Home Research


Lab Cult: An unorthodox history of interchanges between science and architecture (2018)


    Today, after many decades of questioning science’s capacity to provide answers to architecture’s social mandate, architects and designers are once again enchanted with the concept of the laboratory. Originally conceived as the physical space for the practice of alchemy and crystalized in its modern form during the Enlightenment, the laboratory has become an omnipresent term in architectural education, practice and theory. Architecture schools, corporate firms and governmental think tanks are once again saturated with “design labs,” all of which promise to provide objective and precise solutions to contemporary design challenges. In its ubiquity as metaphor, physical space, and visual aesthetic, the laboratory has become an unquestioned dogma. At a moment when science and the production of scientific knowledge are once again undergoing an attack, architecture’s reinvigorated faith in the infallibility of science paradoxically resembles the blind devotion of a religious cult.

    Instead of reinforcing any preconceived hierarchies between these two fields, Lab Cult explores a more symmetrical narrative. Through an eclectic juxtaposition of case studies from science and architecture, this exhibition suggests a history of close-knit relationships and mutual exchanges. Architects are often accused of borrowing, transforming or even misappropriating scientific ideas, tools and working protocols in their attempt to systematize the intuitive aspects of the creative process. At the same time, though, scientists strongly rely on architectural concepts, representations and material means to stage and communicate sophisticated set-ups of rigorous investigation.

    The exhibition is organized under six themes: “Designing Instruments, “Measuring Movement,” “Visualizing Forces,” “Testing Animals,” “Building Models,” and “Observing Behaviour.” Each of these themes is presented by pairing one historical case study from science with one from architecture. Ranging from the late 19th century to the early 1980s, these case studies identify the ways in which working concepts, methods and protocols have been exchanged across different time periods between scientists and architects of diverse disciplinary backgrounds, such as architecture, psychology, engineering, physiology, mathematics, industrial design, computer science and others.

    Toolkit for Today 2018: Activisms


      This year’s Toolkit, Activisms, focuses on the different forms that engaged practice can take for scholars of architecture. But what counts as activism? We want to explore how social and political agendas challenge and shape the disciplines that study and teach architecture. How can architectural research be mobilized in the service of society? In what ways does the academy enable or limit meaningful action?

      To discuss these questions and others, we host one researcher every evening to engage, through their work, the topics of the social production of space, decolonized pedagogy, redensified housing, gender parity, and racial politics in architecture. We invite the public to join the doctoral students in considering how their work can produce change.

      Toolkit for Today 2017: Oral History


        Toolkit invites scholars to reveal their tools and reflect on them in a convivial atmosphere. The 2017 Toolkit for Today seminar on “Oral History” will consider the potential and challenges of oral history as methodology and its use for historians and critics as a source of information or as a way to collect evidence otherwise difficult to grasp or witness.

        Toolkit for Today 2016: Keywords on the Environment


          The CCA presents Toolkit 2016, a two-week summer seminar for PhD candidates from around the world, devoted to “Keywords for the Environment.” We invited four scholars coming from different disciplines—architecture history, environmental humanities, media studies and landscape architecture—to present key concepts of contemporary debates.

          Doctoral Program Conference: #decoding (2016)


            Power inscribes order on space through codes. Bureaucratic codes measure and normalize dynamic ecologies and constitute the substrate of any infrastructural system, organization, and praxis. They striate space and punctuate time to increase efficiency, maximize profit, reduce risk, and maintain order in cultural, social, economic, and political spheres. #decoding gauges the agency of spatial practices in relation to the challenges and capacities prompted by codes and protocols. Organized by students in the Doctor of Design Studies program, this conference investigates the impact of codes, concerned with mapping of environments, demarcation of legal territories, operational protocols of logistics and risk management, and codes of building and subtraction. By exposing the spatial and socio-cultural implications of micro-politics embedded in the hidden codes and protocols, we speculate about the potential agency of design practices mediating between processes of normalization, and the live, complex, and unpredictable ecologies of human habitation.

            DDes Conference: Data Across Scales: Reshaping Design (2015)


              The Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Doctor of Design Studies Program hosted the international interdisciplinary conference Data Across Scales: Reshaping Design.

              Bringing together design researchers and practitioners, the conference inquires into the role of “data” in design and how it is steering its practice across all scales.

              The conference will comprise four panels: “Data-driven design,” “Programming the physical world,” “Urban design and big data” and “Open data and civic media.”

