The architect as travelling researcher

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The text lays out a methodological structure for the critique of the architect as a travelling researcher. The two notions of the field trip and fieldwork, most widely established in anthropology and ethnography, are suggested as conceptual tools in this endeavour. I furthermore draw the attention to the way architects have conducted fieldwork before and how this has informed their other practices. The reason for the field trip, as James Clifford has pointed out, involves a gain, and is about obtaining knowledge and having an experience. The practice of travelling to another place establishes a first set of dialectic pairs for the analysis and understanding of fieldwork in architecture. These pairs are home and away, travelling and living, the self and the other. Fieldwork is shortly described as participant observation. One of its main requirements is the time the researcher spends in the field. I argue that the difference between the architectural fieldtrip and fieldwork forms the basis for a second set of dialectic pairs that are the length of they stay versus passing through and the depth and interactivity on the ground versus the gaze from the top. In architecture the spatial practice of fieldwork promises to capture the real existing conditions on the ground. It claims to produce knowledge of the site, the city, its architecture and occupation that goes beyond traditional methods of analysis. In a critique of that particular ideology the architect’s products of fieldwork - the map, the photographs, and the text – are reinvestigated.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSensing Cities
EditorsIzumi Kuroishi
Place of PublicationTokyo, Japan
PublisherAoyama Gakuin University
Number of pages2
ISBN (Print)978-4-9904773
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • architecture, travelling, fieldwork, fieldtrip


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