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Communities of Tacit Knowledge: Architecture and its Ways of Knowing

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TACK (Communities of Tacit Knowledge: Architecture and its Ways of Knowing)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-08-31

Architectural design projects commonly stem from a collaboration between designers, makers, clients and a variety of experts, including social scientists, commercial, economic or technical advisors, critics and heritage consultants. Architectural designs are the result of complex and occasionally conflicting sets of requirements that can only be reconciled through processes of negotiation between different disciplines and different fields of knowledge. These negotiations imply forms of synergetic thinking, which often rely on implicit common understandings. In spite of its relevance, tacit knowledge has not been studied methodically in the field of architecture. This ITN builds on the proposition that tacit knowledge is embodied not only in the practices of architects, but also in the tangible artefacts that they design with, from written documents and drawings to models and buildings.
Architectural tacit knowledge holds an essential capacity to manage societal challenges and changing conditions – conflicting programmatic demands from various clients, altering building codes and standards, changing political conditions during the design period, restricted or inflexible methods of financing schemes, etc. To conceptualise in a clear and systematic manner how knowledge about successful spatial configurations or technical solutions is passed on within the community of an extended design team remains a challenge. Recent developments in the field, including the wide-spread adoption of digital technology in the design process entail a major change in the way in which information is produced and shared. Against this background, a clearer understanding of how implicit knowledge relates to the procedural exchange of information, becomes increasingly important. The ITN contributes to the development of design knowledge, and clarifies the potential of architectural design to address fundamental and urgent questions, including those of sustainable development, the impact of cultural diversity, the benefits and pitfalls of digital design technologies, etc.
Overall objectives
The ITN offers ESRs theoretical frames and investigative methods to obtain a better understanding of the character, role and function of tacit knowledge in architecture. It provides an in-depth training – including historical, theoretical and practical methodological skills and knowledge– to analyse, conceptualise and position this particular type of tacit knowledge production. The network partners (both academic and non-academic) train the group of scholars to examine and analyse the character of this knowledge, and to explore its potential impact in addressing new and urgent questions in the built environment from alternative vantage points, including those arising from new digital technologies.
The ESRs will become acquainted with established methods of academic research, but also with the procedures and the realities ‘on the workshop floor’. The ITN’s composition – a network of universities, design offices, and institutions involved in the public dissemination of architecture – provides the participants with a unique perspective, allowing them to examine the processes of thinking and communicating that are part of creating innovative architectural designs. Apart from ten doctoral dissertations, the ITN will produce an interactive website, a synthetic reader, as well as publications, exhibitions and public events about the impact of tacit knowledge on architectural practice. It will also develop online training modules on ‘tacit knowledge’ which can be used in architectural education, and which will be available to the wider academic and professional community.
The ESRs' PhD projects were started and the first training axis ‘Approaching Tacit Knowledge’ was offered. As tacit knowledge is commonly disseminated in implicit, practical ways, the first training axis addressed the fundamental question of how to approach tacit knowledge through three modules: ‘Horizons’, ‘Frames’ and ‘Vectors’. During these first twelve months, ESRs learned about methods to approach tacit knowledge and place them in a broader historical horizon of research methods and disciplinary discussions.
In the module 'Horizons' ESRs were confronted with the state-of-the-art of methods that have been developed in other disciplines to approach and explicate tacit knowledge. Amongst others methods from the field of literature, cultural studies and social studies were introduced and evaluated, especially for their capacity to be related to the field of architectural practice, criticism and architectural education. The module 'Frames' focused on the methods that are available within the discipline of architecture to investigate tacit knowledge. The field of architecture has a long tradition of analytical methods. Too often, however, have these methods focussed on explicit and theory-based modes of knowledge dissemination. In recent years, there have been several experiments, amongst others informed by insights from the field of actor-network theory, but also within the domain of architecture itself, to develop analytical methods adapted to the tacit dimensions of the discipline. ESRs learned to develop experimental investigative approaches, which they will position in relation to the historical horizon of existing architectural research methods. In the 'Vector' module, ESRs were trained to develop analytical skills to look at these vectors of architectural practice as carriers of tacit knowledge. This module thought ESRs to examine how these vectors have the ability to convey – beyond the obvious discursive messages that they carry – embedded tacit knowledge. ESRs were not only be trained in applying an analytical perspective, but were also encouraged to position their findings in a wider historical frame.
At the level of combining dispersed expertise on tacit knowledge, applying it to the field of architecture and the design of the urban environment. As such, TACK utilises the distributed knowledge networks which characterise architecture in order to introduce new research approaches in traditional university-based education and research. At the occasion of the different foundational and intermediate meetings an important exchange of knowledge has been taken place. This combination of expertise also transpired from the TACK Talks, online exchanges between different scientific, cultural and practice partners, as well as from the printed outcome of the first training axis, the so-called Konvolutt that illustrates the juxtaposition of knowledge generated in different centres of expertise.
At the level of the training, which offers new research methods and theoretical perspectives to engage with tacit knowledge. During this first period, the different modules of the ITN started to expand the expertise that has been generated by these different research centres in order to examine tacit knowledge in architecture systematically and thereby train a new generation of researchers in the field of architecture. Through collective exchange and investigation first contributions have been made to a more comprehensive theoretical and methodological framework for the understanding of tacit knowledge in the field of architecture. Developing a method to obtain a better understanding of the role of architectural models for the creation and dissemination of tacit knowledge in expanded design teams is only one example of the past period.
Convolute Folder created by ESRs