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Topic for Debate
 
Priorities for research in developing countries
Dear Archnet Community Members;

Priorities for research in developing countries is an important subject that needs to be discussed and debated. In many earlier discussions, I have tried to raise this issue implicitly and explicity. One of my attempts was in November 23, 2002, but the discussion was suppressed as soon as it started. I hope this time, this would not be the case! Below I am trying to outline the issue in points, followed be questions for discussion:

1- Architectural research and critical inquiry in many parts of the developing world is regarded by many as a "Luxury or an Un-necessary" activity.

2- A continuous questioning by many practitioners about the role of research in architecture as a profession is taking place.

3- There is a wide gap between researchers and practitioners and their work.

4- The results of research work are developed in reports that fill the shelves of many libraries of professional organizations, academic institutions, and architectural firms, and covered with dust!

5- Many in architecture imagine researchers as people wearing white smocks and thick glasses searching for the mystery and the unknown!

6- There is a substantial lack of interest in architectural research, and there is complete absence of research funding in architecture and planning.


I am assuming that there will be a fundamental or a certain degree of agreement on the above points!

Discussion questions can be framed as follows:

- Why does the gap between researchers and practitioners exist? is it because that the profession and the underlying practices do not need research findings? or is it because that the reasearch findings are not written in a manner useful to the practice of architecture? or is it because that research findings are not reliable? or all of these reasons and others? How this gap can be bridged?

- What are the priorities for research in developing countries?

- What types of research are needed? qualitiative, quantitative, empirical, rational, case study, position, exploratory, experimental, visionary...etc.

- What are the topics that need to be addressed immediately?

- What are the issues that need to be researched in a manner relevant to architectural and planning practices?

I look forward to an interesting debate that helps draw similarities and differences between different regions of the developing world and that fosters a better understanding of cross-cultural issues underlying this topic?

My best,
Ashraf Salama
Responses
 
Priorities for research in developing countries
Dear Ashraf,

Yesterday, I was at the wedding ceremony of one of the graduates of the first batch. I met a big group of graduates of our college and we were discussing about their work and priorities.

They are a succeful lot, each one of them has made considerable progress in their chosen field, architectural design, interior design, graphic design, set design, industrial design, urban design etc. But all of them are busy, fully engaged and have no time for anything else but to fulfil their immediate project tasks. The globalisation, commercialisation and competition has created a world where no one has time, energy or inclination towards research or reflections! As long as one has a job if one is employed or a set of projects if one has a design studio, what matters is the work and income thereof. They have made good use of education they have received in pursuing a higher standard in their individual and group work, but they do not have time to engage with the issues or research.

The same story repeats with the faculty and colleagues who have their own independent practice. At the IFI International Design Congress, I chaired the meeting on Professional Practice, Ethics and Values. While the speaker from India, Kiran Kapadia talked about the globalisation, collaboration and efficient project management through co-ordinated office practice , the other speaker from Sweden spoke about having a very large office with 300+ employees with 86 partners having less than 1% share and about 196 employees having stakes in the office and they spent about 12% on research. Their office, White Inc., has a multi-disciplinary network and deals with all aspects of architecture, design, engineering, services, landscape, graphics, industrial design etc. Andres Sevensson talked about the issue of sustainability, co-operative practice and multi-disciplinary approach and research!

Among the distinguished architects Architect Planner Balkrishna Doshi has a full fledged research foundation, Sangath ( togetherness, which has been engaged with studies and research in architecture, urban planning and design, housing, environmental engineering and design,etc. His office practice makes the best use of the research and the research documents provide a much needed references to local issues in academia and practice.

Architect planner Charles Correa established Urban Design Research Institute in Mumbai. Under the directorship of Rahul Mehrotra Architect and Urban Designer, the institute has carried out several studies and research projects. Charles Correa was the chairman of National Commission on Urbanisation, which produced a monumental report most of which was never implemented. Earlier Correa had proposed the idea of Twin City for Mumbai along with Pravina Mehta and Shirish Patel. Their research enabled the Government of Maharashtra to plan the new metropolis of Navi Mumbai. Architect and Urban Designer Raj Rewal has set up the Architecture Research Cell which has been engaged in several research projects and publication. Laurie Baker established a separate research and construction organisation Crossford to develop appropriate technology and manage construction process.

