Relational Architecture: 
Education, Research, Transformation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearch


Originally presented as the keynote lecture of an international seminar at the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2016, the published text results from a scholarly elaboration of the argument. Referring to Ph.D. dissertations, with which the author has been involved as a supervisor, the article proposes a study of PhD education and its impact on architectural research. In essence, it singles out three layers within a conception of architecture which is designated as "relational".
A first layer of relationality appears in a graphic model in which an intimate link between PhD education and architectural research is outlined. The model reflects a human and institutional development going on since around 1990 when the present PhD institution was first implemented in Denmark. To be sure, the model is centred around the PhD dissertation (element #1). But it involves four more components: the PhD candidate (element #2), his or her supervisor in a scholarly institution (element #3), as well as the certified PhD scholar (element #4) and the architectural profession, notably its labour market (element #5). This first layer outlines the contemporary context which allows architectural research to take place in a dynamic relationship to doctoral education.
A second layer of relational architecture is revealed when one examines the conception of architecture generated in selected PhD dissertations. Focusing on six dissertations with which the author of the present article was involved as a supervisor, the analysis lays bare a series of dynamic and interrelated fields in which history, place, and sound come to emphasize architecture’s relational qualities rather than the apparent three-dimensional solidity of constructed space.
A third layer of relational architecture is at stake in the professional experiences after the defence of the authors’ dissertations. Once again, the interrelational features in architecture take the upper hand. Despite having completed a research education (lasting three years in the Danish system), accredited PhDs are not typically employed in full-time research positions. In their professional lives, the six recent doctors explore practices such as (1) film-making on urban architecture, (2) research and administration in architectural heritage, (3) consultancy-related research on public space or theatre culture, as well as (4) teaching and research in higher education. As a result, the relational architecture demonstrated in their dissertations is amplified by the authors’ later professional practices, which happen to confirm architecture’s relationality in both substance and organization.
In sum, the article shows how three layers of relational architecture coexist; thus it signalizes the degree to which research education, space conceptions, and professional practices are all increasingly pervaded by or even promoting relational features.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Production of Knowledge in Architecture by PhD Research in the Nordic Countries
EditorsAnne Elisabeth Toft, Magnus Rönn
Number of pages25
PublisherNordic Academic Press of Architectural Research
Publication dateNov 2018
ISBN (Print)978-91-983797-2-3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
SeriesNAF/NAAR Proceedings Series

Bibliographical note

This article relies on the keynote lecture of a conference at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, November 4, 2016, addressing research in architecture and Ph.D. education. Since then the lecture has been expanded and transformed into a scholarly publication. Yet it remains a keynote lecture, and this honorablr status exempts (and prevents) it from being peer-reviewed by the Nordic Association of Architectural Research which organised the conference and publishes the book.

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Relational architecture, PhD education, academic supervision, Denmark, Architectural history, Public Space in Suburbia, Sound and embodiment

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