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Reiseuni Report | Making Of European Architecture Dialogue

Vol:II Theory • Research by Design

V:II_1 Tradition of Architecture Research – Experimental Real Laboratories of the 20th Century | Dagmar Jäger
V:II_1.1 Laboratories of Architecture: Experimental Projects and Concepts as Research Contribution
V:II_1.2 Bauhütte (Builder's Hut) as Role Model for Integrative Research Practice
V:II_1.3 Cross-disciplinary Academic Research Labs & Private Think Tanks
V:II_1.4 Epilogue: Opening and Sharing New Spaces of Thought

 

The search for new solutions in architecture design and production requires conscious political and aesthetic positioning, open-minded discourse and cross-disciplinary approaches. Three fields of knowledge production serve to highlight its relevance for future design thinking: First, the 20th century will be sketched as a historical period illustrative of the paradigmatic shift from social utopia toward gentle urban renewal. Second, interdisciplinary models of real laboratories are illustrated, ranging from the Builder's Hut to Bauhaus to Bauhäusle. Thirdly and finally, project-oriented workshops at universities and private institutions are discussed as architectural think tanks of integrative production, education and research today.

It is not essential to know where the path will lead to. Even an attempt to describe the goal would support a preconceived opinion. The work itself will point out the way, guided by the technological and sociological conditions of the present day.

Konrad Wachsmann. Turning Point of Building. 1959[1]

[1] Quoted from: Wachsmann: Wendepunkt im Bauen, p. 112: "Es kommt nicht darauf an zu wissen, wohin der Weg führen wird. Schon der Versuch einer Beschreibung des Ziels hieße eine vorgefaßte Meinung haben. Die Arbeit selbst im Sinne technologischer und soziologischer Gegenwartsbedingungen wird die Richtung weisen." Konrad Wachsmann (1901-1980) was one of the leading, German-based architects during the first half of the 20th century, pioneering serial design and production. He was recognized for his experiments on interdisciplinary team planning approaches. Cf. Otto Maier: Die räumliche Syntax. Konrad Wachsmanns Beitrag zum Bauen in unserer Zeit. Karlsruhe 1989.

Every society faces her own architectural and urban challenges and follows specific foci and key topics grounded in the views and conceptions of people's social realities, dreams, necessities and living conditions.[2] These dominant challenges are also related to available resources and technical opportunities. On the one hand, there is the contemporary, political urgency and social dimension of a relevant problem that motivates architects to forge new models and positions beyond established routines. On the other hand, there is the architect's individual interest for a strategic crossing of disciplinary boundaries, his/her experimentation of unknown concepts and the reflection of design methods or the technological-constructive investigations of new possibilities that contour the research areas of architecture.

[2] The term 'social realities' refers to realities perceived by individuals, respecting recognition and experiences in contrast to theoretical models or measurable facts. Cf. Watzlawick: Wie wirklich ist die Wirklichkeit. Wahn, Täuschung, Verstehen.

The range of architectural research by and on design (in the following: design research)[3] is handed down, explored and developed by architects via their own motivations, mostly in dialogue or co-production with developers, engineers, craftsmen and -women, academic institutions or companies with the goal to realize pilot projects.

[3] The term 'Design Research' (Entwurfsforschung) operates as superordinate term to include both components. First, "Forschendes Entwerfen", translated as 'Research by Design' through project design or experimentation, and second "Forschung über das Entwerfen", which circumscribes 'Research on Design through (Self-)Reflection' or theoretical model building. Cf. the didactic model and terminology: >>>Vol:III.11.1 Design Research: Practice of Aesthetic Reflection. Key Terms.

In the quest for societal relevance and the dispersion of knowledge, architectural research activities are motivated by social, political and aesthetic concerns, but rooted in aspirations and passions of individuals. For more than a century, the protagonists of architectural development have connected their private practice with research and teaching activities at universities or newly founded educational institutions, with the aim to overcome boundaries of conventions and to reform traditions. These architects shared insights of their research experiences in public lectures, publications, competitions, exhibitions or expert juries to position and discuss their work. Realizing inventive projects or discussing non-realized projects such as concepts, ideas or reflections as part of public discourses were also elaborated in real laboratories at universities or summer schools. These architects' pioneer work serves society and the renewal of architectural education, ultimately making a fundamental contribution to transforming knowledge to their own discipline.

[Fig. 01] Experimental Summer House Karusel, Max Taut, Hiddensee, Germany
[Fig. 01] Experimental Summer House Karusel, Max Taut, Hiddensee, Germany

Since the 20th century until today, courageous and integrative personalities have been cooperating with civil society actors and other professionals so that new architectural typologies (i.e., housing models, new concepts of public spaces, new methods of design, construction or production) have been developed. In the architectural tradition of experimental real laboratories, interdisciplinary research groups, partnerships and networks seek to pioneer architecture with regards to building or design opportunities, hybrid financial concepts and modes of mutual institutionalization, connecting private and public interests.

This first part of Volume 2 will focus on the tradition of architectural research through investigative design practice. It aims to stimulate professionals' awareness and recognition on the multi-facetedness of knowledge generation through pioneer built or imagined projects, concepts or buildings. This spectrum will be sketched while situating the diversity of experimental real laboratories within their historical contexts, institutional structures and personal motivations. The selected laboratories should exemplify the variety of labs, networks and outstanding individuals who have shaped the modernizing architectural movements since the early 20th century and their activities which range between private practice, social responsibility and academic education. The exemplary choice of institutions, personalities or projects focuses on Central Europe as an important catalyst of architectural renewal during the 20th century.

The different thematic approaches follow the principle of methodological triangulation: On the one hand, the chapter sharpens hypotheses and thus anchors them in the rich landscape of knowledge generation within our discipline-specific tradition of cross-disciplinary learning. On the other hand, the chapter outlines contemporary spaces of opportunity of architectural research beyond the discipline by emphasizing its bridging character between disciplines, people, methods and knowledge to address and potentially solve spatial conflicts or problems of contemporary urban societies.

Pioneering Urban Housing, Spatial Principles and Production Methods

During the first half of the 20th century, the acceleration induced by industrialization and urbanization, but even more by the destruction of historic European cities caused by the acts of war resulted in an acute need for adequate housing and urban infrastructures. Throughout Europe, large migration movements of war refugees and rural migration necessitated the adaptation of urban design and affordable housing concepts and evoked new typologies of communal, social living. The heterogeneous challenges for architects brought forth the development of integral new infrastructures and residential concepts (e.g., garden cities, inner-city housing such as multi-story apartment blocks) and new functional solutions, technologies and public spaces for urban communities.

Before World War II, and in continuation of the border-crossing reform movements after 1900, members of newly founded networks of architects, entrepreneurs, authors and artists like the German Werkbund (founded in 1907), Arbeitsrat für Kunst (1918-21), the Glass Chain (1919-20) or later Der Ring (1926-33) devoted their visionary engagement to enable communal and peaceful life, and to humanize housing, production and working concepts. These mostly interdisciplinary exchanges – intensified by migration, educational journeys and forced emigration – took place in pilot projects, letter exchanges, exhibitions or political debates. Constructive waves of democratization and modernization[4] required the emergence of multi-layered and controversial research questions and spatial paradigms for architects, which, over the decades, subsequently flourished into manifold pioneer projects and discourses far beyond stylistic concerns, but were motivated politically, economically, socially and aesthetically.

[4] Throughout Europe and the USA, influential projects of the emerging modern architecture movements appeared already around 1900, designed by pioneers like Otto Wagner (1841-1918), Antoní Gaudí (1852-1926), Alfred Grenander (1863-1931), Frank L. Wright (1867-1959), Peter Behrens (1868-1940), Josef Plečnik (1872-1957) or Henri Sauvage (1873-1932) who conceived new spatial typologies, infrastructures or building culture including pioneering construction methodologies and formal languages to replace historicist approaches with organic functionalism, focusing on human needs.

One of the most influential Lebensreform projects in Central Europe before World War I is the garden city Hellerau in Dresden, which brought together important architects of the time like Richard Riemerschmid, Heinrich Tessenow, Hermann Muthesius or Theodor Fischer. Since 1909, they had realized cooperative living and design laboratories together in various constellations. For Hellerau, the architects were engaged by entrepreneur Karl Schmidt to develop a new model for the workers of Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau which brought together residents with the goal of combining working, living and leisure contexts of all inhabitants. This community approach was imagined as an alternative approach to the period of industrialization and anonymous urbanization in metropolitan areas since the mid-19th century.

New Types of Buildings for A Growing Urban Society

During the first decades of the 20th century, however, major architectural invention regarding housing, infrastructure and industrial production took place within urban contexts. The multi-faceted urban block typologies of European cities before 1914 in Berlin, Paris, Vienna or Amsterdam significantly defined living and working contexts, but also interconnected with commercial, religious, social and cultural facilities. During the decades of Gründerzeit since the end of the 19th century, pre-fabrication and application of serial elements (e.g., facades, windows, tiled stoves etc.) were expanded. A large variety of housing concepts with mixed functions in inner-urban building ensembles prepared the next important phase of modernization in architecture after 1918.

[Fig. 02] Exemplary Residential Settlement Wohnstadt Carl Legien, Bruno Taut, Berlin
[Fig. 02] Exemplary Residential Settlement Wohnstadt Carl Legien, Bruno Taut, Berlin

The housing shortage after World War I was followed by the foundation of building cooperatives which were enabled by public funding support in cities like Zürich or Basel, later spreading to Austrian and German cities. During the Weimar Republic, and as a reaction to the grave destructions of the War, German architects and the construction industry experimented with materials and forms during developments of larger affordable housing estates. Until 1930, a variety of innovative workers' residences and residential living emerged: in Dessau, the Bauhaussiedlung Törten (1926-1930), in Frankfurt, the housing estate Praunheim (1926-1929), the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart (1927) or the large housing estates Siemensstadt (Ringsiedlung, 1929-1931), Onkel Toms Hütte (1926-1931) or Wohnstadt Carl Legien (1928-1930) in Berlin.[5] These projects have been realized by public authorities, housing companies, cooperatives or entrepreneurs in cooperation with architects. They reorganized living conditions to create spaces for communal life, but also to apply new technologies and building materials in the context of these real laboratories. With respect to economic and time constraints, heterogeneous urban typologies between block, row or detached units were controversially discussed in architectural discourse but also at the example of the built environment. In that sense, controversy was the most important component of architectural learning in real laboratories. Multi-faceted and small, but comfortable floor plans including hybrid functional spaces for daily life were developed and supported via these serial fabrications of low-cost housing volumes.

[5] Built by architects such as Walter Gropius, Hannes Mayer, Otto Bartning, Hans Scharoun, Bruno Taut (with Franz Hillinger), Ernst May or Hugo Häring.

[Fig. 03] Prototypical Health Building Typology, Paimio Sanatorium, Alvar Aalto, Finland
[Fig. 03] Prototypical Health Building Typology, Paimio Sanatorium, Alvar Aalto, Finland

Throughout Europe, the design of buildings for social and public life was needed for transforming societies. School buildings or health facilities such as the Bauhaus Dessau educational building ensemble by Walter Gropius, 1925-1926, the open-air school in Amsterdam designed by Jan Duiker, 1926-1931, the Paimio sanatorium of Alvar Aalto, 1929-33 or the early European high-rise buildings were reflective of new working environments (see designs of office buildings by Fritz Höger, the Chilehaus in Hamburg, 1922-1924, or the trade union building in Frankfurt, 1929-31, by Max Taut). Architects had to develop new functional programmes and ameliorate spatial conditions for workers during dynamic processes of industrialization (see the pioneering projects of Peter Behrens, the AEG Turbine Factory in Berlin, 1908-1909, or the Fagus Werke in Alfeld by Martin Gropius and Adolf Meyer designed in 1911). They had to advance new approaches to urban planning for civil society, investigating gardening concepts as extensions of private living spaces or spaces for self-subsistence (see projects of the landscape architect Leberecht Migge). Architects cooperated with craftsmen, engineers or construction enterprises to explore new methods of serial, low-budget production to experiment with hybrid materials of concrete, steel, straw, glass, wood or brick (see the Société de Construction Rapide of Henri Sauvage with colleagues or the on-site pre-fabrication of Walter Gropius in Dessau-Törten).