              The Expanding Periphery and the Migrating Center (2015)


                The 2015 ACSA conference aims to simultaneously look outward toward the expanding periphery of architecture and inward toward its migrating center. The dual focus of this call for proposals seeks to examine the implications of architecture’s recently colonized frontiers while also bringing scrutiny to architecture’s core discipline, examining what remains essential within a mutable disciplinary terrain.

                View all papers here: https://www.acsa-arch.org/proceeding/103rd-acsa-annual-meeting-proceedings-the-expanding-periphery-and-the-migrating-center/

                Super Session 1: Possible Mediums (and Studios)

                Kristy Balliet, The Ohio State University

                Adam Fure, University of Michigan

                Andrew Atwood, U. of California, Berkeley

                Kelly Bair, U. of Illinois at Chicago Brennan Buck, Yale U.

                Andrew Holder, U. of Michigan

                Kyle Miller, Syracuse U.

                The session gathers together a new generation of educators that have loosely organized themselves around the title ‘Possible Mediums.’ These young educators have been conducting a series of workshops and conferences in recent years not only developing challenging experiments in architectural production, but also reexamining the relationship of new tools to disciplinary histories. What are the new pedagogies implicit in their initial experiments?

                Super Session 2: The Core Curriculum Tomorrow

                David Ruy, Pratt Institute

                Lola Sheppard, University of Waterloo

                Lydia Kallipoliti, Syracuse U. Michael Osman, UCLA

                Rhett Russo, NJIT

                Clark Thenhaus, U. of Michigan

                The session invites a selection of moderators, paper presenters, and project authors from the conference to have a speculative discussion about the state of the core curriculum today.

                Super Session 3: Problems at the Periphery

                David Ruy, Pratt Institute & Lola Sheppard, U. of Waterloo

                John May, U. of Toronto

                Caroline O’Donnell, Cornell U.

                Maya Przybylski, U. of Waterloo

                Matthew Soules, U. of British Columbia

                Rob Stuart-Smith, Architectural Association School of Architecture

                The session invites a group of conference participants to assess recent experiments at the periphery of that which can be called architecture. Why is it important for institutions to support these experiments? Does it remain necessary to distinguish these experiments from what’s understood as the core curriculum? If so, how should we understand the relationships between the centers and the peripheries? Can we point ahead to experiments that have not yet been conducted?

                 Keynote Lecture: Peter Eisenman

                Toolkit for Today 2013: Archaeology of the Digital


                  The CCA presents its second Toolkit: a two-week summer seminar for PhD candidates and Master students from around the world. This year, the event was conceived as an important component of the research launched by the CCA on the processes and practices related to digital media in architecture.

                  Apply: Conflict of Interests (2013)


                    This event will be the first in a series of symposia investigating the role of applied research in architecture. Nestled in an intersection between practice and theory, applied architectural research can potentially work as a space for overlap and negotiation. This event will formally make explicit the opportunities for architectural research to bridge the gap between the archive and the laboratory. Taking advantage of the diversity in the research being tackled by the students of the AAR, a series of specific experts related to each topic will be invited to present and discuss their work. This annual event will continue to critically engage the question: What is applied research in architecture?


                    • David Gissen, California College of the Arts
                    • Thomas Keenan, Bard College
                    • Janette Kim, Columbia University GSAPP
                    • Mpho Matsipa, University of Witwatersand
                    • Sarah Whiting, Rice School of Architecture
                    • Mabel Wilson, Columbia University GSAPP
                    • Kazys Varnelis, Columbia University GSAPP
                    • Mark Wasiuta, Columbia University GSAPP

                    Organized by the Program in Advanced Architectural Research

                    Convergence: Research as Practice (2013)


                      The field of Design Research has emerged in contemporary discourse as a prominent topic of interest and is increasingly integral to pedagogical constructs in academia. In design, unlike many fields, research exists as an extremely loosely defined term with continuously evolving questions, results, and methodologies. Often,this research does not follow accepted mechanisms for scientific research and validation and in many cases the designed object or system is the result and the design process- the methodology.

                      Within the loosely defined boundaries of design research, applied research has emerged as a curiosity that has led to a flood of projects, degree programs, and research groups in the academy and to lesser extent in practice. Despite the perceived success of applied research in academic settings the relationship to practice and fiscal viability of research as practice is still not fully understood.

                      Often, applied research in design results in advancement through the adaptation of technologies specified for fields outside of design or the development of novel solutions to pragmatic issues. As the traditional boundaries of design practice are increasingly questioned, broadened, and blurred, scientific research in technology development and application emerges as an essential vehicle for exploration and assessment.

                      This symposium will explore the position, relevancy, and sustainability of applied research in design practice and will attempt to address the aspects of research as practice across design disciplines with examples from contemporary practitioners.