Practitioners in the field of architecture typically apply that knowledge to the art and science of building. Therefore, how does one conduct research within an applied field such as architecture? This question often surfaced in the debates, conversations and critiques about the Advanced Architectural Research projects this year. Other questions included: should methods of research be adopted from the sciences or are models from the humanities and social sciences more pertinent? Or as some in the field have vociferously argued is architecture its own unique discipline with an autonomous discourse solely derived from its (western) theoretical underpinnings? Perhaps there is no one answer to these questions, other than that disciplines are structured by limits and boundaries, which can be legal, discursive, spatial, material or social. And in order for any field to emerge, evolve, or disappear these limits must be tested, prodded and transgressed through research.
Rather than trying to synthesize across the discipline’s areas, as is typically the goal of an architectural thesis, the research of this group of AAR students tests the limits of field. Their aim is to operate strategically within a prescribed range of disciplinary parameters. Each project focuses upon an idea, condition or method—sustainability, infrastructural urban voids, refugee camps, optimization programs and algorithmic design—in order to propose new ways of thinking and working to a targeted end-use group. Their applied research is not a singular endeavor, but its evolution results from the student’s ongoing engagement with a range of experts, faculty, advisors, lab directors, offices and their peers.