Cultural Transfer: Prototypes and Visions Shaping Aesthetics of Generations

After 1925, important individuals became significant driving forces of and for the European architectural community. Life-long 'researcher-artists' personalities and architects such as Frank L. Wright, Walter Gropius, Richard Neutra, Le Corbusier or Max Taut, Eileen Gray or Hans Scharoun designed private residences as prototypes for the future. To mention only some exemplary influential projects: First, Gray's design E1027 (1926-1929), showing her context-sensitive approach to landscape and the differentiation of spaces and multi-functional furniture influenced by British, French and Japanese styles and designs. Second, Neutra's Lovell House (1927-1929), which is considered a radical modern building of the so-called 'international' style in construction and shape, invented by the classically educated architect with experiences of Vienna's architectural laboratory as well as cultural inspirations from Berlin, Italy, Switzerland and the Balkans at the beginning of the 20th century in travels before migrating to the USA. Third, Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye (1928-1931), manifest of his five points[6], which were designed after Le Corbusier had already studied European architecture and public space via journeys, publications and work stays in offices of the European avant-garde in cities like Florence, Venice, Vienna, Berlin, Budapest, Rome or Paris. Furthermore, Van der Rohe's Villa Tugendhat (1929-1930), Chareau's Maison de Verre (1928-1931), Wright's Fallingwater (1935-1939) or Scharoun's Haus Schminke (1932-1933) today are part of the collective spatial memory of the aesthetic language of modern architecture, to be further inscribed in architectural transformation processes.

[6] Les cinque points de l'architecture moderne (1927 published by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeannneret), introduces five design principles for modern architecture: Pilotis as precondition for free design of the ground plan and also for the facade, the ribbon window and finally the roof garden.

[Fig. 04] Prototype E1027, Private Residence in Roquebrune, Eileen Gray, France
[Fig. 04] Prototype E1027, Private Residence in Roquebrune, Eileen Gray, France

A broad scope of experimental design options, accepted by open-minded 'clients' (i.e., builders) enabled the above and other architects of the time to test new approaches throughout all stages of a project from spatial design to building and construction details to furniture and objects as part of their complete design oeuvre. With a narrow timeframe, ideas were disseminated to the professional community and brought forward to other countries through international exhibitions and publications, transferred to larger project contexts and other types of buildings. If mostly private commissioners were first courageous to support non-conventional solutions, the next step – the building of these design experiences – could often be developed in cooperation with public authorities or communal housing companies for a larger community of residents.

Early Springboards – Initiatives for Guiding Principles of the 20th Century

Private residential projects of the modern era demonstrate not only the flow of cultural knowledge through appropriation, transfer and transformation, but also exemplify new principles of architecture regarding hybrid programmes, open floor plan organization, usage of new materials and construction methods and the transfer of contemporary social concerns into new aesthetics and spatial compositions. These innovations made prototypes possible through research by design.

The famous real laboratory period of the later 1920ies had been inspired by precedent years during or shortly after World War II, in which visionary ideas, non-realized manifestos or poems had been worked out. Influential avant-garde concepts had been developed and exchanged by architects and artists in Berlin, Paris and other cities in the context of exhibitions. Exceptional opportunities for knowledge exchange of that time include the Exhibition of Unknown Architects (Ausstellung für unbekannte Architekten, Berlin, 1919, curated by Walter Gropius with Arbeitsrat für Kunst), the Exhibition on New Architecture (Neues Bauen, Berlin, 1920) or later, the exhibition about living utopias of the German Werkbund in the Grand Palais (Paris, 1930), showing diverse Bauhaus design products of the 1920ies to furnish living rooms (presented in true scale) of a new building type called the Wohnhotel (designed by W. Gropius).

[Fig. 05] Concept of Dynamic for the Private Residence Haus Schminke, Hans Scharoun
[Fig. 05] Concept of Dynamic for the Private Residence Haus Schminke, Hans Scharoun

As one of the important springboards for this intense re-invention of architectural goals shortly after World War I, the members of the utopian letter correspondence Glass Chain (Gläserne Kette,1919-20) were joined by Bruno Taut with the aim to think ahead for an architecture of the future. Members were inspired mutually through the exchange of 'thought spaces' in drawings, sketches and texts which imagined new social, technical and spatial types of buildings for a humane and peaceful society. The drawings and descriptions of the participating architects, artists or authors like Hans Scharoun, Wenzel Hablik or Hermann Finsterlin conceptualized new crystalline or floating forms which demonstrated not only a new aesthetics, but also non-religious concepts for public buildings. Biotope concepts for a turnable house or the glass pyramids, sketched by Max and Bruno Taut, investigated organic functionalism and an unconventional 'vocabulary' of defining shapes. Hermann Finsterlin drew on various amorphous shapes to reimagine architectural forms. The fascination for water and crystal led Wenzel Hablik to introduce principles of crystalline or floating architecture within alpine landscapes or seascapes as part of utopian human settlements.[7]

[7] The essays of the German author and drawer Paul Scheerbart (1863-1915) inspired the group with phantasies to imagine glass architecture.

Key Accomplishments for Architectural Space

The Glass Chain correspondence anticipated dynamic, futuristic floating and complex architectural forms. Guiding principles of these post-War international architectural designs first became visible in realized projects like the Einstein Tower, an astrophysical observatory by Erich Mendelsohn (1917-1921) or the spectacular crystalline theatre in Berlin of Hans Poelzig and Marlene Moeschke (Großes Schauspielhaus, 1918-1919). During the decades after the Wars, this aesthetics of built landscapes expanded internationally in representative, public buildings of young democracies such as libraries or philharmonic buildings throughout the 20th century.[8]

[8] Some significant representations show the variety of public 'built landscapes' for emerging urban societies after the industrial era: The small, but internationally recognized entrance building of the Interbau, the Berlin Pavilion (architects Fehling, Gogel, Pfankuch, 1957); the philharmonic building in Berlin (Scharoun, 1963) which represents the first realized organic landscape for concerts, recently re-interpreted in the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg (Herzog and de Meuron, 2016) or the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin attracting international researcher and architect communities with a visionary concept of open/public versus closed/intimate work spaces (Fehling & Gogel, 1974). Other projects include the library of TU Delft (Mecanoo, 1997), the Science Center Phæno in Wolfsburg (Hadid, 2005) and the EPFL university campus extension in Lausanne (SANAA, 2010), all of which radically developed the flowing connectivity of public and commercial zones for the knowledge society.

The iconographic experimentation with new formal language, which first became visible in the mentioned built prototypes and sketched visions, moved the aesthetic and perceptive horizon of architecture, space and shape further from a tradition rooted in geometric and hierarchical spatial organization towards dynamic compositions. The concept of interweaving public spaces with interior layouts and the designs of organically shaped morphologies as built landscapes spatially represent the paradigm shift caused by an increasingly mobile urban society. In sum, key concerns for architecture had been introduced until the early 1930ies, stimulating the new democratic era after the world wars. Principles such as urban living for civil societies, concerns such as transparency and social cohesion, as well as cost-efficient and multi-functional housing were first experimented with to transcend conventional approaches and then influenced and inspired more conventional aesthetics of entire generations to follow.[9]

[9] Prototypes of the first modernity are industrially manufactured in series by companies such as Knoll, Vitra or Artek until today.

As many of the pioneering architects like the aforementioned Wright, Gropius or Taut have also been influential teachers, directors or founders of educational institutions, they introduced next generations of architects to their own experiences. Having been influenced by European, American, Japanese, North African and South American cultures during the first half of the 20th century, they continued to encourage international exchange throughout the world.

[Fig. 06] Pioneering Shapes: Einsteinturm, Erich Mendelssohn, Berlin Potsdam
[Fig. 06] Pioneering Shapes: Einsteinturm, Erich Mendelssohn, Berlin Potsdam

The described approaches of experimental real laboratories can be understood as important strategies of cultural transfer: The pioneering design work, the activities of correspondence, publications and exhibitions, including later educational engagements have been the main motors of increasing design knowledge and transfer. This knowledge transfer continues to produce variegated research activities and processes which have been further developed aesthetically and methodologically across borders. To this day, they are constantly actualized in design schools and research-oriented architecture offices and workshops. They generally aspire to create contexts of experience, knowledge growth and reflection (see also subchapter Builder's Hut as Role Model).

Shifting Paradigms: From Invention of Prototypes to Careful Transformation

Until the late 1960ies, the focus of urban development throughout Europe remained on the refinement of existing building typologies, but also on the enlargement of new buildings following the Athens Charter's paradigm.[10] The implementation of the charter' s principles caused three problems regarding urbanization in many European cities: The urban sprawl, the increase of private traffic and the destruction of historically grown social and built structures in European cities. In the late 1970ies, the resistance against the drastic realization of large residential settlements (e.g., in Berlin Kreuzberg) evoked new approaches within architectural research to think about possibilities for resilient development.

[10] The Charte d' Athènes (4th conference of CIAM, 1933) documents the controversial guidelines of the Functional City, which suggest the separation of living, working, transportation and recreation spaces for hygienic reasons.

[Fig. 07] New Paradigm: Transformation of the Residential Block, Fraenkelufer, Hinrich and Inken Baller, Berlin
[Fig. 07] New Paradigm: Transformation of the Residential Block, Fraenkelufer, Hinrich and Inken Baller, Berlin

The upcoming concept of gentle urban renewal (Behutsame Stadterneuerung) introduced a shift of values and goals in dealing with the preservation of historic city blocks. The revaluation of inner-urban districts and its public spaces took place through the pioneering of new concepts of rehabilitation, re-vitalization or re-defining of building types throughout European cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna or Paris. The densification and transformation of historic settlements included a re-mixing of the city's diverse populations and functions. Multiple ideas regarding reconstruction or conversion, infills or built additions appeared on the architectural agenda. The developments under the guiding principle of gentle urban renewal and critical reconstruction were exposed in many projects of the International Building Exhibition IBA (Alt and Neu) in Berlin, realized between 1977 and 1987.[11]

[11] Cf. Vol:II_2.3 Berlin Laboratory: Local Strategies of Experimenting with the Commons. This political and design position became visible Europe wide in the Charter of Leipzig, signed in 2007, and led to a further deepening of research areas on sustainable urban living typologies to the holistic neighborhood development; see IBA Hamburg between 2006-2013 with many pioneering ecological projects of urban transformation.

The replacement of the leading ideas of the Athens Charter had been enforced by the first oil crisis at the beginning of the 1970ies. Ongoing processes of urbanization and the increasingly criticized politics of growth gradually sensibilized larger parts of societies towards a general awareness of the finitude of resources which had to be confronted with sustainable architectural approaches. Moreover, de-industrialization throughout Europe since the 1970ies pushed architects and planners to critically rethink the position of cultural and industrial landscapes versus nature to innovatively reinterpret their mutual interrelation and co-existence.

The needed re-programming of formerly industrialized regions, but also the modernization of historic city centres led to the creation of new research areas and the transformation of planning paradigms. New design strategies included re-structuring, re-programming or re-building – to reduce or strip down, deconstruct or redesign destroyed and lost industrial landscapes including large housing estates and abandoned settlements. Exemplary planning tools comprised the maintenance and transformation of existing, complex built heritage and the realization of pioneer projects, again visible in the experimental International Building Exhibitions in East and West Germany between 1970ies and 2010.[12]

[12] See the IBA Emscher Park (1989-1999), the IBA Fürst Pückler Land (2000-2010) and the IBA Stadtumbau Sachsen Anhalt (2003-2010) which served to develop transformation concepts for the regions of de-industrialization and decrease of inhabitants in Ruhrgebiet and former East Germany, Brandenburg, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt.

