2008–2014 Research Project Modes of Design

FWF-funded research project Modes of Design. The Architectural Project as a Cultural and Social Process, with Andrea Schaffar, at the department of András Pálffy, University of Technology Vienna.
Object of research is the design process in housing, based on the constellation planner-principal. In addition to these two positions, the one of the users exist as a central group in the process, although mainly as implicated actors (A. Clarke). Field of research is contemporary publicly funded housing in Vienna.
Architectural design practices, the (real or implicit) participants in this practice and their representations of the other participants are in the focus of this project. These are representations constructed by architects and principals of users; and, the other way round, representations constructed by users of architects and principals or, at least, of the design process as a whole. Project goal is the development of a theory of design practices in relation to these representations. The design practices are unterstood as communication processes between actual (architects and principals) and, indirectly, implicit participants (users).
Central research questions are: What practical knowledge is part of these design practices or exists in relation to these design practices? What meanings do actors (routinely) attribute to the things an persons (including themselves) which are important in the design practices? What action-related knowledge do they use? What motifs, emotions, goals, orientation patterns do they have? What explicit or implicit rules and what relations between them do exist? And finally: What kinds of design practices do exist in regard to the representations of other participants? What are their qualities? By what are they determined and changed?
The project is based on a practice theory approach. It started with several presuppositions: planners and principals both use specific strategies of action in the design process to prevail. The indirect relation between user inerests and the design process is a central problem of the housing innovation system.
The most important innovation of this project is the approach to see both principals and planners as participants in the design process – that makes it possible to reveal the respective share of the process for both sides and to construct a theoretical model of the form of these shares.
The methodological basis of the project is Grounded Theory (following Strauss and Clarke) and the documentary method (following Bohnsack). Data comes from expert interviews and supporting material (documents, pictures, buildings) which are analyzed in the Grounded Theory framework on one hand and group discussions with architects and principals and with users on the other hand.
Interim results developed in this project were discussed in several lectures and articles, e.g. in And Why Should We Stop at the Building? The Relationship of the Viennese Housing System to its Residents.