answers through rigorous systematic demonstration of reasoned design arguments (critical, conceptual, theoretical, and practice) and state of art credits. An open-ended procedure where in the last instance the only reliable design-driven based outcome may be the methodology used. A specific methodology where practice serves as a research object and design instrument.
All scientific and rigorous methods are possible to combine in DDDr however, it often raises more abductive hypotheses, than inductive or deductive ones. Another differentiating feature is the use of specific design tools, used as methods, instruments, or just demonstration techniques.
What stood out from the CA2RE+ events was the diversity of DDDr’s research work in content and form. Within all the DDDr works presented, the consortium characterized the main set of three existing key parameters of DDDr, APPROACH, METHOD, and TECHNIQUE, as an intrinsic set of procedures implicit for the nature of design research. In short, design practice and design tools serve DDDr as a research purpose recommendable for trustworthy “universal” meaningful design-based results.
DDDr main procedures recommendations for several actors
Although still a work in process, the consortium DDDr’s understandings were taken into great account, visible in the events results and number of participants. Some recommendations for the various actors involved were collected.
For the researchers (PhD, post-docs and seniors), to acknowledge the design culture and practice skills experience as necessary although not sufficient for doctoral design-driven research. In addition, the doctoral research data and methods must be rigorous and transparent as well as its knowledge outcomes transferable and transmissible.
For the thesis supervisor, the main concern must be with the trustworthiness of the methodology used and its adequacy to the defined objectives more than with the usefulness of the findings.
To the institutions, to consult the CA2RE+ outcomes, its intellectual outputs, Book 1-Strategies,2 Book 2-Evaluation3 and Book 3-Framework4 that contain the Design-Driven research program results done by internal reviewers, external critics and reporters. Also, to adopt the CA2RE+ learning-teaching model with a similar own monitoring process in the form of a written record to control self-DDDr achievements.
To the institutions and supervisors to consult the CA2RE+ intellectual outputs books, proceedings, database platform, and other recordings which contain the best practices of DDDr works. Recollection of the several events presenter’s works and testimonials points of view of the reviewers and external guesses of a considerable number of institutions (11 from CA2RE+ and a large number of outsiders).
Feedback/recommendations from a PhD candidate
During the workshop, our PhD candidate stated the advantages of the CA2RE+ learning-teaching-evaluation model through:
- first, the reception of a review of her extended abstract submission to the CA2RE+ call, with important written feedback of her text, with comments, and scores by three senior researchers reviewers (a blind review by independent scientific committee members),
- second, stimulating assessments were received at the Delft event session presentation (online) carried out by other different three panel members that also posted written recommendations concerning methodologies and how to address her subject question, to help her think more widely and allow her to percept the scale of her research work. The panel also recommended suitable literature and specific authors experts on the subject under consideration (and even related exhibitions), all endorsements to better shape the research development and results,
- the final collective ‘wrapping up’ as well as the other sessions’ presentations also permitted her understanding of similar and different approaches all beyond the umbrella of DDDr, clarifying its understanding and benefits for the field of design.
Recommending the learning-teaching-model
As mentioned above by the PhD candidate, the peer review was carried out in several stages, the main ones being the event presentations sessions of a paper, an exhibition, or an artifact. These sessions, for presentation and feedback, run for sixty minutes and are particularly relevant to ensure design-based research quality and rigor. This learning-teaching model explores education strategies, teaching actions and learning processes that revolve around the field of design, enriching experience for all the players involved.
An assessment practice model structured through an intensive reviewing process with a qualitative goal in the promotion of excellence in research and skill design. The problematics raised at the fellow’s research presentation is where the most challenging points emerge, allowing to frame possible expected outcomes of disciplinary knowledge.
This model is specifically profitable in relation to the distinct features of DDDr, it addresses the aspects of research results communication supported with disciplinary techniques (graphic, performative, and creative tools) and also accommodates the transfer of tacit know-how to knowledge. Another major conquest of this model is how it overcomes the difficulty of integrating the heterogeneity and singularity of the researchers’ experiences taking advantage from them.
Acting as an observer in a learning-teaching session
As an observer of the learning-teaching-session “Bodily Movement in Architectural Theory and Its Implications for Spatial Composition” significant aspects emerged from the panel recommendations comments, underlining the design research themes that the CA2RE+ consortium elected as DDDr main parameters namely why, what and how the DDDr approach, method and techniques were used. The main final recommendation of the panel members stressed a clear communication not yet achieved, by the PhD fellow, on the presented spatial design simulations even though the findings were articulated. The panel members recommended clarifying the selection of the most appropriate design tools for the research process. Also, to present the result information to the scientific community with greater integration of media and technological procedures. The assessment role of the panel attempted to bring the presenter closer to the core of the research design results and improve its transmission.