Gentle Renewal and Urban Transformation Instead of Demolition

The economic and political collapse of the Eastern Bloc at the end of the 1980ies strengthened these emerging strategies of critical engagement with the existing built fabric in Europe, which was accompanied by ecological demands, sustainable building approaches, integrative urban planning and alternative forms of living, in continuation of the European life-reform movements.[13] Ongoing globalization during the 1990ies constantly evoked new economic and social crises whom pioneering architects succeeded to respond to with exciting transformation concepts, culminating in the renunciation of great ideologies, dogmas and styles. The rising waste of resources was encountered by an architect-led movement in Central Europe that imagined living concepts in ecological, locally specific and self-determined ways. Micro-scale projects of designing and maintaining, minimal interventions of 'spatial acupuncture', re- or up-cycling and temporary use emerged as important features of architectural research by design.

[13] Cf. Vol:II_2.1 Utopias for Communal Spaces: Experimental Strategies in the Arts.

Until today, the transformation of existing built substance has not only led to creative approaches to limited resources and the open discussion and development of future scenarios. Architects' attention increasingly shifts to opportunities leveraged by cooperative design strategies, collaborative processes and procedures of creative analysis, alternative appropriations of space, interpretation and transformation as central fields of architectural exploration (see Vol:II_3 Hermeneutic Strategies of Design Research – Critical Inquiry, Visualization and Reflection). In groups or networks, which are often organized by flat hierarchies, on-site experiments in architecture have been realized.

[Fig. 08] Conversion of a Coal Mining Bridge F60, with Students, D. Jäger
[Fig. 08] Conversion of a Coal Mining Bridge F60, with Students, D. Jäger

Pioneering projects unpack new insights and socially responsible ways of creation. These architectural innovations oppose the economistic wave of international, representative architectural production. The search for new approaches to find unknown paths and to realize contemporary holistic life models as sustainable 'life spaces' constitutes the self-imposed task that architects have been engaging with, critically commenting on ideological constructs through manifestos, open discourse and utopias. These discursive reflections often preceded the realization of model projects, which were later translated into paradigms, laws or norms, hence contributing to the identification of new topics and areas for design research in architecture, civil engineering and urban planning.

The next chapter introduces an additional perspective on the tradition of architectural research – leading from the focus on exemplary realized or imagined projects and their creators or movements, which have contributed to experimental real laboratories and architectural design knowledge – to the framing contexts as precondition of this very architectural practice: The impact of stimulating environments which support knowledge production and learning processes, architectural research and the taking shape of real laboratory projects.

 

Contemporary architectural cultures of knowledge have been historically influenced by the experience-based learning concept of Bauhütte (Builder's Hut or lodge). The reference to this specific traditional learning context of the late Middle Ages draws attention to the attractivity of this model and its correlation to contemporary architecture, while also outlining the discipline's ongoing development. Project-oriented university curricula or private studio activities, including research labs or on-site design or construction processes, are constantly developed, actualizing the Builder's Hut's concept as an integrative learning-research environment.

The historical excursus in this chapter serves to reflect on particular environments of the 20th century, which have successfully interconnected processes of learning, teaching, research and building practice.[14] This development becomes visible in the workshop tradition of Bauhaus to Bauhäusle to many contemporary studio laboratory environments.

[14] Cf. exemplary insights into goals of today's research by design approaches or the design build movement at universities will be focused in the last subchapter (V:II_1.3. Cross-disciplinary Academic Research-labs).

Three Cornerstones of Traditional Knowledge Production

This above introductory perspective allows for the hypothesis that cross-disciplinary and integrative architecture laboratories are a most important germ cell of knowledge production in history until today. For centuries, three cornerstones have characterized fruitful architectural knowledge environments: First, the intertwining of practice and teaching, interrelating pioneering projects by design with the realization, integration and teaching of the next generation on-site and within shared, local contexts of studios, building sites or workshops and laboratories. Second, the mobility of masters and journeymen (and today also -women), students or architects to learn from multiple cultural contexts, serving as a motor and catalyst of knowledge transfer. Third, the resulting productive competition between local experts and working migrants, newcomers or temporary colleagues, leading not only to a permanent reflection of traditional routines, but also to the creation of professional relations and international networks. In short, "throughout the centuries, European architecture has been moulded by migrants."[15] The lodges were based on fraternities, replacing medieval guilds, and 'master' builder dynasties, acting throughout European countries since the 14th century. Today, international architectural networks, studios and programmes serve to teach, perform and disperse architectural knowledge for students via studies abroad, work stays, global project realizations or educational journeys.

[15] Schock-Werner: Travelling Master Builders, p. 82.

These traditional cornerstones of architectural knowledge environments are related to influential circumstances which caused work-related migration and flows of knowledge. In the late 13th century, the working conditions of historic, non-academic 'interdisciplinary architecture schools' for sacral building processes productively developed into independent, experimental workshops and knowledge archives. Due to fundamental changes in social and economic working conditions, "sites which were only worked on in the summer and attended by changing groups of stonemasons gave way to a building industry with fixed organizational structures, … provide him (the stonemason) with work during the winter months and make possible a more rational and economical building process. … From this time on, the wandering stonemason was no longer tied down to one group but could move freely and independently from lodge to lodge."[16]

[16] Ibid.: p. 76. See also the article of S. Amt: Von Vitruv bis zur Moderne. Amt explains the development of the architect's profession from the lodge master to the architect (pp. 15-20) in comparison to the last decades of the 20th century. Due to various circumstances, opportunities at mobility have been exponentially increasing. For example, European mobility programmes of universities like Erasmus were opened for students, professors, staff, increasing since the 1970ies through the Interrail programme and after 2000, due to cheap airlines. The change from the 'analogue' to the digital era revolutionized international communication and work flows; international studios and the culture of architectural competition entered a new age. See more: >>>Vol:I_2.2.5 From the tradition of "Grand Tour" to a "Voyage" Master's Degree.

The masters and journeymen of this time started to self-organize in supra-regional fraternities (no longer dependent on specific local contexts like former guilds), including a treasury into which masters and journeymen had to pay with the goal of being part of the social security structure like today's social or health insurance funds for formal members of professional associations. Consequently, the journeymen were able to move freely between different lodges and started to contribute to knowledge transfer flows between regions and building sites throughout Europe. The involved master and craft guilds worked together in teams, in direct, project-related contexts, actively and creatively partaking in research and learning during the design process. The master builders and journeymen worked in close exchange with the main developers – the responsible members of the clergy – to create and renew knowledge and designs on-site.

Two Exemplary Master Builders of the 20th Century

To introduce one such research context of the early 20th century within the knowledge-intense framework of the Builder's Hut, the workshop concept by Antoni Gaudí[17] can be understood as an experience-based contemporary 'design building lodge'. Simultaneously, Gaudí's work represents an anticipation of today's laboratory-like culture of private research studios. As pioneering engineer-architect at the beginning of the 20th century, specialized as one of the first in bionic research by design, Gaudì carefully studied natural structures like trees, caves or bones. His main design research tool was the three-dimensional scale model to investigate the shape and energetic flow of paraboloids, hyperboloids and helicoids. The transformation of the organic into built stony structures, shapes and surfaces (through the re-use of waste ceramics, trencadis, for metaphor-laden forms), he developed and designed built landscapes in sitú in the context of religious or housing spaces.

[17] Spanish architect (1852-1926). In 1992, I studied his research strategies in the context of my diploma thesis – a conceptual research by design work, in which I developed three variations of completion as different 'design positions' for the uncompleted Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

[Fig.09] Sagrada Familia, Antoní Gaudí, Barcelona
[Fig.09] Sagrada Familia, Antoní Gaudí, Barcelona

For engaging with his design in spatial contexts, he created a two-fold working environment: one was located on-site of his long-term projects while integrating an interdisciplinary team of specialists (mostly craftsmen). The other was an individual archive, reflection and study place which he was running until his death in Barcelona in 1926. In the tradition of the lodges, he ran his model workshop to develop designs directly on the construction site in close exchange with local guilds and amidst the spatial conditions of the design context. Gaudí developed his spatial-constructive principle of the hyperboloid vaults with the hanging construction on-site through an upside-down force model in a large-scale model to calculate the structure (e.g., for the church of Colonia Güell, 1898-1914, 1:10). Based upon these results, he proceeded step-by-step through transfer towards the actual construction. This interdisciplinary laboratory practice had been developed in design contexts over decades and was materialized in buildings such as the Sagrada Familia, which was gradually produced in true scale from multiple former miniature models.

To sketch out another influential framework of experimental working environments of the first half of the 20th century, I want to introduce the integrated model for architectural research, co-living and self-help, the Taliesin studio estates in Wisconsin and Arizona.[18] Since 1911, the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright[19] founded and designed this milestone of a contemporary Builder's Hut as architectural, research and educational laboratory in the USA. In the framework of an environmentally sustainable, organic life reform concept, Wright, together with architecture companions and his wives, established his cooperative studio for experimenting, designing and teaching architecture in the mindset of organic philosophy and reform living. Important projects like the concept of Broadacre City, the office building Johnson Wax Headquarters or the cornerstone Falling Water were created in this period, striking internationally debated models of future architectural and urban design.

[18] In 1911, 1925 and 1937, Wright designed and developed the Taliesin studios further, including housing, studio work spaces and agricultural infrastructures in collaboration with companions and his wives, first in Wisconsin (since 1932), later as winter home in Arizona. Taliesin West in Arizona (since 1937, today Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation) has been equipped with a drawing room, a workshop studio, sleeping areas, a lecture hall, common and communicative areas as well as spaces for self-sustenance to explore and develop future building, living and spatial concepts and pioneering constructions, furniture and objects until 1959. Cf. Wikipedia Frank Lloyd Wright or Taliesin (studio), especially the comprehensive list of literature.

[19] American architect, author and teacher (1867-1959), one of the pioneer designers of 20th century, anticipating concepts for types of buildings like offices, hotels and museums through a radically open, context-sensitive and functional floor plan logic.

Besides design work and studies of nature, the practice of music, art, cooking, gardening and farming were encouraged at Wright's architectural school to let individuals flourish within the community and to develop pioneering projects for different estates, while living and working together in a community with family, staff and invited architecture students. As practiced by the masters and journeymen of the lodges, the on-site work in Taliesin took place in creative teamwork led by the master with his associated fellows and young student apprentices, following clear rules and hierarchies. Wright was the leading mentor and director, working, lecturing and teaching in local contexts of building sites and through cooperative design practice. From the beginning, Wright understood his endeavour as a holistic, benevolent research and education studio and a platform to unfold and also to disseminate his idea of an organic, context-sensitive American school for architecture design embedded into extensive living spaces. Wright's convictions have globally spread into aesthetic and practice and influenced styles and attitudes which were first tested out in his design community.[20]

[20] Since 1997, the Site expérimental d' Architecture in Cantercel, France, is led in the spirit of Taliesin by an architecture group around the founder Jean Pierre Campredon. The studio and living areas are conceptualized as organic constructions and have been designed and realized together with architects like Maria Schneider or Michael Flach from the University of Innsbruck and students from all over Europe.

The following excursus on Bauhaus educational ideas reflects on the four principles for architectural knowledge production since the Builder's Hut. These guiding traditions are actualized with respect to the conditions of industrialized societies: First, the intertwining of research, design experience and practice; second, the traveling and migration of professionals; third, the cultural transfer of pioneering ideas; and fourth and last, the network-like expansion and competition of international teams of architecture teachers and students. The closer look at the Bauhaus Dessau period during the 1920ies serves as an exemplary historical thread to outline the transformational quality of experimental real laboratories as relevant models of integrative education and research approaches of the 20th century in continuation of the educational working journey of the builder's hut community.

Excursus Bauhaus: Interdisciplinary, Social and Educational Model

Under the leadership of Walter Gropius, in 1919, the workshop idea was inscribed into the founding manifesto of the state-run institution Bauhaus Weimar. It was meant to open an interdisciplinary laboratory of modern architecture as an "art of building… contingent upon the co-ordinated teamwork of a band of active collaborators whose co-operation symbolizes the co-operative organism of what we call society."[21] Gropius' didactic concept had been anchored in the idea of learning processes as situated in the two-fold experiences of aesthetic, formal education and design practice in industrial arts. Through teamwork settings, architecture was to overcome the isolation induced by theoretical education, and consequently be more strongly geared toward practical projects as part of academic life and research practice.

[21] Gropius: Scope of Architecture, p. 19.

