Research at the RIBA: an institutional history 1958–71
arq: Architectural Research Quarterly
Exactly 50 years ago, the Council of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) launched a new policy and commitment to 'architectural research.' At its meeting on 7 December 1967, it set in motion a new programme to accelerate and coordinate the growth of research in architecture, not only in architectural schools but through research centres and in practices. In addition, it reinforced its commitment to building up the Institute's own competence in research, 'so that it can speak
... it can speak authoritatively on behalf of the profession in the formulation of national research policies and investment programmes.This paper seeks to historicise the formation, development and promotion of architectural research – what we are terming the idea of architectural research – in light of the Institute's renewed commitment to a research agenda through the appointment in December 2017 of a Vice President for Research (an entirely new role) and the publication of a suite of resources aimed at 'de-mystifying' research in practice and promoting the evidencing of design quality and the value of the architect. These initiatives have their origin in the invention of architectural research as a distinct tradition and a post-rationalisation of what had gone before following on from the Oxford Conference in 1958. Furthermore, we situate the invention of this tradition not only within professional and educational debates of the post-war period, but also in the changing and fluctuating landscape of government policy on the promotion and funding of research, itself a response to a perceived cultural and political angst about the UK's shortcomings in productivity and development. In contextualising and problematising the creation and fostering of a 'research culture' in the UK architecture profession over the last 60 or so years, we also uncover some of the assumptions behind the contemporary self-conscious pre-occupation with developing the research culture of architects. The paper begins with a discussion of historiography and methodology before moving to the research context of construction history and the role played by the RIBA Research Group in developing the idea of architectural research.