Areas of Design Practice as an Alternative Research Paradigm

By Daniela Büchler, Michael Biggs and Lars-Henrik Ståhl.

Published by The Design Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The view of the world from different subjects is quite distinct, resulting in a different view of what it is to know, and what it is that is known about. Scientists are stereotypically Realists who seek objective facts about an independent external world. Literary theorists are stereotypically Constructivists, seeking insightful interpretations that are relevant to their community. Each overarching set of values and beliefs about the world is called a worldview, which determines the ontological, epistemological and methodological attitudes of the researcher to the object of investigation. These attitudes form a research paradigm within which certain activities are regarded as appropriate by peers and, as a result, produce relevant responses to perceived research questions.
This paper presents an investigation that was funded by the Swedish Institute into architectural research as evidenced in Swedish doctoral theses. The sample was mapped and analysed in terms of clusters of interest, approaches, cultures of knowledge and uses of design practice. This allowed the identification of the ontological, epistemological and methodological attitudes of the researchers, and hence a glimpse of the implicit worldview. The authors claim that the relationship between values and beliefs (worldview), and actions (paradigm), in emerging areas of design research such as architecture is often under-scrutinised, resulting in a disjunction between actions and aims.
One outcome of the project was a diagrammatic representation of various approaches evidenced in the theses. This representation made explicit the similarities and differences between the researchers’ attitudes to the ontological, epistemological and methodological issues; and exposed distinct roles for practice in academic research. The responses to these issues in architectural research reflect the different values and beliefs regarding the roles of design practice in research. The project concluded that research in areas of design practice may constitute a new worldview requiring its own, more appropriate, research paradigm.

Keywords: Academic Research, Architectural Design Practice, Practice-Based Research, Worldview, Research Paradigm

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.327-338. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.231MB).

Dr. Daniela Büchler

Research Fellow, Faculty for the Creative , Cultural Industries, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK

Dr Daniela Büchler has a BArch, MA(Res), PhD Architecture (Brazil) and PhD Design (UK). She has been involved internationally with the organization of conferences, as an invited speaker and as a member of scientific committees. Currently, Daniela is Research Fellow at UH where she is project leader of academic research in areas of design practice [ar-dp]; is Visiting Research Fellow at Mackenzie University, São Paulo, Brazil; and is Guest Scholar at Lund University, having been awarded a post-doctoral scholarship by the Swedish Institute.

Prof. Michael Biggs

Professor of Aesthetics, Faculty for the Creative , Cultural Industries, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK

Prof Michael Biggs MA PhD FRSA FHEA is Professor of Aesthetics at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, and Visiting Professor in Arts-based Research at the University of Lund, Sweden. He was Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at the University of Bergen, Norway in 1994, and has degrees in both Fine Art and Philosophy. He was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1989, and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2007.

Prof. Lars-Henrik Ståhl

Professor of Theoretical and Applied Aesthetics, Architecture and Built Environment, Lund University, Sweden

Professor Lars-Henrik Ståhl is founding member of AKAD (The Academy for Practice Based Research in Architecture and Design) and leader of the Los Angeles Islands research project.

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