[Fig.10] Creation of Community: Prellerhaus, Walter Gropius, Dessau
[Fig.10] Creation of Community: Prellerhaus, Walter Gropius, Dessau

Together with other leading members of the Bauhaus group, Gropius formulated three areas of research by design in their life-reforming concept for a new school of architecture and urbanism:

First, the integration of education into socio-cultural life should create a life-learning environment for a creative and small germ cell – a collective of students and masters who engage in challenges of society in the midst of paradigmatic shifts from craftsmanship to industrialization. Second, and more influential until this day, the interdisciplinary Bauhaus education was grouped around workshops led by the masters to foster aesthetic education and learning processes on craftwork, along with research-related activities, experimental artistic work and pioneer design projects. Third, the interconnection of all fields of activities and products experienced in the different workshops should culminate in the real laboratory project, an architectural, experimental task or experimental site.[22]

[22] Cf. Wick: Bauhaus Pädagogik, pp. 67-69, showing the diagram of 1923 with the didactic cornerstones and further discussing the shift of paradigm in teaching from the Weimar to the Dessau period.

Epistemological Search For Individual Appropriation of Knowledge

Especially during the Dessau period since 1925, the cooperation of the Bauhaus masters and students with ground-breaking industries like Junkers Flugzeugwerk AG (production of modern airplanes) as well as with private and public contractors of the city and region was considered as a crucial feature of the Bauhaus procedure. "The book and the drafting board cannot give that invaluable experience gained by trial and error in the workshop and on the building site. Such experience should therefore be interwoven into the training."[23] This primacy has been elaborated in the Bauhauslehre, Bauhaus-style education, circumscribing the teaching philosophy, which has been structured into three phases. First, the interdisciplinary Propaedeutikum Vorlehre (later Grundlehre), the differentiated workshops in the Werklehre (later Hauptlehre) and the building practice in the Baulehre. Beyond the curriculum and concerning the general learning phases, the school's concept was formulated for each student to learn a trade. The first part of the studies was for apprentices, the second for journeymen and -women, and third for young masters, whose training was accompanied by experiencing choreographies and performances on the Bauhaus stage.[24] This conceptual framework can be understood in direct relation to the learning culture of the medieval lodges, emphasizing the experience of design problems, team spirit and skills as key catalysts for research by design activities, culminating in built results and designs of objects or textile art in the Bauhaus era.

[23] Gropius: Scope of Architecture, p. 50. The publication unites the manuscripts of Gropius on teaching and architecture since 1937.

[24] Cf. Wick: Bauhaus Pädagogik, pp. 63-72. See also: Gropius: Scope of Total Architecture, pp. 21, 23, 77-82 – Gropius' excursus about his understanding of teamwork, including a reference to the traditional Builder's Hut, "working teams of the great cathedral builders, … (who) by working in close collaboration with others toward a common aim, … will attain greater heights of achievement through the stimulation and challenging critique of (their) teammates", p. 78.

Gropius' objective, geared toward the synthesis of the architectural practice project and interdisciplinary teaching experience, stood in the young tradition of anti-academic discourse of the Reform Movement in Europe. Earlier discussed in Germany at the first Werkbundkongress (German Association of Craftsmen) in 1908, the paradigms of Bildung statt Ausbildung (Education instead of Qualification) sought to promote the unity of integrated research and teaching or social learning, as it was later referred to in learning psychology.[25] Gropius states that a holistic engagement with problems and questions, anchored in individual experience, are to be integrated in teamwork and embedded in a rich pool of knowledge to evoke the latter's epistemological advancement. Furthermore, the individual appropriation of variegated fields of knowledge should be tied into immediate experience taking place in processes of experimental realization and reflection.[26]

[25] See for the theory of intellectual development through transformation and step-by-step adaption by Jean Piaget (Swiss psychologist, 1896-1980), and the theory of social learning of Albert Bandura (Canadian-American psychologist, *1925).>

[26] Wick: Bauhaus Pädagogik, p. 74. Long before the conception of the Bauhaus didactic, the research and educational discourse of the Enlightenment, led by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Wilhelm von Humboldt until the early 19th century, was controversially discussed by the German Association of Craftsmen. Themes such as mutual learning through open dialogues and new experiences, or the connection of crafts-related experience with knowledge transmission, cf. Josef Albers' Probieren geht vor Studieren ('Suck it and see' or 'Learning by doing'; Albers, pp. 174 ff.). The general idea of holistic understanding as a goal of learning goes in line with the contemporary request for a design curriculum interconnecting experience of craftsmanship with research by design as opposed to separating architecture theory and practice.

Interrelation of Workshops, Building Sites and Architecture Studios

In 1924, Marcel Breuer and colleagues formulated the suggestion to found the Architektur-Abteilung ('A.A.'; Department for Architecture) at Bauhaus in a memorandum. This department was thought to institutionalize the interrelation of educational workshops with the experimental building on-site and the associated architecture studio of Gropius to learn and investigate during design processes while also realizing pioneer work with regards to construction.[27] In the preliminary frame of action, which was to be installed in a provisional fashion during the first Dessau years from 1925 to 1926, and before the opening of the Department for Architecture under the leadership of Hannes Meyer in 1927, the Bauhaus team succeeded in producing diverse prototypes in cooperation with workshops, local industries and private actors, connecting architects' social responsibility with artistic and spatial innovation.

[27] Christian Wolsdorff: Die Architektur am Bauhaus, pp. 310-311; in: Experiment Bauhaus. Bauhaus-Archiv (Ed.), Dessau 1988. After emigration, Gropius founded the architectural team of TAC in 1946, continuously developing his ideas of team- and research-oriented architecture practice in the USA.

New leeway was created via cooperations with Dessau-based industrial companies processing steel and glass, which first became manifest in the building ensembles of Bauhaus Dessau (1925-26, Gropius). The design and realization of this new educational building type remains one of the beacon projects of the Dessau period where Gropius could display the utopian vision of an interdisciplinary design laboratory and co-living of students, young masters as well as artist and architect colleagues to experiment with new materials, steel-glass constructions (e.g., the Curtain Wall), design living objects (i.e., furniture, surfaces, lightening) within an integrative educational curriculum. The combination of workshops, exhibition spaces and experimental stages, which were open to the audience from both sides of the stage (i.e., from the canteen and the auditorium), was combined with the design for student studio dormitories which were directly connected to the educational spaces (Prellerhaus).[28]

[28] Isaacs: Walter Gropius, pp. 358-362.

[Fig. 11] Prototypical Education-Living Ensemble, Bauhaus Dessau, Walter Gropius
[Fig. 11] Prototypical Education-Living Ensemble, Bauhaus Dessau, Walter Gropius

In the master houses in Dessau and the settlement Dessau-Törten, an interdisciplinary space of Bauhaus workshops was created to experiment with different life-work-concepts. It enabled, but also produced pre-fabrications on-site. Roughly 200 buildings, designs of interior spaces and stage design as well as installations have been drafted and realized in the short period of the Dessau Bauhaus within interdisciplinary work constellations, bringing about innovative building types, construction methods, materials and novel teaching contexts.[29]

[29] Cf. Andreas Butter: Die unsichtbare Bauhausstadt – eine Spurensuche in Dessau. Bauhaus Taschenbuch 9, Dessau 2013.

Prelude to Systematic Planning Strategies

In the late phase of the Bauhaus Dessau era after 1928, with Hannes Meyer (1889-1954) as first Director of the Department for Architecture,[30] the collectivization of design processes was developed towards a systematic design methodology taking into consideration especially scientific and interdisciplinary, team-oriented approaches and strategies.

[30] Cf. Wolsdorff: "Die Architektur am Bauhaus", in: Experiment Bauhaus, pp. 310-313; Wick: Bauhaus Pädagogik, pp. 72ff.

In The Turning Point of Building,[31] Konrad Wachsmann, a fellow of Gropius and developer of pre-fabricated wooden homes since 1926 (Christoph & Unmack, Niesky), reflects his experiences about team-oriented design arrangements as a precondition for addressing planning processes in a systematic manner. Since the 1950ies, Wachsmann had explored interdisciplinary design methods along the lines of qualitative research in summer workshops: By drafting a pre-planned steering of the process, he encountered the complexity of heterogeneous issues (included not only the detailing of the project and its construction, but also the spatially and temporally precise coordination and organization of planning) and outlined the specific composition of the team members. This careful reflection sought to optimally foster a fruitful exchange between group participants, their diverse capabilities and professional backgrounds at the different stages of work.

[31] K. Wachsmann: Wendepunkt im Bauen (1959). Translated into English by Thomas E. Burton, 1961: The Turning Point of Building – Structure and Design. Wachsmann emigrated to the USA in 1941, worked, amongst others, with Walter Gropius (who was teaching at Harvard) and stays in intense contact with the European architectural avant-garde after World War 2, for example as member of CIAM and ASPA.

Numerous Bauhaus instructors who were forced to go into exile during the time of National Socialism continued to develop their reform-pedagogical ideas and experiences, gathered at the beginning of the 20th century, at a next level of radical laboratories for learning and teaching environments after 1945. Important teachers besides Walter Gropius were Anni and Joseph Albers or László Moholy-Nagy, who introduced and transferred their experiences from the Bauhaus era into headstrong research and teaching projects and curricula,  establishing pioneering educational environments like the Harvard Graduate School of Design(Cambridge, Massachusetts), the Black Mountain College (North Carolina) or the New Bauhaus (later School of Design, Chicago).[32] The collective mindset and process-oriented design thinking for a new, socially responsible society was positioned as methodology to engage with the concept of the generalist architect or designer as thinker of correlations of life, design and community. In diverse initiatives, the integration of working, living and engaging for the society was expressed in cross-disciplinary pilot projects. In sum, the progressive teaching philosophy of Bauhaus followed the principles of reform pedagogy and prioritized the lived learning experience over a hierarchical transmission of knowledge.

[32] See: The Art Academy Black Mountain. An interdisciplinary Experiment, 1933-1957 [http://black-mountain-research.com/exhibition/ 2015-06-22].

Integrative Concepts of Multi-disciplinary Laboratory Environments

The potential of the Builder's Hut's tradition as an integrative role model for cooperative learning and living to support the growth of architectural knowledge was fundamentally refreshed through the educational, team-based models of the first half of the 20th century. The interdisciplinary interweaving of communication, design strategies and teamwork sketched out by Gropius presented itself as a key challenge of modern design research while respecting the balance between artistic determination and social responsibility: "As democracy obviously hinges on our ability to co-operate, I want the architect, as a coordinator by vocation, to lead the way towards developing the new techniques of collaboration in teams. The essence of such technique should be to emphasize individual freedom of initiative, instead of authoritative direction."[33]

[33] Gropius: Scope of Total Architecture, p. 80.

At Bauhaus, the socially responsible design for an industrialized society had been realized by a team of different masters of art, architecture and craftwork together with young people within a spatial framework relating living environments, teaching, studio and building spaces. The fruitful context of working on 'real' architectural problems via the incorporation of theory, design, applied arts, building practice and reflection, mixing diverse creative approaches, encouraged the exchange of intellectual, technical and cultural novelties while also supporting individual development.

The concept of multi-disciplinary real laboratory environments from the Builder's Hut to Bauhaus as catalysts of architectural education, knowledge production and transfer have remained relevant throughout the second half of the 20th century until today. The productive spillover of laboratories' exemplary character into contemporary studio and research by design practice will be outlined in the following chapter to reflect differing concepts of inter- and transdisciplinarity. The focus lies on the exposition of heterogeneous research by design environments, introducing selected architectural design think tanks.

 

During the second half of the 20th century, the nexus between multiple artistic, architectural and design strategies that the Bauhaus pioneers were engaging with during the first decades of the 20th century were critically adapted, transformed and implemented by the following generation into a more and more specialized landscape of building cultures and technologies. This has become manifest, for example, in the differentiation of architecture departments incorporating humanities, arts and technologies or interdisciplinary private studios with adjunct specialized research laboratories or workshops, illustrative of the multi-faceted landscape of architectural design knowledge.

