Learning from the construction site: an epistemological investigation of stonemasons and architects in action

Kendir, E 2014, Learning from the construction site: an epistemological investigation of stonemasons and architects in action, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Architecture and Design, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Learning from the construction site: an epistemological investigation of stonemasons and architects in action
Author(s) Kendir, E
Year 2014
Abstract Previous studies of architectural practice have tended to treat the realization stage of the making of buildings as a mostly technical matter, with little potential for providing input for the design process. Despite the recognition of the importance of know-how involved in the construction site, the nature of this know-how and its impact on the generation of architectural knowledge is understudied. Based on the original fieldwork involving a series of interviews conducted with traditional stonemasons from Turkey and practising architects from six different countries, this thesis examines how material interactions in situ shape design knowledge in architectural practice. The observation of a unique case of design collaboration from the Sagrada Família design office in Barcelona further illustrates the dynamics of these material interactions.

Making buildings is first and foremost a situated activity: it is on the site of construction that the abstract design concept comes into contact with the messy world of matter. In order to observe and analyse the interplay between material entities, physical environments and human actors in situ at the resolution stage of the design process, this thesis adopts a post-humanistic stance, where inanimate things as well as human actors are considered to possess agency. Using insights gathered from Actor-network theory (ANT) to direct the investigation, the thesis highlights the role of physical sites as active agents in the generation and accumulation of architectural knowledge.

In the data gathered for this thesis, the site is found to operate in the design process in three key ways: as repository – a provider of design knowledge coded within the existing built environment; as resource – a provider of materials and skills; and as the observation platform for the assessment of the built artefact unfolding in time, interacting with natural elements and patterns of use.

Although most of the work in this thesis centres on the accounts of the practice of human actors, the findings contest the notion of humans being completely in charge, and reveal the vital impact of a non-human actor, the site, that literally and metaphorically grounds the design process by acting as a framework for the generation, assessment and handing down of architectural knowledge.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Design
Keyword(s) Architecture
Design knowledge
Construction site
Actor-network theory
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Created: Fri, 24 Jul 2015, 11:53:25 EST by Denise Paciocco
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