Architecture as Social Research
Critique of Pure Research: A new graduate program at London’s Goldsmiths College explores architecture as a tool of social and political practice.
Metropolis Magazine just keeps getting better – their editorial policy has strengthened their social focus with each issue.
The Centre for Research Architecture is as concerned with politics and human rights as it is with architecture. It dispenses with the practice of building and delves into the profession’s more political and theoretical applications. Eyal Weizman, the founding director, derived his approach to architectural research from his own study of conflict zones in Israel. The laws and restrictions on space were often so vague on paper that they provided no guide to policy; to determine where Palestinians could and could not rebuild after their homes were destroyed, Weizman worked with a nonprofit organization to reconstruct them and see how the government would react. “The law was unpredictable,” he says. “You had to provoke to reveal the government’s internal logic.” At Goldsmiths, Weizman has brought these lessons to the classroom, turning the traditional detached academic perspective on its head. “Practice is not the result of investigation,” he says. “It is the tool of investigation.”
Do we (UX) have any programs like this? And what will it start looking like if UX champions social research as an outcome of practice? Are we improving work conditions, enhancing the humanity of everyday life? (For example, could over-optimized information structures lead to cognitive efficiencies at the wrong levels of use? By levels, meaning organizationally or socially? Have we tested hypotheses that suggest some value in information friction?)