Areas of Design Practice as an Alternative Research Paradigm

D. Buchler, M. Biggs, Lars-Henrik Ståhl

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The view of the world from different subjects is quite distinct, resulting in a different view of what it is to know, and what it is that is known about. Scientists are stereotypically Realists who seek objective facts about an independent external world. Literary theorists are stereotypically Constructivists, seeking insightful interpretations that are relevant to their community. Each overarching set of values and beliefs about the world is called a worldview, which determines the ontological, epistemological and methodological attitudes of the researcher to the object of investigation. These attitudes form a research paradigm within which certain activities are regarded as appropriate by peers and, as a result, produce relevant responses to perceived research questions.This paper presents an investigation that was funded by the Swedish Institute into architectural research as evidenced in Swedish doctoral theses. The sample was mapped and analysed in terms of clusters of interest, approaches, cultures of knowledge and uses of design practice. This allowed the identification of the ontological, epistemological and methodological attitudes of the researchers, and hence a glimpse of the implicit worldview. The authors claim that the relationship between values and beliefs (worldview), and actions (paradigm), in emerging areas of design research such as architecture is often under-scrutinised, resulting in a disjunction between actions and aims. One outcome of the project was a diagrammatic representation of various approaches evidenced in the theses. This representation made explicit the similarities and differences between the researchers' attitudes to the ontological, epistemological and methodological issues; and exposed distinct roles for practice in academic research. The responses to these issues in architectural research reflect the different values and beliefs regarding the roles of design practice in research. The project concluded that research in areas of design practice may constitute a new worldview requiring its own, more appropriate, research paradigm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-338
JournalDesign Principles and Practices
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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