In this Issue of Contour, we had the intention of addressing urbanity by approaching it from one of the most enduring preoccupations of research in human and social sciences—agency. Agency, expressing the capacity to act, is a key concept in understanding urbanity in its problematization of the relation between humans and non-human agents and material and immaterial constraints. Urbanity is an elusive quality of an urban place. It can be found in an Alpine town and yet be absent from a large American city. It is neither determined by building density, population density nor good design. Urbanity is a quality ...

Agency/Agents of Urbanity: Introduction and ToC

Agency/Agents of Urbanity

Affiliation: Strasbourg School of Architecture - ENSAS Download PDF Abstract In the eighteenth century, Rousseau praised the beauty of the wild and untamed, and twentieth century environmental movements celebrated the healing effects of wilderness on the human soul. But while Romantics and later Environmentalists sought salvation away from the city - ‘into the wild’ - it is now the wild that is conquering the city again, becoming a sign of urban elegance and “coolness”. Improvised rather than planned, claimed rather than given, the contemporary urban open space seems to reverse the old antagonism that ...

Isar Plan: The Wild as the New Urban?

Agency/Agents of Urbanity

Author affiliation: Postdoctoral researcher, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, McGill University, Canada Download PDF Impulse, an interactive installation at Place des Festivals, Quartier des Spectacles, Montreal. Lateral Office and CS Design in collaboration with EGP Group. Credit: Guillaume Ethier, 2015. The topic of agency in cities brings up a fundamental question that urban thinkers have been dealing with for a long time: To what extent does the physical form of the city influence the way people behave? How exactly, in other words, do urban forms [1] act in themselves as agents of urbanity? We ...

Connecting the Dots: How Digital Culture is Changing Urban Design

Agency/Agents of Urbanity

Author affiliation: University of Melbourne Melbourne, Australia Download PDF Abstract Cities are facing the challenges of climate change as they become more car-dependent and less compact. Tackling these challenges, transit-oriented development has become one of the key concepts of urban design in engaging with opportunities for transforming the car-dependent city. Such transformational change demands exploring capacities for future cities, which are geared to understanding the ways in which transit-oriented developments work at different scales within a city. The main challenge here is to understand how ...

Transit-Oriented Morphologies and Forms of Urban Life

Agency/Agents of Urbanity

Author affiliation: The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia Download PDF Abstract The emergence of urbanity is related to the ways in which urban informality, morphologies, activities, and temporality work in relation to sociality and spatiality. Informal settlements are predominantly self-organized and incrementally transformed out of the state control where the traditional approaches to urban theory and design practices have often failed to deal with the complex dynamism of such resilient forms of urbanism. The study aims to explore urban morphologies of informal settlements to unravel the ...

Urban Morphologies in Informal Settlements

Agency/Agents of Urbanity

Author affiliation: UMR - ESO / Université de Rennes, France Download PDF Abstract “Urbanity” has become a “fuzzy/unclear concept” (Bourdin, 2010) which is even polysemous in the discourses of researchers in urban studies. I have undertaken, in my PhD, a series of interviews with researchers in order to try to understand and to deconstruct the discourse about urbanity, aiming to surpass a classical and limited bibliographic approach. This series of interviews was held with geographers, urban sociologists, psychologists, architects and urban planners. Urban studies, today, require an ...

Urbanity: Looking into the Discourse of Researchers

Agency/Agents of Urbanity

Joan Ockman, writing in 2000 on the occasion of the last issue of Assemblage, pointed out that the production of architectural theory occurs in cycles, which somehow parallel economic and financial crises. If the emphasis on textual analysis and architectural language in the 70s coincided with the 1975 crash, the early 1990s, in the midst of the crisis of the building industry, saw the rise of an increasing interest in authors like Deleuze, and topics around identity politics and postcolonial studies. In the early 2000s, faith in the redemptive capacities of digital technologies and in the self-regulatory ...

The Political Economy of Architectural Research. Dutch Architecture, Architects and the City, 2000-2012.