There are several NGOs who are engaged with research in their specific fields that include rural development, rural housing, urban development, urban housing, slum upgradation, housing for industrial workers, environmental conservation, heritage conservation and sustainable development. Most of their research is action research and they are actively engaged in their struggle.

Government of India has established a few research institutes attached to technical universities and IITs. Like Central Building Research Institute at Roorkey was one of the earliest research institutes in the field of building construction and housing. Housing and Urban Development Corporation of India has set up a network of Building Centres which are experimenting with appropriate technology and sustainable development.Some of the Schools and Colleges have their own research and consutlancy cells. e.g. CEPT, Ahmedabad, SPA, New Delhi, Rizvi at Mumbai.

So on one hand in the commercialized practic there is hardly any research but on the other hand there has been a tremendous effort by a small committed group of architects, researchers and scholars in India. This is just an overview and does not include all the architects and institutions engaged in the research endeavour.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Priorities for research in developing countries
Dear Akhtar;

Thank you for your prompt posting. Again, it shows your extreme optimism. I just want to comment, and please excuse any statements that might be seen as un-favorable or negative, since I consider this issue a very critical one.

The beginning of your posting indicates that research is not part of the culture of practice at all, and asserts the statement that research is seen as un-necessary and luxury activity. I guess we agree on that! However, then why research is not seen as a money generating activity as part of architectural and planning practice?? Or, seen in a manner that directly serves the practice? (which is already a profit-oriented activity).

The individual attempts by commmitted people represent exceptional cases and do not represent the norm. Otherwise, developing countries would have been developed already. There have been successful but individual attempts in many parts of the developing world. The late Dr. Abdel Baki Ibrahim has established his firm in Cairo, Egypt and linked his practice to many research activities through his "Center for Planning and Architectural Studies-CPAS". He produced through his center "Alam Al-benaa Magazine" that continued for 20 years to provide monthly reviews of current projects and projects in progress in the region and to present critical analysis articles on issues of concern to the architectural community in the Arab World. He also authored a considerable number of publications and books in Arabic. Dr. Mohamed Al Asad and his "Center for the Study of the Built Environment-CSBE", in Amman, Jordan is another individual successful endeavor.

Also, there are many NGO's who conduct action research and develop strategic planning intitatives for housing, upgrading, ...etc. However, now many question the work of NGO's and whether they are truly contributing to the development process? People make jokes of what the word stands for; does it really stand for "Non-Government Organizations" or does it stand for "New Government Organizations"?? If we look at the composition of many NGO boards in the developing world, one can see that they are basically formed of government retiree-officials, so the same structure and mentality of the government went to the NGO's.

I am sure there are other successful attempts that I might not be familiar of!

Now, my question is are the individual cases of Correa, Rewal, Doshi, Abdelbaki Ibrahim, Al Asad, and others representing the culture of research & practice in their countries?

On the other hand, most schools of architecture in many parts of the developing world have research and consulting divisions or units. However, some of them ended up like architectural offices while many are in-effective. Now, my question is are these research-consulting units effective and offer true contribution? Do they exist on paper and only in the documents that illustrate the structure of the colleges and schools of architecture, or inthe schools' websites, or are they real?

Since mid-seventies many distinguished firms in the West (small-large) introduced research as an integral component of their practice. Also, many firms have research units similar to "R & D-Research and development divisions" in manufacturing companies. HOK, Odell, HGA, LHB, ...etc are examples. But, do we find this trend in the developing world.

Another ciritcal issue related to the discussion is:
When are we going to have our own contemporary theories that complement Western theories? When are we going to have our own knowledge base that complements Western knowledge base? When are we going to produce true knowledge informing true practice? Both research and professional practice are generators toward the establishment of "authentic" knowledge. If one of them is absent, then knowledge is not compeletely valid, not completely reliable, and not completely credible!!!

If we look at our discussions over the last three months, and look at the amount of writings and text we refer to, it is mostly Western? While this is extremely valuable, where is our own contemporary knowledge base? Yes, we have our own knowledge base that basically addresses our past, but where is our present and future? When are we going to take our part in the development of "Universal Knowledge." Yes, the publications of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture are very valuable. Yes, Archnet is a great resource and represents a great "authentic" knowledge base. But, is this enough? Where are the local efforts and the results of research or the findings that --are-can be published internationally and contribute to the overall development of world knowledge?