[Fig. 12] Socio-Diagrams transformed in Stone: Dune Church, Langeoog, Lucy Hillebrand
[Fig. 12] Socio-Diagrams transformed in Stone: Dune Church, Langeoog, Lucy Hillebrand

The selected design positions to be sketched in the following chapter are distinguished along three different lines of experimental learning within architectural real laboratories: First, three individual concepts and personalities are introduced which understand design research as complex process based on systemic inter- or transdisciplinary practice. Second, with regards to the finitude of resources, the distinction between green high-tech design research versus sustainable low-tech self-construction (do-it-yourself or 'design-build-movement') relates significant, but not necessarily opposed design positions to demonstrate main fields of architectural research by design of the late 20th century. Third, to connect the architectural research tradition with contemporary real laboratories for cities, people, technologies and disciplines today, representative laboratories at the beginning of the 21st century will be portrayed to reflect different positions that deal with global and local problems – from metropolitan or 'glocal' problems to form-centred research by design or digital heuristics.

Interdisciplinary Research on Spatial Complexity: Exploration of Syntheses

Since the early beginning of her practice in 1928, for the architect Lucy Hillebrand,[34] the exemplary cooperation in the Bauhaus fashion meant to initiate interdisciplinary dialogues about the development of socially-oriented design tasks like housing or educational buildings – to create 'socio-diagrams' which were 'transformed in stone' (Steingewordene Soziogramme).[35] As one of the first independent female and pioneering architects with research-based studios in Germany for over sixty years, she developed a specific methodology of cooperative design practice. She considered the 'genius loci' and the social context of a task as a complex 'place to learn', leading to a systematic synthesis of spaces rooted in history, human perception and memory. With her understanding of space as most important source of psycho-social interaction, since the early analysis of a design problem, Hillebrand aimed to connect the disciplines of choreography, sociology, psychology and pedagogy with architecture-related professions like engineering or art within solution-finding processes.

[34] Lucy Hillebrand (1906-1997), German architect, one of the first leading female architects with a portfolio of public works like schools, children houses, religious and residential buildings, like the Albert-Schweitzer-Kinderdorf, organized as series of octagons with a central common space, arising from an arrangement of individual rooms (Uslar, Germany 1961).

[35] Grohn: Lucy Hillebrand – Bauen als Impuls und Dialog, p. 11.

Learning by Exploring Multiperspectivity

Hillebrand questioned the professional expertise of the humanities in architectural design. To transfer and integrate the specialized know-how into spatial investigations, she focused on three important topics, which, according to her, precondition a functional, constructive and formal design analysis: Human perception, intuitive orientation in space and movement of people. In her terminology, these layers of analysis create the starting point of a spatial script (Raum-Schrift), which she developed as an investigative diagrammatic tool of research by design.[36]

[36] Ibid, pp. 42-43. Cf.: Klaus Hoffmann: Lucy Hillebrand – Wege zum Raum. Göttingen 1985, pp. 3-21.

Her conviction was that architects should serve as a 'distribution substation' (Transformatorenstation), summarized in Hillebrand's credo: "Cooperation in the creative design process explodes existing orders and replaces them by new orders emerging from the multiple perspectives of the task."[37] Formulating a task based on dialogue, she was prioritizing not only the collection of the most relevant knowledge for the sake of a socially responsible architecture, but also with the intention to listen to and involve multi-disciplinary experts and non-professionals with their ideas about the quality of spaces and open processes of design. The goal of her design thinking was "learning by asking the task in all its dimensions".[38] She transferred this concept of the 'spatial script' from building tasks to exhibition contexts and films, publications and as a teacher until the 1990ies.

[37] Quoted from: Hoffmann: Lucy Hillebrand, p. 49: "Kooperation im schöpferischen Entwurfsprozeß sprengt bestehende Ordnungen durch neue Ordnungen aus den verschiedenen Dimensionen des Aufgabenbereiches."

[38] Quoted from ibid, p. 158: "Lernen durch Befragen der Aufgabe in all ihren Dimensionen."

After 2000, the development of adequate visual and spatial tools of documentation, communication and reflection were established as interdisciplinary fields of design research linked to psychology and sociology. This has been further elaborated through influential research labs like AMO or The Why Factory (cf. last chapter), and today represents fields of specialization in graduate study programmes on exhibition design, spatial design or scenography as comparatively young academic disciplines.[39]

[39] In 1991, I got to know Hillebrand at age of 85, when she was invited to our self-organized public lecture series Bauwelten (Bauschule Holzminden). Being an architecture student at the time, I perceived her as an open-minded personality, whose thinking, perception and political positions were strongly committed to a socially motivated architecture.

Laboratory of Design Correlation

In the late 1940ies, Friedrich J. Kiesler published his model of transdisciplinary design research in his Manifesto on Correalism, considering relational design contexts as complex preconditions of form-finding processes.[40] Similar to Hillebrand, but with a deeper interest in artistic research and new insights about recognition and perception, which was a relevant discourse at the time, Kiesler coined the term of correalism as a critical, systemic approach to research by design, addressing spatial problems by focusing on the interplay of potential influences instead of isolating single problems into functional micro-solutions. Dissecting and yet interrelating influential layers of perception, organisms, living environments, spaces and intuitions, correalism stands out as an innovative understanding of architecture as discipline of complexity.[41]

[40] Bogner: Friedrich Kiesler, pp. 92 ff. Reprint of the Manifeste du Corréalisme, published 1949. Cf. Phénoménologie de la perception, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, discussed since 1945 in Paris. F. Kiesler (1890-1965) was an Austrian-American architect, theoretician, theater designer, artist and sculptor, known for his concept of the "endless house". Note the recent interest in his work in the context of a solo exhibition in Berlin (catalogue: G. Zillner, P. Bogner, D. Bogner (Ed.): Friedrich Kiesler. Architekt. Künstler. Visionär. Berlin 2017).

[41] Later, the concept of 'complexity' has been discussed throughout the 20th century, for example by Robert Venturi (1966, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture). Differently to Kiesler, this publication reveals the frictions of programme, material, semantic and construction.

Especially concerned with addressing people's needs related to the spatial design of objects, exhibitions, stages or architectural typologies, Kiesler distinguished between physical efforts and energies in design and psychological stimulants to develop design frameworks. In his early manifesto, he stated the requirement to develop "une science des relations réciproques", a science of reciprocal relations, anticipating the spatial turn emerging in cultural and social sciences in the late 1980ies, which introduced an understanding of space as a result of socio-economic production. Between 1937 and 1941, Kiesler elaborated on alternative concepts to scientific principles of specialization via transdisciplinary research in his Laboratory of Design Correlation at Columbia University. By applying and combining functional analyses, artistic strategies and insights from the psychology of perception, Kiesler experimented with methods of industrial production (cf. his mobile home library) and the impacts generated by spatial self-experiments through large three-dimensional mock-ups, approaching results of the design process of correalism.

[Fig. 13] Endless House as Exemplary Space of Correalism, Friedrich Kiessler
[Fig. 13] Endless House as Exemplary Space of Correalism, Friedrich Kiessler

In the tradition of pioneers like Kiesler and Hillebrand, Günter Behnisch (1922-2010) was later engaged in the advancement of an interdisciplinary architecture research tradition since the 1950ies.[42] He established the concept of relational design as a systemic approach to reconcile the challenges of post-War architecture. In changing office partner constellations (Behnisch & Partners, since 1966), Behnisch elaborated on structures of experience-based and integrated, life-long learning design principles within interdisciplinary teams and open studio environments. "We have experienced (...) that architecture becomes multi-faceted when it is considered and approached from diverse angles and when many influences can be considered."[43] After decades of fascism throughout Europe, the specific qualities of the studio's attitude as open architecture encouraged experimental design work on alternative solutions and controversial discursive exchange amongst colleagues.

[42] The German architect Günter Behnisch was internationally renowned for his Olympiapark project, a large built landscape in Munich (1967-1972).

[43] "Wir haben erfahren (…), dass Architektur vielfältig wird, wenn sie von vielen Seiten her bedacht und bearbeitet wird und wenn viele Kräfte mitwirken können." Gauzin-Müller: Behnisch & Partner: p. 18.

Three Principles of a Research-Based Studio Culture

As one of the first architecture studios after World War II, Behnisch developed a practice of interdisciplinary cooperation with a mix of experienced partners and a dynamic, young staff. The teamwork took place within flat hierarchies as a kind of self-responsible 'office within the office', which was described by Behnisch as a 'federal principle of studio organization' with the aim of reinforcing transparent and self-reflective design processes.[44] The learning principles were rooted in three qualities: First, the interdisciplinary and continuous and long-standing cooperation of a small group of long-term partners which facilitated the division of competencies and responsibilities between partners in different areas of project-work (i.e., design, construction, finances, colouring). Second, the participation in architecture competitions allowed young architecture graduates working in Behnisch's studio to experiment with their individual positions and approaches within the leading aesthetics and building experiences of the main office, but also in the wider range of building types including office buildings, schools, sport facilities and parliament buildings. In case of a competition success, which constituted the office's economic foundation for decades, unexperienced beginners had the chance to autonomously lead project-teams, set up specifically for these purposes, under the guidance of senior partners who expanded the didactic principle of 'master' leadership with mentoring and feedback loops.

[44] Ibid.: p. 17.

The engagement of young graduates in this sort of collaborative work permitted the office not only to establish studio-internal contests among design positions, but also challenged the more experienced personalities and made them part of a refreshing dialogue on relevant positions in contemporary architecture with their future generation. This inter-generational exchange also produced learning effects about new methodologies and technologies for all architects of the studio. At last, since the early conceptual stages of a project, design work took place in interdisciplinary cooperation with engineers and other specialists so that complex, yet substantiated architectural solutions could be developed. Behnisch's studio at the Technical University of Darmstadt and his private studios in Stuttgart cross-fertilized, establishing a spirit of team-thinking and interdisciplinary research in accordance with the transforming methodological, aesthetic and technological possibilities of the time.[45]

[45] Over the course of two decades, Behnisch shaped the research-oriented design culture at TU Darmstadt as Professor (1967-87). In his Stuttgart-based offices, about three generations of young architects worked on their first projects right after graduation and later founded their own offices in the spirit of a team-oriented and open studio culture (e.g., Auer & Weber, Coop Himmelblau, Hammeskrause).

Today, these principles can be considered as prerequisites for a research-based work culture. Interdisciplinary constellations of small project-specific teams within the larger team whose members cooperate in flat hierarchies created shared responsibilities during the consecutive phases of a project. With this framework of studio organization, the transfer of experience and knowledge took place 'vertically' between the generations of architects, enhanced via the transmissibility of university and office staff, toward an open feedback culture and research on alternative solutions. This open infrastructure enabled knowledge growth for the whole team, providing key qualities of a research-based studio practice as real laboratory and solid knowledge generator for the discipline.

From Bauhaus to Bauhäusle: Sustainable (High-) Technology or Self-Construction

The period when interdisciplinary academic approaches to research by design began to spread started in the late 1930ies. Also the fields of architecture-related studies, implemented in newly established architecture departments and curricula, brought forth, and thus re-organized the heterogeneous landscape of private or public institutions towards multi-disciplinary architectural knowledge production which marks today's face of the discipline.

Specialization of Architecture Faculties towards Multi-disciplinary Fields of Study

The established Harvard Graduate School of Design hired Walter Gropius in 1937 as Chair of the Department of Architecture, the latter of which was in the process of re-structuring. Now uniting major design disciplines of architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture, the interdisciplinary curriculum was further diversified, offering individual study programmes and diverse architecture-related degree courses ranging from architecture, engineering to design studies, which is nowadays regarded as one potential combination within a multi-disciplinary architecture education. Together with Marcel Breuer, Gropius established a team-oriented and cross-disciplinary architecture education at Harvard until the 1950ies, which was spatially anchored in the grouped building complex for the Harvard Graduate Centre (be reminded of the 'socio-diagrams transformed in stone', as Lucy Hillebrand might have described the building structure).[46]

[46] Reflecting the Bauhaus and Harvard era, the manifesto Scope of Total Architecture, a collection of texts written by Gropius between 1937 and 1955, resumes his convictions about the discipline, education and the role of architects anchored in collaborative and interdisciplinary practice of team players. In 1946, Gropius had solidified these principles in the foundation of one of the early team-based offices of the 20th century: TAC, The Architects Collaborative Inc. Together with his colleague and fellow Konrad Wachsmann, Gropius advanced his interest in industrial pre-fabrication (see the serial designs since 1923 of the honey comb (Wabenbau), toolkit system (Baukastensystem) or the concept for the elementary buildings towards the Packed House System).

