Three Theoretical Assumptions Needed to Create Useful Applied Social Science Research for Architecture

By Eleftherios Pavlides and Galen Cranz.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Social science research has had minimal impact on architectural practice despite efforts since the 1960’s by organizations such as EDRA (Environmental Design Research Association) and IAPS (International Association of People-environment Studies) and others. This paper questions three fundamental assumptions of environmental design research that may account for the underwhelming application of this research in architecture: 1) Social science methods are suitable for evaluation of buildings. To the contrary, social science methods may not be suitable for the more global, action-oriented evaluation of buildings. More accurately and more modestly, social science methods can assess specific users’ experiences of specific qualities or features of buildings. 2) Hypothesis science is the ideal for environmental design research. To the contrary, hypothesis science in environmental design research is not as productive as discovery science. 3) Architectural methods of documentation are not relevant to social science investigations of the built environment. To the contrary, accessing social information in the physical environment requires detailed documentation and evaluation of the built environment using architectural methods, similar to archeology.

Keywords: Social Science Methods, Architectural Practice, Inhabitant Needs, Photographic Elicitation

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 4, Issue 10, pp.191-202. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.212MB).

Dr. Eleftherios Pavlides

Professor, School of Architecture, Professor of Social Aspects of Architecture, Roger Williams University, Bristol, Rhode Island, USA

Professor Eleftherios Pavlides, AIA, Masters of architecture, Yale School of Architecture, Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania. His research combines architectural and anthropological methodologies to examine inhabitant perceptions of architectural form. He co-edited a book of articles by architects and anthropologists and has contributed several chapters to anthropological books. He has practiced and taught architecture since 1978. His research between 2002 and 2006 measuring perceptions of wind turbines in Rhode Island has been credited for helping set a 15% wind electricity state goal. This work was recognized with a Rhode Island Legislature citation for contributions to renewable energy as well as a commendation by the Governor of Rhode Island. He is currently working with professor Galen Cranz on a textbook to introduce architecture students to the social sciences with a fieldwork component combining the methodologies of architecture and social sciences to investigate inhabitant experiences of buildings and landscapes.

Dr. Galen Cranz

Professor, Department of Architecture College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley campus, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA

Professor Cranz, Ph.D. Sociology, University of Chicago, has taught social & cultural processes in architectural and urban design, including research methods for 30 years at Berkeley and Princeton. She is the author of two books, which proved influential in several fields of inquiry, The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body and Design (1998) and The Politics of Park Design: A History of Urban Parks in America (1982) and numerous articles. As member of design teams she won 1st Prize in a national competition for an inner-city park for St. Paul, 1st Prize for Parc La Villette, Paris, and 7th Place in the Spectacle Island Design Competition, Boston. Current research activity includes body conscious design, the office of the future, sustainable urban parks, and ethnographic research for architecture.


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