Final future questions: More than why, what, and which DDDr?
Taking into account the established above-mentioned CA2RE+ sessions and recommendations seems that for the future more than inquiring about Why to use DDDr for design fields stands, What, which and when of the design-driven research to recommend. By what means of design, with which methodology and tools should the research support, and when is the design process involved? What are the selection criteria, methodologies and techniques, and when to use them and combine them with conventional methodologies?
The answer allows inquiring about the design subject, object, context, reasons, and logical structure, one by one and one in relation to the other, supporting them to achieve design knowledge, outcomes, or main results.
Figure 6: Urban Morphology: Aleppo Informal settlements; image credits Yara Aboasfour
My PhD thesis topic is “Informal settlements in post-war Aleppo, transformations and possible applied solutions.” As a PhD candidate, it is essential to be presenting my study, be informed about relevant research to my study, and gain helpful feedback and comments from academics and colleagues. The email I received from my supervisor Dr. Edite Rosa to participate in this conference was encouraging and a valuable opportunity to expand my knowledge on my topic and others'. After submitting an abstract for the CA2RE Conference, I received very useful comments and reviews about my study, mainly at my initial proposal stage. During the conference, while presenting, I shared my thoughts with the professors and the panelists. Listening to their comments, recommendations, and suggestions has been constructive, which proved crucial for my study.
During my session, three-panel members recommended books to read related to my theme. They suggested connections with experts in the field. They pointed out specific exhibitions to attend that could be insightful for my study—all of this was enlightening, especially at that stage of my research. We also discussed the design-driven approach I will use in my study, including suggesting a methodology for my research and addressing some questions I had not considered before attending the conference. Having presented at the CA2RE conference, I am now proceeding in developing my proposal, and I feel more confident about my study's scale and stage.
Reconnecting to a matter that has been widely discussed throughout the CA2RE conferences, and also linking to what Fabrizia Berlingieri (Politecnico di Milano) said, a key issue in the design driven research spectrum is the ‘interpretation of design’. As matter of fact, many of our colleagues at the TU Delft, as well as in other institutions, intend design mainly as a way of solving problems. To come to a solution, design is often the main vehicle. However, this approach has shortcomings and pitfalls, particularly in nowadays’ context, where even the simple act of framing the design problem is very complex and difficult. With things being so uncertain, we are almost obliged to use design as a way of inquiring, to better understand what the problems at stake are exactly. To go for a more inquisitive use of design and drop the problem-solving in the background is something we should do upfront, also in the way we teach design courses—both at the bachelor and master levels. Operating in this way, we also have the possibility of considering things that are in the first place not included in the given design briefs.
Another issue that was already pointed out during previous discussions at CA2RE, is the non-linearity of design processes, sometimes being really unstable, and this is something important to understand and take into account. When it comes to PhD research, there are conventional ways of putting forward motivation, research questions, relevance, approach, and methodologies, but this is not something that can be simply applied to design driven approaches, which need non-objectified ways of clarifying these steps; in each design driven research, there is a degree of singularity, context-dependency and use of specific strategies and tools. Being aware of these aspects can be an additional asset for the ones undertaking a design driven PhD. With a network like CA2RE, we can strengthen each other and learn from each other’s way of working—every one of us has a singular and unique research environment. It is paramount to get grip on design as such: what kind of design are you intending? What are your design tools? What are you adding as knowledge? These questions can be enclosed in the act of designing and in the mechanisms that go along with it. Therefore, all types of communication—verbal, non-verbal, written, and visual—should be monitored and observed carefully, those are the features that we can truly trust. Terms and concepts such as hidden premises, saying /showing distinction, evidencing claims, experiential knowledge, or transformative triggers, come to the fore, facilitating expression and articulation of the various steps that such types of research journeys entail.
Taufan ter Weel
The CA2RE team, also thanks to Roberto Cavallo, encouraged me to take my own interdisciplinary artistic aspirations seriously, so I started looking at my research work not only through a theoretical viewpoint but really commencing to incorporate the practical and artistic experience into the research process. The work I do falls in-between disciplinary boundaries, in general terms, between architecture and sound; it is about the role of architecture in the context of sound art. This means that I had to acknowledge that transversal processes really cut across different disciplines and fields, and sometimes, even rearrange existing hierarchy structures. For example, how digital technologies actually transform fields, institutions and disciplines. This aspect cannot be addressed only through very rigid and inductive reasoning, some problems are just too complicated and too uncertain to be addressed with established procedures. These motives should somehow also support the reasons for my artistic research, to be able to look beyond the direct application of theory.