Besides Gropius and Breuer, other influential Bauhaus personalities had been forced to migrate from Germany around 1930. Nonetheless, they had the opportunity to further refine their previous experiences and pioneering concepts for education and research. Gropius' 'co-thinker' and Bauhaus colleague, László Moholy-Nagy, emigrated from Berlin to London in 1937, finally moving to the USA.[47] With the foundation of the New Bauhaus (later ID Institute of Design in Chicago), Moholy-Nagy acted as the first director of the institution. In this position, he could develop his concepts on artistic research within a systemic, experimental design approach. Previously, Moholy-Nagy had spread his ideas on aesthetics and the teaching of New Vision (Neues Sehen) – experimenting with four dimensions of space and light in time, including painting transparencies or painting with light, through the means of photography, film, sculpture or scenography, which he had formerly worked with in the 'community of workers' and the 'free collective body' of Bauhaus until 1928.[48]

[47] Cf. Regina Bittner: The Isokon Building in London as a Place of Transition for the Exiled Cultural Avant-Garde and Housing in the 'Age of the Suitcase'. In: The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation's magazine 2016, No. 8. Moving, pp. 130-135.

[48] Documented and reflected in his published manifesto: Moholy-Nagy, The new vision. New York 1928. pp. 19, 65.

In Germany, the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) in Ulm had been co-founded in 1953 by the Swiss architect-designer Max Bill,[49] a former student at Bauhaus Dessau from 1927 to 1929, who came back to Germany for this leadership position. The interdisciplinary academic staff intended to develop the HfG curriculum in the tradition of the two-dimensional artistically- and scientifically-oriented design research of Bauhaus with a cross-disciplinary propaedeutic year, but also including courses in design, communication and architecture. These pedagogical and real laboratory aspirations were launched with the goal of investigating relevant questions for post-War democratic societies which had earlier been developed in the Bauhaus departments. The innovative research areas and methods of visual communication, information technology, construction and film were influencing the future contours of the designer's profession, planning theory and practice at institutions that were founded in the following (e.g., University of Stuttgart or HfG Offenbach).

[49] M. Bill (1908-1994), together with Inge Aicher-Scholl (1917-1998) and the designer Otl Aicher (1922-1991).

European Research Environments of Lightweight Design

During the period of academic specialization after 1950, besides the scientific and multi-disciplinary diversification of architecture-related study programmes, Central European universities introduced innovative research fields such as ecological architectural sustainability and eco-friendly technological refinements (e.g., urban biospheres, environmental research or energy-saving building systems). Two research settings established in Germany and Italy were representative of the European architecture landscape during the following decades. Taking into account the paradigm shift from resource-intense, and in that sense wasteful societies of young European democracies towards an environmentally conscious building culture, the architect-engineers Frei Otto (Germany, 1925-2015) and Renzo Piano (Italy, *1937) both founded cross-disciplinary workshops. In the following, I will examine these inspiring workshop profiles in more detail.

In Berlin, the young post-War architect Frei Otto founded the first ground-breaking institute, the Entwicklungsstätte für den Leichtbau (Development Laboratory for Lightweight Design) in 1957 after completing a doctorate on the topic of tensioned constructions in 1953.[50] In this first laboratory, he started to experiment and developed his life-long focus on lightweight design. Otto tested diverse biomorphic shapes and details to create innovative structural systems and green urban living landscapes which might avoid a waste of resources according to his ethics of environmentally sensible shapes and lightness. He aimed to develop designs that consume as little mass, material and energy in architectural designs as possible. "It is possible and probable that of all the works, the advance of biology will be the only one that has a lasting effect. The buildings we made will fade away."[51]

[50] Wilhelm. Architekten heute: p. 10 (das hängende Dach).

[51] Frei Otto in: Wilhelm. Architekten heute, p. 154: "Es ist möglich und wahrscheinlich, dass von allen Arbeiten der Vorstoß in die Biologie der einzige ist, der bleibende Wirkung hat. Die Bauten, die wir machten, werden vergehen."

Since 1964 at Stuttgart's Technical University, Otto transformed his Berlin Laboratory into the Institut für Leichte Flächentragwerke (Institute for Lightweight Structures; IL), where he realized a multi-disciplinary and cooperative research by design practice until 1990 as a university professor with a larger team of scientists, graduates and students. Within the creative atmosphere, team constellations were adapted to cover all of the engaged disciplines within the institute's fields of specialization. Focusing on specific questions such as grid shells, built membranes, cable net structures or the experimentation with pneumatic construction, the selected fields of study were combined cross-disciplinarily with biological, medical, constructive or theoretical knowledge contexts. During these decades of innovation, a continuity of the institute's experimental design approach was the testing of three-dimensional modelling methods to design complex structures or phenomena, an architectural research by design tradition initially developed by Antoni Gaudí.

[Fig. 14] Frei Otto's Research Laboratory and Exemplary Case Study at University Stuttgart
[Fig. 14] Frei Otto's Research Laboratory and Exemplary Case Study at University Stuttgart

Prototypical Research Environments for Sustainable Architecture

The spatial environment of the IL in Stuttgart had been designed as architectural 'business card' in 1967. On a one-to-one true scale, the three-dimensional model of a built landscape revealed a tent construction and open studio space – an exemplary manifestation of Frei Otto's concept of filigree membrane structure, developed in cooperation with colleagues and experts for the German Pavilion on the EXPO 1967 in Montréal.[52] In that sense, the IL represents an ideal case study of a research laboratory which brought together engineers, architects, doctors and other experts, who collectively anticipated a vision of a team-based workshop environment which was embodied by Frei Otto's life-long passion. Beyond the boundaries of finding new solutions for bionic construction principles, the establishment of a communal engineering-architect work culture for the creation of biotopes fertilized the interdisciplinary learning environment as one of the pioneer 'green' research labs of the 20th century.

[52] The later and today more famous pilot project has been the built landscape, the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, designed from 1967 to 1972 together with Behnisch & Partner who won the architecture competition for the Olympic Park.

Similar to Frei Otto's passion about the research area of lightweight structures and shelters, the younger colleague and architect-engineer, Renzo Piano, established the Renzo Piano Building Workshops (RPBW) in Genoa and Paris in the 1970ies.[53] In collaboration with partners, he focused all his research activities on green technology and sustainable architecture within three main fields: Most importantly for the programmes were concepts of multi-faceted architectural landscapes allowing non-hierarchical communication. Prominently showcased in influential public buildings, the spatial sense of openness and public accessibility becomes manifest in pedestrian interconnectivity, visible in the early, 'speaking design' of the Centre Pompidou, accomplished in 1977. The research on new solutions for infrastructural details and energetic systems are developed at the immediate interplay between experimental 3D-modelling series and direct experimentation on-site – exemplarily achieved in the design process for realizing of the cultural centre in Noumea (New Caledonia, 1998).

[53] With their public square and the 'staged' construction including the external moving stairways of the Centre Pompidou in 1971, the partners Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers accomplish the radicalization of the modern concept, the floating space for democratic building typologies as container of knowledge but with an inviting public entrance square. Cf.: Ulrich Pfammatter: Die Erfindung des modernen Architekten und Ingenieurs _ Die École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris. In: Johannes: Entwerfen. pp. 434-449.

The prototypical studio environment in Genoa-Vesima had been realized as pioneering project of the UNESCO to investigate in true scale the functional interrelation of nature, wind and light while interweaving spaces and activities and testing innovative applications of natural materials. The communicative and ecologically responsible work-life-environment was situated in a hermitage over the sea, fostering synergies, ideas and imaginations of the team.[54]

[54] Cf. The issue Formfindungen. von biomorph bis technoform of the Architecture magazine Arch+ No. 159-60, Aachen 2002. As one of the founders of biomorphic design research, Piano (just like Frank O. Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, Ove Arup, Nox Architects, Osamu Ishiyama and many other successors) today stands in the tradition of the organic, structurally-infused design research of A. Gaudí, G.R. Le Ricolais, Buckminster Fuller and Frei Otto.

Both real laboratories in Italy and Germany have been influential for next generations in different respects: The concepts of public and green buildings have been shaping European building types ever since. Cross-disciplinary design methodologies of lightweight building technologies have advanced the transfer of design and research tools from different disciplines into architectural design methodologies, generating complex three-dimensional systems in the structural tradition of Antoni Gaudì, intensifying the features for an ecological or green architecture for the 21st century. Both individual and communal approaches to biomorphic, context-sensitive architectural languages shaped environment-friendly building cultures, serving as models for future-oriented research environments and learning cultures.[55]

[55] Since around 2000, international exhibitions demonstrate a growing interest in the experimental methodologies of process-oriented and model-based contemporary laboratories such as form-finding research processes of the studios of Renzo Piano or the radical diagrammatic, mock strategies of OMA (Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2000, 2004) or the organic-functionalist 3D-studies of Herzog & De Meuron (exhibited in NAI, Rotterdam, 2005). Besides technical innovations, the collections of materials, drafts, models, samples and libraries with documented observations or travel sketchbooks, created by the studios, constitute the central methodological components of an aesthetic toolkit based on research by design processes. These exhibitions emphasize the rising curiosity about research strategies and process-oriented results from practice which typically brings together the laboratory character with a specific and individually-shaped aesthetic and methodology.

Ecological Pioneers, Self-Built and Design-Build Initiatives in Architecture Education

In the ecology-aware atmosphere of the Federal Republic of Germany during the 1980ies, with the residential student settlement Bauhäusle (1980-1982, Stuttgart), architects and university professors Peter Sulzer and Peter Hübner created an experiential building site in the context of a university design workshop. With this student home, the architects developed a model for a contemporary teaching-as-learning-research culture, pushing the 'design-build movement' with low-tech and ecological constructions.

The site was meant to be set up as a small village by the principle of learning through self-construction (Lernen durch Selberbauen). This guiding framework was to make different generations of students (who can still reside in these homes today) aware of their design position for an environment-friendly architecture. Regenerative construction materials were experimented with, as well as strategies of re-cycling, timber construction for green roofs and cooperative self-built approaches to establish a primate of resource-saving ethics and collaboration as most relevant for a sustainable architectural design culture.

[Fig. 15] Case Study Self-Construction: Bauhäusle, Student Homes, University of Stuttgart
[Fig. 15] Case Study Self-Construction: Bauhäusle, Student Homes, University of Stuttgart

In the same period, the residential area documenta urbana was discussed as an influential European model of green architecture, realized in Kassel between 1977 and 1982. An international collective of nine invited architecture studios did not only showcase individual design positions on sustainable urban architecture, but also experimented with dialogical design tools during the process of realization, allowing for an exchange about cooperative planning tools and experience. The Berlin-based architecture couple Hinrich and Inken Baller coordinated the group with architects like Herman Hertzberger and Otto Steidle in the context of workshops, while also coordinating and designing a larger urban transformation in dialogue with inhabitants of Berlin Fraenkelufer (rehabilitation and infills of an inner-urban block with a courtyard design as biotope, 1979-1985).

The group of architects was able to demonstrate the new potentials of an ecological architecture by integrating urban features such as higher density while also creating a neighbourhood for a connected living community. Three- to four-story apartment building series (e.g., the 'living snake') and smaller row houses were connected to create public spaces for children, families and vegetation. The ecological, but at the same time low-cost ensemble was achieved by partial pre-fabrication. The integrative low-energy concepts included rainwater percolation, green facades and roofs to improve the micro-climate of the neighbourhood. Communicative in-between spaces with open staircases served as dialogical spaces. This experimental urban settlement set pioneering quality standards for ecological constructions and community-oriented planning cultures.

Updating Bauhaus Principles

As a result of the paradigm shift towards sustainability in architecture around the turn of the 20th century, more universities have been inspired by the design concepts of ecological, low-tech or re-cycling after the principle of self-construction.

