Theory and Criticism
Research in Architecture & Urban Design
During the last century we have witnessed increasing PhD research works within architectrure and urban design. But a closer study of these works one can find that large number of these researches do not have real research qualities. They neither produce an adition to the general knowledge nor produce a real aplied knowledge. Many of them can be classified either as nice stories or repeating existing researches. Our changing societies have so many issues, yet what we research are very limited and often cannot follow up with the new changes and the new emerging issues of our societies. In many cases it seems that large number of universities around the world are just producing Doctors who can talk more sophisticated than the architects. Dont you think that the universities around the world should take care of this issue and reform its present PhD programs that can contribute to a real change in these problems.
Hoshiar Nooraddin
Research in Architecture & Urban Design
Hoshiar, This is an interesting subject, because probably a lot of research is done purely for the sake of researching something or other and not for obtaining a result for use in the real world. Therefore research is the Ivory Tower of the academic world, lost in the mists of time and space.
Frank John Snelling
Research in Architecture & Urban Design
This is a big generalisation! There is nothing wrong with the PhD in itself, but it is based on methods from the physical sciences which do not suit social investigations so well.

In order to achieve the reform you propose, the universities would have to sack a high proportion current architect academics and replace them with people who are interested in "real" problems. (Don't hold your breath).

PS the word "real" is problematical too!
Conall Ó Catháin
Research in Architecture & Urban Design
It is important to distinguish between Applied research and Basic research. A number of universities stress Basic research and leave Applied research to NGOs. Basic research is more sophisticated, the realm of a Ph.D. However the two approaches can build one another.
Bernard Mugwima
Research in Architecture & Urban Design
Dear Friends,
Many thanks for your contribution. What I tried to say was that our research works should be reformed in a way that they can cover more topics than the limited topics in the present and be more active in producing new knowledge. On the other hand, It is common that when an architect is finished with a PhD topic. He or she will often continue discussing same topic and conclusions all the time without doing any new addition.
Hoshiar Nooraddin
Research in Architecture & Urban Design
Hoshiar, this is a very interesting subject and I would like to add the following contribution:

First, we should not expect too much out of PhD theses. Why?

A PhD takes around 3 years to complete (though some last much longer!). During these 3 years, candidates have around one year to do active research, the rest is spent in doing other requirement of the degree and in writing the thesis.

Thus, a candidate may identify a relevant problem related to "our changing societies", and produce some good theories (or hypotheses), but the research is limited by the fact that it is only one-person efforts in a limited span of time. Furthermore, most architectural and urban design problems have social contexts, and to do proper researches into such problems need wide field works to take account of the multitude of active and confounding variables affecting such problems.

Therefore, most (not all) PhD theses (even in top universities), are only pilot research projects with limited scopes of advancement of science. The main objective of a PhD thesis is that candidates demonstrate their understanding of research methods through applying these methods to real problems, and on a higher level their understanding of the fundamentals of philosophy of science. After all a PhD is a Doctorate degree in Philosophy of science, and not in the subject of the thesis.

However, most (not all) of the few "good" PhDs are produced in universities that have a well-funded research centres. In these universities, a PhD candidate can plug-in his/her research into one of the research projects carried out by the research centre and make use of the resources available to such project. This happened in universities such as UCL London and Oxford Brookes among others.

Architecture and urban design researches are happening. Where?

These are happening in research centres around the world, not as much as one would like, perhaps due the prohibiting costs of such research. However, one can find reports of such research in the proceedings of "good" conferences. The problem is that architects are not educated to understand and make use of research. Architectural students and architects are drenched in dogmatic arguments related to architectural styles and their starchitects.

One example of research projects that are going on is (City Form), where five research institutions in five British universities are combining their efforts to answer the following basic question: How does urban form affects sustainability?

Answering this question could have a fundamental effect on the way we design future urban projects and cities. The research has been going on for five years and is costing millions of Pounds!

Follow the link:
Faisal Hamid


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