This issue is critical and I hope we can discuss the points I am raising in my original posting, and debate the questions I have introduced. I would also add the new questions raised in "BLUE" in this posting.

Warmest wishes,
Ashraf Salama
Priorities for research in developing countries
Dear Ashraf,

The questions that you have raised are relevant and need to be addressed urgently. I shall endeavour to reply to each one of them over a period of time, since I am now required to give priority attention to the tasks related to the forthcoming ICHH 2004 conference.
But at the outset I can envisage that a lot of research would be needed to even answer your questions! I shall reply to your questions based on my own experience and knowledge, to that extent it is subjective. Now, let me beign with your last set of questions first!

If we look at our discussions over the last three months, and look at the amount of writings and text we refer to, it is mostly Western?

First of all it is because we are living in an age where the entire world is globalized. The world is ruled by a global economic order whose main centres are in the west. Knowledge creation or production is also a function of world economy and therefore most productive or creative centres are located in the developed world.

Some of them are in the West (USA / Canada), some of them are in the North (Europe)and some of them are in the East (Japan) and some of them are in down South ( Austalia / New Zealand). So it will be incorrect to club them into the West as we tend to do generally.

But on the other hand, we are living in a new world of global village, where these notions of the west and the east are less relevance. Perhaps, it is a baggage that we are carrying from our past.

If I may venture to probe deeper the world can be divided into those who believe in research, "believers" and that does not believe in doing research
"non-believers".

The first group believes in questioning the frontiers of knowledge and probing further and deeper into issues. They have hardly any time to practice any thing else than research. They have to be highly focused to make further progress. In a way they are research -producers.

The second group of "non-believers"
in research, finds that we already have adequate knowledge which needs to be applied to solve existing problems through practice. They utilise whatever knowledge is available due to prior research. They have no time to even acknowledge that the knowledge they have or are using is based on some
research. In a way they are research consumers or users.

There is a small but smarter group of professionals who engage in some research and combine with practice. These are the people who have set up centres / institutes of research as well as they have their own design studios or firms. They are research prosumers. To use the famous term coined by Alvin Toffler.


While this is extremely valuable, where is our own contemporary knowledge base?

Where else? With us, in the developing world. Although compared to the vast resource of the developed world, it may appear to be insignificant, I would prefer to say that there exist a large amount of research base in the developing world, which we are not even aware of becasue they have limited access the world due to resource and infrastructure constraints and we have less time and energy to even probe the field in our backyard. During last five decades since the end of the World War II there has been considerable development in the developing world. In the countries that were liberated from the colonial yoke, there has been a lot of progress, however, inadequate it may be, there exist a large research base.

But most of the architects are blissfully unaware of the research done e.g. in psychology,sociology,geography,
philosophy, engineering, environmental sciences, space sciences departments / institutes / centres etc. We tend to live like frogs in our own well and think that it is the world!


Yes, we have our own knowledge base that basically addresses our past, but where is our present and future?

We have a large research base about our present which has been created in last five decades. I agree that this is not adequate and needs to be further enlarged. I also agree that in comparision to our past we have done not much! But then the past is five thousand years of history and the present is what just five decades of recent history?

When are we going to take our part in the development of "Universal Knowledge."

Now. We are taking part in the development of "Universal Knowledge" slowly and steadily. We must recognize that we do not have the advantage of
vast accumulated wealth that was obtained by the developed countries in the centuries of colonialism.

Yes, the publications of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture are very valuable. Yes, Archnet is a great resource and represents a great "authentic" knowledge base. But, is this enough?

Where are the local efforts and the results of research or the findings that --are-can be published internationally and contribute to the overall development of world knowledge?

Each of the countries of the developing world has a set of reasearch documents, magazines and books that are known only to their own people and a few that are concerned with them. India has a much larger research base that what is generally known. Yet, I fully agree that this is not enough. Research needs to be an on-going endeavour.

Now, let me tease you a bit!

But don't you agree that in order to do research locally we need to have researchers locally? Now, what do we do if they flee to the West? You will talk about money and funding, but that is not the eastern way of life! We talk about quality of life, charity, dedication, goodness, sharing, togetherness, living an austere life and reflecting on our sacred values! But since we live a western way of life or a modern way of life even while living in the East, we tend to give lip-sympathy. Please do not take this personally! I am teasing!!

