Project: 333
Class: Summer Studio, California College of the Arts, Architecture Division

Date: Summer 2017
Instructors: Jeanne Gang, Steve Wiesenthal, and Christopher Roach

There are both similarities and distinctions between the kind of research that is conducted in academic design studios and the way its utilized within the context of a professional practice. For instance, in the academic setting, research is usually done individually, and with pre-established frameworks, objectives, & methods, but often avoids real engagement with stakeholder perspectives or other social / economic / political pressures.  In contrast, research in a design practice is often conducted in teams, and is less proscribed, such that even defining what to research, what the subjects and object of research, and what methodologies are to be used are part of the design process.

This course brought these different approaches to research into focus so that students could gain a meta-level awareness of how they develop their own research methodologies in ways that can serve them as they transition to becoming professionals. The objective of this studio was thus to explore the concept of “applied research” (or “design research”) within the context of architecture, and in particular, of professional practice. Seizing upon the unique opportunity that CCA has to work with Studio Gang during their design process for the new campus, this studio created an immersive and intensely collaborative experience of design practice. In particular, students explored a dimension of practice that distinguishes Studio Gang’s work from many other practices, which is the incorporation of intensive research into the design and development process. Students explored Studio Gang’s methodology of design research first hand by working directly with the architects that are designing the new CCA campus on a portion of the proposed design concept, and were encouraged to think critically about how this differs from their own research and design processes in school.