Few pioneering institutions started to develop alternative, integrative educational projects, with respectively different research interests. The Technical University of Kaiserslautern demonstrates an energy-saving architecture experiment with the ESA-Student-Home (1981-1987), enabling cooperation of interdisciplinary teams of architects, engineers and environmental planners (Raum- und Umweltplanung). TU Darmstadt experiments with construction-related novelties in their Experimentierfeld since 1995 to expand the academic curriculum toward practical experiences via the creation of unconventional spaces. Gernot Minke tested the construction with clay and straw bales for a future of low-cost housing with his Forschungslabor für experimentelles Bauen at University of Kassel (Research Laboratory for Experimental Construction, FEB, 1983-2011). Since the 1990ies, the young German university landscape of former East Germany has been revived through professor-student-collaborations of design-build projects, having realized four steal-glass-facade studio complexes with about 750 student work places each in the context of the Architekturwerkstatt (Architecture Workshop) on the campus of the Technical University Cottbus in Brandenburg. The Baupiloten (Architecture Pilots) at the Technical University of Berlin, initiated in 2003 by Berlin-based architect Susanne Hofmann, focus on developing socially engaged self-help projects in open participatory planning processes with non-professionals, fostering dialogical design processes with children, students, teachers or residents to ameliorate interior landscapes of schools and kindergardens. Since 2002, the educational campus Hooke Park was transferred to the Architectural Association at the School of Architecture in London to foster experimental self-built programmes and construct new campus buildings with students, as earlier realized at Bauhäusle or BTU Cottbus, but with the more and more relevant timber construction. This period had been contributed to the establishment of numerous experimental real laboratory experiences within interdisciplinary cooperations.[56]

[56] Experimental projects in collaboration with local governors – courses of studies to experience all phases of a design building process.

High-standard universities, such as the Rice Building Workshop in Houston, the Urbanlab of the University of Innsbruck at Cantercel (on the Site Experimental d'Architecture, South of France) or the Design Build Studio at TU Wien create real-life and non-profit-oriented educational fields of experimentation for students to investigate future concerns of their discipline. These institutions generate environments to promote future developments. They design prototypes and spaces of opportunity to improve constructions, technologies or methodologies and disseminate newly acquired knowledge from these practical experiences. Historically push-started by the Bauhaus pioneers or the Black Mountain College in North Carolina which both were developed from individual initiatives, today's international design-build movement emphasizes the synthesis of the architect's role as socially responsible project developer, builder and designer of sustainable living environments.

For the academic context, this means that knowledge pioneers anchor their self-understanding in fields of experimentation via teaching and learning processes in design and building experiences which take place in dialogue with professionals and non-professionals. Relevant structural components of these activities are interdisciplinary workshops and team-teaching, newly-founded institutions or temporary project-related cooperations with external stakeholders to realize experimental buildings in the tradition of reform-oriented laboratories. These processes are kicked-off through unfamiliar design strategies and funding concepts, based on the exploration of new types of construction or space and a contemporary understanding of a cooperative research culture of 'team-generalists'.[57]

[57] Cf. Think Global, Build Social. The issue of the Arch+ No. 211-212 in 2013, see the article: Design-Build, pp. 152 ff. Also see >>>Reiseuni Report, Jäger: Vol:I­_1.3, Architect's Profession & Education ­– Six Points. Team-Generalist.

European Research Laboratories as Catalysts For Knowledge Production

Especially dynamized by the Bologna Process since 1999, the competition between European universities who offer architecture-related degrees has inspired the efforts of public, but also private universities to reform architectural concepts of the 20th century to adequately address contemporary challenges for architects of the decades to come. Architectural research laboratories and university institutes after 2000 have launched new programmes, or adapted and specialized post-graduate and PhD curricula to face the opportunity of transmissibility within architectural education throughout Europe after undergraduate studies.[58] Architecture faculties of Western Europe have complemented the allied academic disciplines of architecture, civil engineering, urban planning and landscape architecture by specialized profiles integrating environmental and sustainable design, built heritage sciences, design methodology, technology studies or mobility and infrastructure research. International cooperation platforms and joint degree programmes frame the accelerated international networking culture and new paths of knowledge transfer, to further develop experiences in cross-disciplinary, sustainable design understandings of the previous decades.

[58] Today, about 60 German universities teach architecture degree programmes. Within Europe, this is a pole position which expresses itself in a lively and demanding competition amongst the institutions for relevance, uniqueness and best-practice examples concerning teaching and research. Differently from the USA or France, the federal political system of Germany influences the university organization (i.e., self-administration and autonomy in research and teaching of universities), so that there is hardly any centralized landscape, but a multi-faceted one of competitive faculties and departments.

In this last chapter, three pioneering positions of contemporary experimental real laboratories shall be reflected upon to distinguish central but contrasting motivations of educational frameworks within academic or private institutions. With their shared motivation of bringing together an international staff of experts, promoting problem-oriented design teaching and international architectural knowledge transfer, these three exemplary environments can be distinguished in their different research goals and frameworks.

First, the international post-graduate, 16-months course of the Architectural Association Design Research Laboratory (AADRL) in London focuses on parametric design methodology. Second, the platform AEDES Metropolitan Laboratory (ANCB) in Berlin intends to face global challenges of urban environments with an international network of architects via individual workshops. Third, the international network of Reiseuni_lab cooperated within a nomadic, two-year master's course, producing the European Architecture Dialogue (EAD) in different cities with an emphasis on transforming existing built structures.

Fluid Tectonics as Design Focus: Parametric Design Research

In the research tradition of Antoni Gaudí's 3D-model based on form-finding processes or Frei Otto's spatial visions on biomorphic constructions, since 1996, Patrik Schumacher together with Brett Steele has further developed a specialized teaching and research culture with post-graduate students of all over the world at AADRL, which has become known under the heading of parametric design – a form-finding-centred research practice focused onmaterial behaviour within digitally-controlled design processes (cf. http://drl.aaschool.ac.uk/). The cornerstones of their studio and learning culture are self-organized teamworkon question-based research activities, the open source studio and the investigation of parametric heuristics. The computer-generated form production resonates with the passion for biomorphic systems, the distillation of mathematic rules out of functional and formal heuristics which result in a complex and half-automatic design language (programmed by rules) and projects on elementarism or behavioural machines.

Schumacher himself positions his research agenda close to the creation of knowledge via empirical processes of design research: "This is why genuine architectural research [cannot] be limited to the description and explanation of given phenomena only, but can ultimately only be pushed forward via design projects. Intake of empirical information and theoretical explanation of conditions for design distinguish design-related research from a merely intuitive design practice."[59]

[59] Quoted from: Patrik Schumacher; Brett Steele: "Daher kann genuin architektonische Forschung sich nicht auf die Beschreibung und Erklärung von vorgefundenen Phänomenen beschränken, sondern letztlich nur in Form von Entwurfsprojekten vorangetrieben werden. Empirische Informationsaufnahme und theoretische Erklärung der Entwurfsbedingungen unterscheidet die entwurfsbezogene Forschung von einer bloß intuitiven Entwurfspraxis." In: Arch+ 163, Aachen 2002, p. 44.

Main features of the architectural research tradition can be documented in the AADRL didactic concept: International student and professors working together in temporary project contexts, geared to learn from each other's educational and cultural backgrounds in inter-generational exchange while engaging with open questions and new technologies about spatial and constructive solutions. Research-oriented private studios such as Barkow Leibinger or HMGB (both in Berlin) or Certain Measures (Berlin-Boston) also work on the science of design at the intersection between technology and form creation. Their position stands in a contemporary discursive context of research which aims to develop custom-built software and spaces that translate individualized mass production into built structures and surfaces. Rule-generated and half-automatic form generation and programming of architecture evoke a greater variety of possible design solutions: "If the great driving force of minimalism was repetition, today, thanks to a scripting logic and mass customization, variation and repetition can be synthesized."[60] In sum, this digitalizing practice to imagine variation in form has critically pushed for integrating new technological tools and reflexive methodologies of research by design.

[60] Quoted from: Barkow, Leibinger: Architektur muss nicht brennen ... sie kann glühen. Ein methodologisches Manifest. In: Arch+ 189, 2008, p. 85.

European Laboratory of Architecture: Transformation of Existing Structures

Distinct from AADRL, the major focus of Reiseuni_lab (since 2008) has been to re-think neglected or not-yet-valued spaces in and of European cities, as well as the sustainable transformation of existing urban fabric by considering the finitude of resources.

In the tradition of the 'Bauhütte to Bauhaus to Bauhäusle' – previously sketched as crucial development for reform-oriented and integrated learning and living environments – the workshop curriculum of the post-graduate degree course on European Architecture allowed the students (from 2010 to 2017, in total four classes) to make the experience of a nomad-like studies over a period of two years within a permanent working-living community, creating a sequential learning environment at eight different cities and universities.[61] The cornerstones of the curriculum include on-going project studies in a sequence of eleven workshops (e.g., empirical design reflection, site-specific design practice, cumulative research practice and international knowledge transfer)in different design studios asspaces for intercultural teamwork and networking, but with a glocal mindset with professors of the respective participating universities collectively shaping the multi-faceted research agenda.

[61] Cf. more about didactic and research details about the degree programme and research network: >>> V:III_0.1 Multi Perspectival Architecture Think Tank – 12 Research Fields. Introduction; >>> V:I_2.1 Reiseuni_lab: 3 Columns of the Pilot Project and >>> V:I_2.2.3 Workshop Qualities and Elements.

[Fig. 16] Programme principles of Reiseuni_lab
[Fig. 16] Programme principles of Reiseuni_lab

In contrast to the design-build movement, who pursue construction-related goals, Reiseuni_lab rather comprehends itself as a real laboratory for future opportunities regarding spatial questions and experimental methodologies. The research agenda identifies problems and issues in dialogue with local stakeholders to involve them in future challenges in and for the urban fabric. Research fields like the re-activation of former industrial areas or heritage sites with a complex political history, the re-organization or repair of modular settlements, devastated landscapes, unused office buildings or defunct infrastructures have been in the focus of the international research group with members throughout all of Europe, as well as Israel.

Through the duality of permanent cooperation and reflection, the research dialogue EAD has enabled all members of the experiment – teachers, students and alumni – to exchange and debate critical positions on teaching strategies, research, work results and experiences. In the context of annual conferences and the like, all members of EAD learn from each other, vertically across generations, as well as between academic and non-academic stakeholders. In line with the concept of recognition, as postulated by philosopher Hans Georg Gadamer, it is not the new idea that is changing our mind, but the new aspects in something that we already have made acquaintance of, which will be able to make us move our mind towards new horizons of knowledge. Free spaces in the context of workshops for cross-cultural teams and forms of exchange, for autonomy and individuality in cooperative research, learning, and communicative settings created an inspiring and diverse environment.[62] Via EAD, architectural knowledge has been generated, mobilized and diversified across greater Europe for both young and established architectural thinkers and practitioners.[63]

[62] Cf. the article about the topic of creative and formal rules as important part of group processes: Jäger: Pocket Placement Line. Methodically Tightening the Rules in the Collective Process. (>>>Anstosslinie Tasche). See the design of the didactic concept, what had been drafted for the Bauhaus in 1923 (Wick: Bauhaus Pädagogik. p. 67).

[63] Cf. Jäger: Schnittmuster Strategie. pp. 21 ff. (Zum dialogischen im Entwurfsprozess).

Design-Think-Tanks For Global Spatial Challenges

To establish an international platform for architecture research and workshop activities in the centre of Berlin in 2009 and after about three decades of architectural debates and exhibitions, the Aedes Architecture Forum extended the discourse platform through the Metropolitan Laboratory ANCB.[64] Since then, a variety of research fields like Responsive City, Combining Local Knowledge with Digital Systems or Identity in Place have been established. The architecture forum Aedes has hosted multiple design workshops and international conferences with renowned, globally acting architects, architecture-related firms and offices on contemporary metropolitan topics with international speakers, like personalities as Matthias Sauerbruch, Dagmar Richter, Wolf D. Prix or Thom Mayne and many more and also offers students from around the world to spend working stays in Berlin – actually one of the most intriguing cities for architects and artists. Furthermore, the series Reconnecting Built Form with Societal Diversity creates a framework of publication and exhibition activities as well as conferences as forms of knowledge contribution for Berlin's international architecture community.