Really,it makes hardly any difference now, in this age of internet and ArchNet, where you do your research. What you do is more critical.

We have 1 billion + Indians and 1 billion + Chinese so out of every six researchers there should be one Indian one Chinese, one African and one Latin American, that should be our aim! Every four research out six should be by a researcher with roots in the developing world.

Well that is all that I can say this morning before I rush to the College. Have a nice week researching! I am glad that you are raising these critical questions, it will enlighten us on the issues. Thank you, Ashraf.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Priorities for research in developing countries
Dear Ashraf,

Here are my replies to your critical questions:

- What are the priorities for research in developing countries?

This will depend on the priorities of each country and region, in terms of what society needs, government provides,
professional requirements and ability of educational and research institutions and scholars to be able to deliver. What is important is to understand the need for research in each sector and each level of human activities and field of knowledge. Each department, institute, professional bodies, corporate entities, NGOs and citizens groups have allocate say 10-15% of their resources on research. The priority should be given to the critical issues such as:
Generation of meaningful work for all
Better health care for all
Better education for all
Better infrastructure for all
Better housing and working environment
Better social, educational and cultural facilities for all
Better living environment for all
Better habitat for all
etc.

- What types of research are needed? qualitiative, quantitative, empirical, rational, case study, position, exploratory, experimental, visionary...etc.

We need long term vision for our activities and as such to me this is most crucial. For example sustainability is the key issue at all levels. Will world survive environmental degradation, climate change and its consequences? Can we still save the world? We need answers to these questions.

We also need clear understanding what needs to be done at the grass root level or at local level in terms of dos and don'ts, understanding about the processes, ppriorities, linkages, patterns and participation in planning, designing, construction, implementation, evaluation and monitoring and reviewing of actions at local level. The type of research shall depend on the sectors and issue of research and the nature of requirements.
e.g. how to conserve water resources at local level would require different type of research then say how to conserve architectural heritage.

- What are the topics that need to be addressed immediately?

In general terms the top priority should be given to peace issues,participatory governance issues,
environmental issues, sustainability issues,social and economic issues,
conservation and development issues, housing issues, habitat issues, appropriate socio-eco-technical systems, technology systems, infrastructural issues, art and cultural issues, sports and recreation,
However these are broad heads of research sectors. The topics shall depend on the specific situation.

- What are the issues that need to be researched in a manner relevant to architectural and planning practices?

There are three different components of practice. Governmental / Public sector departments, corporate or large firms of consultants and individual firms. The requirements shall vary for each one of them. e.g. Government departments can provide research for state, district and city /village level
and for each sectoral components such as economic, environmental, social etc.
While the needs for small firms shall be very different. e.g. how to maximise their creativity withing given resource constraints, how to increase their client base, how to be professionally competent and yet be creative. Corporate bodies may have their priorities in greater economic benefit, how to widen their market and service range, how to optimise their resource uses. etc.

We can now take up these issues for detailed discussions.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Priorities for research in developing countries
Hi Ashraf and Akthar,

It was good reading your dialogue on research. As the topic interest me please allow me to join the dialogue!
I am sure you will not get many to join this discussion, as you have already pointed out research does not seem to be a priority for most architects in the World we are talking about.

I am loaded with similar apprehensions of Ashraf, and I share Athar's views as well. But I do not go all the way with neither of you. Akthar, your analysis of the baggage of history and the hegemonic dominance of the west is excellent and I agree with you. But does that alone justify the lack as well as the shoddiness of the little that is done, of the research.

1. Our current view of architecture, its representations and productions, is moulded and informed by the western bias ( in whatever place on earth they originate). The whole idea of moving away from the craft of building and community creations and productions to the design of buiildings as a profession of architecture, is a result of the contact with the colonisers in most part of the developing countries. Even in the case of monumnental and religious structures of great importance of the past, the architect or the master craftsman functioned anonimously and the credit always went to the builders and kings. There was hardly any possibilty of a Howard Roark in precolonial India and perhaps in other countries of the region. Architect was not having an individual status of a writer or even a musician or dancer. And in spite of that condition, works of great quality was produced! Even our own past was discovered to us by the West. Is not our current view of our history coloured by the archealogy and history written by foreigners.