Issue #1 DAR

Foreword to the first issue of Contour Journal The first issue of Contour presents a series of contributions from emerging scholars from around the world on the question “What is research in architecture?”. The contributions map a territory of research practices related to architecture and the built environment, the urban; and also to two of their main subject matters: space and its different users. The outline of this territory is marked by architectural and educational practices that stretch far beyond classic disciplinary boundaries. The goal of the Contour editorial team was not to reach consensus about ...

Introduction: Divergences in Architectural Research

Issue #1 DAR

Abstract Ma réflexion repose sur mon expérience en architecture – en tant qu’étudiante à l’École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Toulouse1 (ENSAT) et aussi en tant qu’architecte salariée dans différents cabinets et agences en France – et en anthropologie. Mais cet article ne saurait être une simple biographie relatant chronologiquement des faits : l’approche empirique servira de fondements à une biographie réflexive. Ce que c’est qu’être architecte : du fantasme à la désillusion J’ai choisi de devenir architecte pour la raison la plus évidente qui soit : je ...

Le terrain comme laboratoire

Issue #1 DAR

Abstract In some areas of life, research disciplines do not cross boundaries even though the day-to-day practices in these areas necessitate a disciplinary crossing. My architectural work within midwifery challenges this norm: as design research is ‘grafted’ into an established scientific field. I am an architect and antenatal teacher researching the design of birth spaces using women’s experiences of birth. My work aims to move established research methodologies (midwifery and medical) towards ones that address architecture and design in these related fields. With evidence from across the relevant ...

Designing Between Disciplines

Issue #1 DAR

Michael R. Doyle, Laboratory for Environmental and Urban Economics (LEURE), EPFL For the special call ...

What do we touch when we visualize data?

Dossier

BOOK REVIEW Carlo Ratti with Matthew Claudel adjunct editors: Assaf Biderman, Michele Bonino, Ricky Burdett, Pierre-Alain Croset, Keller Easterling, Giuliano da Empoli, Joseph Grima, N. John Habraken, Alex Haw, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Alastair Parvin, Ethel Baraona Pohl, Tamar Shafrir (Thames & Hudson, UK, 2015) Towards a redefinition of the architect... “The Brutalist Playground” is an upcoming exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) exploring Brutalist design for play. The exhibition promises to shift the focus from the value of brutalist residential buildings to the playgrounds found ...

Open Source Architecture

Book Review

In the fall of 2014, Contour released a call for visual presentations of data among PhD students of the EPFL and international participants of the Laboratory Basel’s 2014 colloquium Intercultural Dimensions of Territory. The call was also open to interested contributors from other institutions. After receiving 17 submissions, we are pleased to release these images to the public, with the original short text that accompanied them. Following reception and acceptance of the images, we decided to ask the authors to reflect upon the following questions: How does this visualization help you to understand and analyze ...

Visual(izing) Data

Dossier

Urbanity is an elusive quality of an urban place.  It can be found in an Alpine town and yet be absent from a large American city.  It is neither determined by building density, population density nor good design.  Urbanity is a quality that emerges from a combination of elements that is greater than its parts.  Nothing that contributes to its presence seems to do so intentionally.  The failure of many attempts to artificially create urbanity suggests it will remain just out of reach.  It is both physical and social, manifest and ephemeral—it cannot be fabricated. Or can it?  A contemporary ...

Agency/Agents of Urbanity Colloquium

Previous Calls

CALL FOR DIAGRAMS In order to explore the possibilities of non-verbal communication in research, Contour Journal asks for submissions for an editorial on diagramma.  Please send us your diagrams with a short, less than 500 word description that describes the content of the diagram.  We are not seeking comprehensive results, but rather we are searching for images that communicate research information in a bold, novel, and evocative way. Format:  300 dpi (jpeg, tiff, png, or pdf) No Deadline: Submit ...

Diagramma

Calls

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS: deadline extended to 15th of December In this first full issue, Contour is asking a larger audience one of its central questions, "What is research in architecture?"  Are there tools and methods specific to it, or are we merely borrowing from other fields without any specific tradition of our own? Can we even attempt to define a common ground among architects doing research, or is the nature of our research centripetal, sending us off in multiple directions? Core or periphery? Despite architecture's status as an old and supposedly well-established discipline, its core always seems ...

What is Research in Architecture?