[64] Founding directors Kristin Feireiss and Hans-Jürgen Commerell. For her engagement, Feireiss got the Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande in 2001.

Globally acting international offices such as the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA/AMO, Rotterdam), the office team SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa, Shinagawa) or Herzog & De Meuron (HdM/The Why Factory, Basle) run private research labs to explore office-specific research questions. They have established exemplary research cultures including important work archives and international, open studios as platforms of communication and learning including in-house workshops which serve as breeding grounds for the development of new materials, spatial languages, building typologies or design strategies to develop complex spatial challenges contributing to contemporary design research.

[Fig. 17a] Nomadic Research by Design Practice of Reiseuni - Schinkels Map (Sketch: Sebastian Seyfarth)
[Fig. 17b] Nomadic Research by Design Practice of Reiseuni - Sebastians Map (Sketch: Sebastian Seyfarth)
[Fig. 17a,b] Nomadic Research by Design Practice of Reiseuni, Schinkels Map + Sebastians Map (Sketch: Sebastian Seyfarth)

Knowledge Principles of Spatial Research – Experimental Learning Environments

The design practices of the discussed examples of AADRL, Reiseuni_lab and ANCB take place by involving young people – post-graduate students from all over the world – who address relevant spatial challenges in teams moderated by experienced personalities of different disciplines. The cornerstones of this knowledge transfer, which were already practiced in the Builder's Hut tradition, can be condensed as follows: It includes the mobility of learners, interdisciplinary teamwork, cooperation and experimental research on real tasks to be explored in design processes. Research questions are anchored in the 'canon' of architectural protagonists and their respective cultural, spatial and societal contexts. The spatial proximity experienced within temporary studios creates the necessary intensity to create knowledge. Teams work within studio environments where project results emerge from multi-stage design and communication exchange. Through the overlap of social interaction, cooperative design work and the encounter of divergent individual backgrounds, new insights can be mobilized and transferred to other cultural and geographical contexts.

Academic laboratories are experimenting with design strategies and didactic approaches but are also exploring new research fields for architectural or urban projects. Contemporary workshop environments inspire current research by design practice based on dialogue-based work, encourage the critical exchange among cultures and finally support the transfer of international experiences. Specific cultures of knowledge transfer are interrelated with engaged individuals and supportive institutions and their traditions, often experiencing short and intense heydays like the pioneers from Bauhaus, HfG Ulm or Black Mountain College. These spaces are lived utopias with a high potential for knowledge production for the next generation of professional architects and the creation of new paradigms for society.

Involved architects and students multiply the experiences and wealth of knowledge through their own learning and knowledge transfer. They benefit from the experimental laboratories to create new autonomous projects, designs or teaching responsibilities in other countries, cultures or public or private institutions. Leaders of holistic schools of thought situate architecture in the core of its interdisciplinary opportunity: to imagine non-conventional urban spaces and societies, to develop objects and buildings between realities and visions, and to mediate between interests, opportunities and cultures beyond simple categories or disciplinary constraints.

 

The reflective view on traditions of architectural research remains a prerequisite for the emergence of the discipline's knowledge production as part of a historically specific political and aesthetic cultures. Tradition, convention and memory are reproduced via practices of appropriation and artistic translation, always transformed by the perspective of the viewer. As Adorno puts it, it is "as if not any insight would set the frozen things in motion, thus becoming aware of the history in them."[65]

[65] Adorno: Negative Dialektik, p. 135: "Als ob nicht jede Erkenntnis (...) die erstarrten Dinge in Fluß brächte, eben dadurch in ihnen der Geschichte gewahr würde."

The process of seeking insights and developing research is guided by subjective interests, needs and the search for meaning. This is relevant for minority and majority social groups, as it raises questions, pioneers would generally like to know more about. With the intention to explore unknown terrains, to develop models or to initiate paradigmatic shifts on behalf of a learning society, answers and solutions of experimental real laboratories – be they mainstream or grassroots' actors' findings – always cover only parts of complex knowledge processes ranging between first intuitive thoughts and the realization of systematic and/or empirical research. The results of individual or collective cultural processes are rooted in individual engagements and attempts of learning to expand knowledge about and for the profession of architects, to enlarge consciousness and to deepen insights about the discipline. Curiosity, a talent to observe, openness, critical thinking, diligence, well-rounded theoretical knowledge as well as practical experience of tools and strategies are the virtues which lead to relevant achievements in every act of research in our artistic science,[66] which can ultimately be reflected upon, re-organized and re-appropriated by other disciplines.

[66] See Jäger: Schnittmuster-Strategie, pp. 24 ff. – the chapter "Selbst-Reflexive Entwurfspraxis" about the duality of artistic and scientific qualities of architectural research by design processes.

The experimental real laboratories and research approaches of architects throughout the last century have been revealed as multi-faceted, rich and heterogeneous. They are representative of context-specific spaces to learn. Improvements take place on variegated planes of investigation, experimentation, publication and theory building. Political and individual aesthetic preferences have become manifest in diverse pioneer movements like expressionism, Neues Bauen, Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), functionalism, organic construction or bionics. The formally diverging positions of these movements are related to their professional, political and social goals of ascribing a key role to architects as responsible actors interested in the improvement of living conditions with help of unconventional and new approaches, always seeking for a human and context-sensitive design and construction opportunities until today.

Architecture production is always interconnected with a time- and place-specific context of societal debates and necessities. The term research within the architectural discipline describes complex, diverse and cross-disciplinary activities ranging from investigations on construction processes, which can only be examined via built realizations or illustrative models of thought, drawing, design or methodology. All of these practices open unknown paths, allowing us to explore and develop formerly undiscovered territories towards new knowledge.

[Fig. 18] Process Analysis (WS Design Reflection, Student Solange di Rocca)
[Fig. 18] Process Analysis (WS Design Reflection, Student Solange di Rocca)

Design search and research which emerges out of subjective and experimental experience of individuals, is exemplary and prototypical, holistic and intelligible for a specific question. This approach constitutes the heterogeneous goal of a demanding and research-based architecture practice of the 21st century which needs to be transparent based on comprehensible, yet always project-specific criteria. Promising new perspectives, architecture research by design needs to be sufficiently grounded in the context of the discipline, but can always be co-produced in dialogue with stakeholders and in relation to current debates and discourses. This is realized via design processes and via concrete experiments, texts, buildings and public dialogues. Yes, our discipline has various potentialities to generate knowledge and as many strategies and alternative forms as it has pioneers who level the ground for individual paths. This counts for any architect worldwide, because in architecture, as long as it is documented, architects learn, reflect, research, cooperate and experiment across national boundaries and cultures. In this, architects exceed personal limits seeking to synthesize interests, diverging conditions, areas of knowledge and contradictory demands through interdisciplinary cooperation and intercultural exchange.

The Roman author and architect Vitruvius described, first of all, this ability of synthesizing as integration and as the most important feature of the practicing artist who, from a large repertoire of scientific and artistic knowledge, was able to work in the duality of practice, operis effectus, and theory. Appreciating the development of theories as part of the art of construction, "one must understand the characteristics of similarity [in the scientific genres, the Encyclios disciplinae, such as philosophy, painting, music, jurisprudence, medicine or astronomy] and the delicate threads that link them together" without being allowed to be a specialist.[67] In an ideal case, architects always act in relation to their specific origin and with a great sensitivity to the otherness and uniqueness of the task and the place, while learning most about the previously unknown cultural and spatial context.

[67] Jäger: Schnittmuster-Strategie, p. 27: "Diese Integrationsfähigkeit benennt bereits in der Antike der Architekt Vitruv als die wichtige Befähigung des Baukünstlers, der aus einem großen Fundus wissenschaftlichen und künstlerischen theoretischen Wissens zur praktischen Ausübung – operis effectus der Baukunst in der Lage sein muss, ‚da man die Merkmahle [sic] der Ähnlichkeit (...) und die zarten Fäden, welche sie unter einander verknüpfen, (...) begreift', ohne Spezialist sein zu dürfen." Cf. Vitruv: De architectura libri decem. Vol. 01, pp. 20 ff.

To be part of pioneering knowledge production and the renewal of built or thought spaces, is the cornerstone of the research task of architects in academic contexts today. Novel technical developments and building typologies, experimental spatial concepts, residential concepts or industrial manufacturing methods need to be conceptualized prior to realization, being significantly ahead of the rules of contemporary, economically driven practice. Countless models for the interconnection of research, teaching and practice have been developed all over Europe during the centuries from the 'Bauhütte to Bauhaus to Bauhäusle', prescribing the qualities of experimental real laboratories.[68] The experimental research approaches of architects need to interweave design projects with experimental true-scale realizations or visions, thought spaces and theory building. Resilient and supportive frameworks of cross-disciplinary labs of architectural research by design have only been partly implemented in the Central European academic landscape. They could be better enhanced via institutional funding schemes and projects as well as structural support from academic institutions.

[68] Since 2014, TU Darmstadt faculty of architecture hosts a Day of Research to focus on research questions and to present, communicate and connect different research activities. The weekly research colloquia at BTU Cottbus, which I initiated and directed from 2004 to 2007 in changing teams, had the aim of presenting and connecting research activities of architecture, art, history and engineering. Individual engagement is needed to support the increasing awareness of the professional community, both within and beyond the university.

Research-oriented architects devote a high level of personal energy, private resources and means to help the academic landscape flourish and to develop professional knowledge. Remember the financial jump-starts from zero by Frank Lloyd Wright, Jean Prouvé or Fernand Pouillon who invested all of their private resources more than once to pursue their projects and to follow new paths of architectural knowledge creation. Today, countless, non-remunerated time resources invested by architects throughout Europe are spent to develop new concepts via competitions or beacon projects. These private resources enable new horizons for institutions, the discipline and architectural education or research. Today's academic structures need to strengthen their capacities for the diversity of research approaches by or about design of architects. It is time to include both traditional and innovative role models of project-based workshops, international cooperation and self-defined research environments into institutional frameworks and curricula. Contractual agreements of university members with external institutions or stakeholders need to be facilitated to encourage and establish flexible research agendas for cross- or transdisciplinary architecture research rooted in the arts, sciences or humanities. Supportive funding portfolios in interdisciplinary faculties, offering a home to architects who bridge disciplines, could promote to 'ask today's tasks in all its dimensions', as Lucy Hillebrand suitably argued some fifty years ago.

[Fig. 19] Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright, Arizona
[Fig. 19] Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright, Arizona

The variety of examples and selected pioneers mentioned in this chapter have sketched a few characteristic paths for a holistic, cooperative and integrative academic and private research-oriented landscape. It has introduced approaches, structures and constructive environments of learning and constellations of interdisciplinary cooperation to gather the large diversity of perspectives for socially relevant issues within as well as outside of (academic) institutions and concludes to better maintain the academic landscape with regards to the needs of research-oriented architects by illustrating the heterogenous dynamics of the research approaches and environments of the 20th century – exemplary models which are synthesized into experimental real laboratories linking design, architecture practice and teaching as main areas of knowledge actualization.

The next contribution of the volume will focus on the paradigm shift from the 'great' ideologies to locally based germ cells of architectural and artistic thinking in alternative and collectivist project approaches for urban living. Furthermore, the last and third part of the volume moves into the field of methodology of hermeneutically reflexive, diagrammatic design practice as an important pillar of knowledge production for architects [cf.>>>Reiseuni Report, Jäger: Vol:II­_2 Beyond Borders – Group Experiments and Alternative Strategies and Vol:II­_3 Hermeneutically-oriented Architectural Strategies – Critical Inquiry, Visualization & Reflection].

A first version of the text was presented in the context of the autumn lecture series, workshop "Design Reflection 1", 2015, at Tallinn University of Technology with students of class-03, European Architecture.

[Dagmar Jäger. Article's lecture version 2015, revised in 2017-18, final editing in August 2018. Unless not otherwise indicated, drawings: Christian Pieper, jp3, Berlin]

 

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