Todays architectural model is totally different, so are the schools and institutions that impart architectural education. Is there any orininal architectural model of architecture or professional practice anywhere in the developing world. Perhaps there are a few but they are not known and not in formal educational syatem! Too much has happened in last five decades compared to what happened in past five millenium. As you have pointed out, west ward ( west does not mean the direction of eath rotation!) looking has changed the scene. And even the research we are talking about, and methodologies of such research, whatever little that is happening, are modelled after what is happening in Europe of US. In spite of our knowledge base, however wast they are, we did not and could not add much to that in the last five centuries when much of the total knowledge base of Europe and US and the West( for want of a better word) was created. Why is that we had no Vitruvius or Voillet le Duc in the East ( again for want of better word) while building tradition there precedes most of the west and be even Greece? the world acknowledge the original contributions of the orient in mathematics, in literary theory, linguistics, and technology, there is hardly any treatise on architectural theory in spite of the valient efforts,to show otherwise, of Ananda Koomaraswami on visual arts of India including architecture. There is an attitududinal difference in the organisation and understanding of the profession of architecture and its relations to theory. The questioning mind has been suppressed too long, I think. And with this, biases of many kind are bothering our profession.

2.We should also distinguish between the design research done by the practitioners and the research done by researchers. Research and development as a desirable acivaity as in the case of industry is a product of modern capitalism, of the competitions and a profesional necessity to stay ahead. This kind of research could be short sighterd motivated by individual gains and may not address the larger issues. Though these might spin off some things of great value occasionally.

No activity happens today outside the of the economic principle of catering top the demand and profitability. If research is being done by practicing firms in the devloped world, there is demand for it. The research pays itself in the practice. There may be several reasoins for this such as greater demand of rational building by the community ( urban arts commision, local bodies) or for legal requirements (consumer protection laws and groups) or for peer pressures with in the porofession. This activity of research tries to rationalise the existance of the profession itself and tries to protect itself from challenges from inside and outside the profession. Such pressures are almost nonexistant for the architectural profession in most of the developing world, where one can practice his poor design ability or poor knowledge base and ignorance of even the basics and violate even the basic laws and byelaws with great impunity!

How many of smaller firms can afford this? And the archiotectural profession in the west is getting organised very diferrently with geater and greater documentation and procedures and eventually it all pushes up the cost of service. When smaller firms can survive well and even small indiviual houses can afford to get an architect design a building in the developing world, only the rich can afford that luxury in the developed world! it is difficult to makle value judgement on this situation, but it is a fact we have to take into account.

The institutional and academic research is of much larger value ( at least it should be as it is funded from public sources). There have been initiatives, but too little. This feild is beset with perennial fumnding problem and in most cases, available little funds goes to smarter and well connected ones and not necesarilly capable ones. Further, we have fewer people opting for a rearch carrer in architecture , for that matter even for a full time teaching, because the profession generally attatches greater status to the designers and design managers or even big time commercial practictioners, (irrtespective of the quality) than teachers and researchers. This is also because the teaching of architecture in most schools still impart a creative aura around the design. We still hear a lot of people talk about the mysterious experiences as basis of design process and architectural design is seldom taught as an unmystified rational thinking activity. The effect of all this is the creation of a body of professionls who are either in the dreamy world of mysterious creative design devoid of reason or in the crass commercial practice of churning out carbon copies from the books and magazines. The real thinking and rationbal architects are too few. In this vicious cycle, there are too few who are trained or who have inclinations to do objective research. Many cannot see research as an objective activity and not necessarily producing dramtic inventions or processes. Jumping into values is a bane we all carry from the master dominated studio classes and that happens to be a great hindrance to do research.

3. This brings us to the research areas and methodology. Most of the Institutional and academic research in India atleast happens to be in the area of technology ( largely low cost and alternative technics and sustainable practices - Akthar has left out the works of ASTRA at the Indian Instute of Science, Bangalore, Development Alternatives, New Delhi and Auroville, Pondicherry) or in documentation of historical buildings, tradtional building practices or vernacular architecture. These have there values no doubt but there are many areas and issues directly relating to the phenomenon of architecture , the spatail aspirations of an evolving or transforming community and its manifestation and representation in the formal and informal production process. While technological and historical documemntations and city and settlement studies have there usefulness, they have tended to appear as a exclusive domain of some select few socially conscious architects! Researches and critical analysis of the main stream of architecture only can bring more architecture and its producers to look towards the activity of research as a legitimate one contributing to the profession. We dont even have a good tradition critically examining architecture and architects hardly take criticism positively.

