Statement of Research Goals
Iowa State University Department of Architecture – Graduate Program
Our mission as a land grant university informs and inspires our individual and collective quests for knowledge. We pursue varied interests ranging from urban theory to historic religious architecture, but this wide array of individual pursuits shares a common interest in connecting scholarly work with the broader world. That connection can take the form of deep inquiry into why and how our built environment has developed in the ways it has, and of speculation as to how practitioners and scholars can leverage their knowledge into improving conditions in our cities, ruralscapes, and buildings.
This cluster speaks of the capacity of architecture as both process and product to act in the world. The so-called “Spatial Turn” that developed its methodological framework between the 1970s and 1990s made an important paradigm shift in the humanities because it re-introduced the studies of space and spatiality as a cultural dimension. At the same time this pro-spatial intellectual platform allows us — architects and researchers of architecture — to participate in the discourse by bringing forward the nuances and hybrid approaches of our discipline that often involve complexities beyond simple positivism and interpretivisim. Architecture is neither a determinant of society nor determined by society but rather in society. Architectural agency is about not only the physical products called architecture or the people called architects but more expansively considers the ways in which our discipline acts in the world by transformatively engaging socio-political structures. We are interested in how architecture has acted and can act in the past, present, and future as an agent of change; a praxis that joins theoretical, abstract ideas to concrete, practical actions. As such, architectural agency is inherently spatial but also allows us to consider inclusive praxes that permit pluralities of voices and contestations that change over time rather than seeking a fixed and therefor singular state.
Architectural Ecology and Human Relationships
As climate change brings with it pressures on plant, animal and human relationships; ecological systems respond unpredictably. Over the past decade, the idea that systems can find a true state of equilibrium has been challenged. A new dialogue is needed where we re-establish contact with innovation, experimentation and aesthetic concerns. We need to include in our conversation not only advances in building technology, and the digital tools to predict building performance; but the question of human relationships. Work in this research cluster includes: building energy performance evaluation; post-occupancy evaluation; comfort; natural ventilation and air flow, energy efficiency; and integrated design. It also engages with perception, materialism, and atmosphere; visual, spatial and narrative structures. Working to identify and include valuable interdisciplinary discourses currently outside the field.
Material and Immaterial Production
This Research Cluster is interested in buildings as both object and process, through history and in contemporary and future practice. In particular, we look at the relationships between the purposes behind buildings, the means with which they are realized, and the tools we use to measure, predict, and assess these relationships. These themes can link building to spheres of economics, labor, craft, and geography, among others, and our research seeks to enlarge our understanding of technology and construction as they relate architectural production to much larger contexts and to other disciplines.
As our aptitudes and appetites surrounding technology have matured, the architectural discourse is no longer preoccupied with technology in and of itself. Rather, interest lies in how technology may be creatively integrated into new methods and forms that blur digital and analog, process and product, natural and man-made, biological and cultural, virtual and real. These emerging practices push against old boundaries and dichotomies, paving the way for the next generation of tools, materials, software, and workflows at the interface of material and immaterial.
Group Coordinator: Tom Leslie
Faculty: Andrea Wheeler, Jelena Bogdanovic, Gregory Palermo, Tom Leslie, Pete Goche, Rob Whitehead, Ulrike Passe, Chiu-Shui Chan, Nick Senske, Shelby Doyle, Cameron Campbell, Leslie Forehand, Kevin Lair, Firat Erdim
Politics of the Urban
As architectural practice increasingly operates at scales beyond the building, new questions about the nature of the spaces in which design takes effect have begun to emerge: no longer can the urban remain a ‘condition’ in which architecture resides when it is increasingly the urban that architecture is now actively reshaping. This research agenda draws together a diverse set of knowledge (from the empirical and practice-based to the theoretical and historical) to provoke and develop a whole host of new questions for architectural discourse to pose itself around the urban. Bringing the background to the fore, this research cluster posits that there is an urgent need today for architectural knowledge to engage directly with the urban as a discrete object of critical inquiry, site of theoretical speculation and milieu of radical experimentation. As it grows evermore planetary in scale, a concerted effort to comprehend this space from a specifically architectural point of view is necessary both to advance the discourse and to establish substantial interdisciplinary connections with perspectives emerging from other fields. Opening architectural knowledge to spatial, political and legal theories, infrastructural and cybernetic technologies, resources and economies, geographies and ecologies, cultural and sociological transformations, this cluster proposes to critically situate the urban as a central category of contemporary architectural discourse.
Computation & Construction Lab (CCL)
The Computation & Construction Lab (CCL) produces advanced research in architectural design, fabrication, and computational workflows through rapid innovation, desktop-scale technologies, and local engagement. Equal parts start-up company and design charrette, the Lean Digital Lab prototypes, refines, and leverages cutting-edge technologies and workflows for architectural design with minimum cost, resource usage, and space. The Lab accomplishes this through a combination of rapidly-executed research projects, industry partnerships, and ongoing pedagogical experimentation, with an emphasis on exploiting the unique opportunities and resources of Iowa State University.
Faculty: Mikesch Muecke, Chiu Shui Chan