Previous Calls

CALL FOR IMAGES   In order to explore the possibilities of non-verbal communication in research, Contour Journal asks for submissions for an editorial on visual(izing) data.  Please send us your images, diagrams, graphs or plots with a short, 100 word description or caption that describes the content of the image.  We are not seeking comprehensive results, conventional bar graphs, or default matlab/excel plots  – but rather – we are searching for images that communicate complex information in a bold, novel, and evocative way. Format:  300 dpi (jpeg, tiff, png, or pdf) Deadline: December ...

Visual(izing) Data

Previous Calls

Perhaps the contour is most impenetrable where architecture borders the humanities, which is where my research takes place. Architecture as practice is about buildings, whereas psychology and sociology mainly deal with the behavior of people vis-à-vis other people. Architecture is taught in institutes of technology, humanities are taught at universities. All this may be the reason why the human side of building is so underexposed in education. Buildings are the product of a long process of initiating, planning, design, financing, engineering, and construction, in which the end-user has no role other than undergoing ...

Architecture’s Contour and the Urge to Research

Editorial #0

L'architecture comme lecture des apparences:une question de traduction. La question de la traduction anime peut-être et à juste titre toute science telle qu’elle soit. Considérant la ville ou mieux l’habitat – au sens large – d’un milieu dit urbain, les sciences de la ville impliquent une traduction toute particulière, celle de l’espace en image, autant que la traduction de l’image en espace. La représentation semble indissociable et inhérente aux problématiques liées à la ville à en croire le géographe Antoine Bailly dans son ouvrage Représenter la ville. À la question « qu’est ce que ...

Images de pensée. Penser en images.

Editorial #0

While the practice of Architecture – as defined by the design and construction of spaces for habitation - can be traced back to the origins of human civilization, the profession of Architecture is a relatively recent institution, brought about by a growing separation between design, engineering, and construction practices. This delineation between areas of expertise within the building industry has been further strengthened by a rift in professional culture, legal liability, and contract deliverables. As a result (or perhaps a cause), we see limited collaboration between architects and engineers in the academic ...

What is building performance? Who measures it and why?

Editorial #0

Contour est une revue interdisciplinaire, qui apporte un regard associant des résultats de recherches scientifiques et des points de vue originaux sur l’urbanisme et l’architecture. C’est dans ce cadre d’expression que ma recherche s’est opérée, créant une passerelle entre une recherche fondamentale et pratique : du développement académique à une réalité pratique. La discipline architecturale est une nouvelle voie de recherche qui doit trouver ses propres outils d’expérimentation et de synthèse qui sont les clefs d’un résultat scientifique. Ma propre recherche s’inscrit dans le cadre de ...

Scale

Editorial #0

It’s better late than never, so the saying goes, and even if we, as post-post-ism researchers in the era of extreme specialization and fragmented knowledge, may have the impression that everything has been already written, all oceans explored and there is not an untouched single corner of our life horizons left to dream about, we still find ourselves pursuing doctoral research. However, we can be sure that one thing that still stays largely unexplored is the depths, the abyss. The depths of knowledge, I mean, and without wanting to sound pretentious, we are here because we strive for understanding beyond ...

Inhabiting the borders

Editorial #0

The vast landscape of ideas that researchers from architecture and urban planning traverse during their doctoral studies can make many regret the distance they see growing between their everyday research activities and design. This distance can create a fear that the research conducted in the tower of the university will turn out to be irrelevant to practice—that the forays into the foreign territory of related social and natural sciences provide no path of return. Yet, the design process itself is rich with such intellectual meandering. The challenge is perhaps to make research meaningful for the action ...

Straddling the Contour: Designing Research to Inform Design

Editorial #0

It is often unclear whether by architectural research we mean research about architecture, research through architecture or research for architecture. These three categories, borrowed from Christopher Frayling’s discussion on research in design and art [zotpressInText item="{SK55ID6M}"], are not mutually exclusive, but they do look for legitimacy in different fields. We are familiar with forms of historical and theoretical research about architecture. Improvement of architectural and design practice as the focus of design research has been addressed in a significant body of work by design practitioners and ...

(What) is Research Appropriate to Architecture?

Editorial #0