I would contribute some thing more on methodology some time later.

Best wishes,
B. Shashi Bhooshan
Priorities for research in developing countries
Dear All;

I believe all of us are sharing the same views in a way or another. However, all of us tend to externalize and emphasize a set of issues over others, which is natural. I do hope more members of Archnet community share their views whether they agree or disagree.

Akhtar; I like your classification and your outlining of the issues and I partially agree with you on the "globalized" Knowledge that is ruled by global economic order, with the main centers in the west. But, as Shashi has pointed out, I would say these are the facts, but cannot be used as justification. I also agree with you on the fact that we do not have the advantage of the accumulated knowledge and wealth that was gained through......colonialism. However, many argue that "Colonialism" still exists, but in a different form and format! And, many are now questioning the validity of the term "Post Colonial." Some argue that "Globalization" is another form of colonialism, especially when it comes to cultural issues! Some even define it as "an economically driven paradigm whereby the culture of one country penetrates and suppresses the culture of other countries"! Your classification of believers, non-believers, and the "in-between" smart group is useful to this discussion, and perhaps we will want to debate their qualities, characteristics, and why each group is preferring a specific path over the others. Also, I agree with your ideas on priorities and the need to recognize the value of research and the production of knowledge in each field and sector of the government, institutions, NGO's,...and others.

Shashi, you have outlined very critical issues that add to the concerns expressed by many. I agree with your opinion that our current view of architecture, representation, production is not only informed "but is totally influenced" by the Western bias. True, this reflects the general case, not just individual cases! I endorse your statement about the past and how it was discovered to us and written to us by others.

I am not sure if there is a true research done by practitioners (that can be generalized in the context of the developing world), but yes differentiating between research as a catalyst toward authentic knowledge on one hand and research and development on the other is important. Your argument about the profitability of research is of course valid, but why isn't this the case in the developing world? The question of affordability is true but again it accentuates the view that research is a luxury. Large and small firms will be able to afford research if it is truly integrated into professional activities, or if it is seen as part of the services architects provide. Also, your point on criticism is excellent, but this one is a characteristic of both; the developed and developing worlds. Now, why do not we envisage Programming/Briefing and Post Occupancy Evaluation or Facility Performance Evaluation as an integral part of the professional activity?

Unfortunately, there is no tradition in the professional practice in which planners and architects are expected to evaluate their work or that of their colleagues! In one of my earlier postings in one of the threads, I was arguing that post occupancy evaluation and facility performance evaluation as research paradigms can be seen under the heading of "Good Business", exactly like good restaurants, when people go there, after they eat and drink, there is a form provided where they can rate different aspects that pertain to the quality of food, atmosphere, lighting, service, ...etc. Then, their notes are considered--even superficially--but considered! Does "Post Eating Evaluation" apply to the practice of architecture? Can it be seen by professional organizations as a mandatory phase like schematic design, design development,...etc, and as part of the services that architects should provide? Many discussions are now taking place about "ethics" in relation to the practices underlying different disciplines. Architects design their buildings, visit them once or twice, and then leave "with no return", and many of them do not even see the buildings they have designed after they have been occupied. Now, the question is: Where are the ethics in the "profession of architecture." As a research paradigm, environmental evaluation should be seen as one of the ethical principles toward ethical practice and good business as well.

Parshant, thanks for your examples. Your point about implement-ability is critical. However, I would say that research in architecture has several reasons; one of them is very simple but critical, which is contribution to "universal knowledge." In fact, I am not arguing that architects need to be scientists; Architects are architects but their profession needs to be a "knowledge-based" profession. If one looks at other professions; would medical practitioners, physicians, economists,...etc. dare to act in their work on the basis of simple intuition or common sense? I doubt. But, Architects do. I realize the ART part of architecture--and I am not against it at all, but it is a "Part" and in many cases architects deal with it as if it was the "whole."

I would like to raise another important issue in this context that pertains to Akhtar's view of the notion of east and west, I hope people in the other side of the globe would have the same degree of tolerance that you have ( I can build a case just from online publications and articles). I would not see the east/west classification as less relevant or that they are a baggage that we are carrying from our past, they are there and they will continue to be there. The fact that there was/is a continuous positive interaction between the east and the west at all levels, does not mean that boundaries are crossed. The fact that we are now communicating through the net and that we can chat and engage in online discussions does not mean that borders between cultures and regions are removed. They are there! The West will continue to be West, and the East will continue be East! (not only in geographical terms)!!!!!!. I would argue that what we are living in now is not globalization. It is post globalization, and now many scholars are beginning to study the characteristics of the "Post global world." Unfortunately, the idea of the world as global village has failed to satisfy the promises of prosperity, liberal democracy, authentic knowledge building, or even true exchange of knowledge and industry, and in fact the result of it was a growing inequality, and an increased poverty, and also the gaps between the two worlds were not bridged but widened. So, where knowledge and research are located on this map is also a critical issue. I am not with or against any existing or emerging trend, but I am trying to look closer at the inevitable!

Discussants might be interested to look at the introduction of IASTE Conference 2004, a conference that addresses the "post global condition" in architecture while raising issues on re-defining "authenticity."
the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments-IASTE

My best wishes to you all,
Ashraf Salama
Priorities for research in developing countries
Dear Ashraf,

Now the plot thickens! Thanks Shashi and Prashant for contributing your thoughts on research. We now have a good collection of issues to probe further and explore. It would be good if we adopt a structure for our discussion, which is so difficult to frame. Perhaps, Ashraf can guide us in this regard.

In the meanwhile, I shall continue with my free reflections on the issues!

We need a plan /programme for research at respective level of human endeavour.
Local / Rural / Urban / Regional / National / Continental / Global level and all sectors of human endeavour ( too many to be enumerated, but can be imagined)

In the field of architecture and related fields we need a wholistic research programme.

1. Identify through surveys and analysis the needs, purposes and goals / objectives, missions for research.
2. Identify, select and focus on the areas and fields for research.
3. Identify, select and focus on the issues and topics for research.
4. Identify, select and train people for research.
5. Identify, select and develop the institutions and organisations for research.
6. Identify,mobilise and invest the resources for research.
7. Identify, apply and develop appropriate methodologies, techniques and infrastructure for research.
8. Establish the linkages to education, practice, society, economy and governance to provide greater accessibility to research.
9. Test research findings through selected applications in different areas / fields.
10.Monitor and evaluate the tests, if necessary incorporate changes through further research.
11.Research is integrated into our way of life as a more humane / social / refined / appropriate/ relevant/ innovative / spritual way leading to a higher quality of life. Achieve and celebrate enlightenment through research.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Priorities for research in developing countries
This is a link to a paper on the value of research in practice, developed by Frank Duffy, one of the pioneers in workplace research and design, he used to be London, but now he has his office in New York:

Design Research in Practice: Can it be Scientific as well as Respectable? Duffy (1984).

Although I know his work on workplaces very well, I did not know about this paper until this morning. I believe this supports many of the assumptions I am trying to discuss in terms of research/practice relationship.

Best,
Ashraf Salama
Priorities for research in developing countries
ArchNet Discussion Forum: Priorities in Research in Developing Countries.

I have read with great interest the debate that Ashraf has initiated about the subject of priorities in research in developing countries. I also am very heartened that he has mentioned the Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE) - which I direct - as a "successful endeavor".

As someone who has been involved in establishing and running a research center in the developing world for over four and half years now, I definitely have a few remarks I would like to share regarding the subject. By now, I believe I have gone through enough experiences to write a monograph about the subject, so it will be quite a challenge to present my thoughts in a few of paragraphs, but I will give it a try. The points I will raise may not specifically answer the questions - admittedly important ones - that Ashraf has put forward, but they are of relevance to them.

At the risk of seeming to be involved in a process of promotion for CSBE, I still should give a brief idea about CSBE and its development. CSBE is a small, private, non-profit research center devoted to the study of the built environment that was established in the summer of 1999. We emphasize five fields: architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, construction technologies, and conservation. When we started, all we had was less than $3000 in the bank that my fellow CSBE board members and I contributed, a small (but admittedly pleasant) office space kindly donated to us, and my full commitment. The first period was not easy, and it took about a year and half before we were able to pay our first salary and hire any staff members to work with me. At present, we have 7 salaried staff members (2 PhD holders, 3 Master's degree holders, and 2 Bachelor's degree holders) and we also regularly employ fee-lance consultants. In this context, I should state that we do not enjoy any individual or institutional patronage, and we therefore have to scrape every penny possible for every project we carry out. We currently have adequate funding to carry us through August 2004, and need to secure sources of funding to carry us beyond that period.

I believe that the establishment and running of a research center in the developing world dealing with the built environment is definitely doable. It is not easy. There is no shortage (or interruption) of headaches accompanying the process, but it can be done.

One of these headaches is that of funding. Funding definitely is crucial, but does not have to be lavish, and it is truly incredible how much one accomplish with so little material resources. Funds are needed to hire a small group of first-rate staff, and these should be paid as well as available resources allow. However, there is no need whatsoever for elaborate facilities and equipment. We at CSBE have one computer (with an Internet connection of course), scanner, printer, fax machine, photocopying machine, digital camera, slide projector, and LCD projector. True, all of our staff members have their own private computers that they also use for work, and in that sense they are making a contribution that allows us to more effectively deal with our limited resources. Our office is small, and many of the staff carry out their work at home, but come to the office for regular meetings and we communicate continuously through email. We like to think that the value of CSBE is not in its material possessions, but in its brainpower. To us, CSBE is the information that we have developed, and all of that can be stored in digital format. In this context, the Internet and email are wonderful tools since they connect us to resources all over the world and allow us to communicate easily with a wide variety of experts. In this sense, globalization is a blessing for us in the developing world, and I doubt it if CSBE would have been able to accomplish what it has so far without the World Wide Web. Of course, globalization also has its disadvantages. For example, it is becoming more and more difficult for those with 'non-privileged' citizenships to obtain visas to travel to different countries of the world even though such travel is becoming crucial for the exchange of ideas and expertise.

In this context, I should emphasize that in the developing world we still need to carry out very basic, rather than highly specialized, research. We still have a lot of work to accomplish in terms of data-collection, processing, and analysis. We need to identify the current international status of research and publishing regarding a given subject we are investigating, to explore local challenges and accomplishments, and to combine the finds of the two inquiries. For this, we do not need elaborate facilities such as spacious offices, meeting rooms, or expensive equipment or even laboratories, but we do need highly qualified people. There is considerable talent in our part of the world. One needs to bring those with talent together and provide them with a supportive environment. Unfortunately many of them find themselves working in highly demoralizing settings where their skills are unappreciated, if not resisted.

It is very important that the staff members of a research institution feel a sense of empowerment and ownership of the institution. Therefore, hierarchical management structures are bound to fail. Instead, an emphasis should be placed on developing horizontal administrative structures in which every staff member has a significant share in the decision making process.

In terms of the type of research we carry out, our approach is as follows: It is extremely important that professionals, students, and those generally involved or interested in the built environment have access to high quality information that is of relevance to their work and interests. Such information helps them in developing their capacities and in making better-informed professional decisions. We aim at developing such information and making it available to them through printed publications, our web site, lectures, workshops, and courses. In that sense our definition of the research we carry out is very straightforward and simple.

In this context, I should add that we work on issues that are of relevant to our local setting. We therefore have addressed subjects such as the use of stone in architecture in Jordan, water conserving landscapes, graywater reuse, continuous documentation of architectural developments in Jordan, critical assessments of high quality local works of architecture, etc. However, it is very important that those issues are also of a universal interest and that the quality of work we produce would stand on its own anywhere. It is very dangerous when a developing-world institution takes on the attitude that this work will do for a third world setting. In contrast, whenever one engages in a given research project, it is very important that in the future one is able to look back at the results of that project with pride. We therefore are very encouraged, for example, when respectable international web sites provide links to work featured in our web site, or when we receive a positive message about our work from a well-regarded international specialist. This to us is a confirmation that our work does confirm to a certain standard of quality.

A very dangerous pitfall that many institutions in the developing world fall into is that of giving size priority over quality. I have come across many institutions that want to 'do it all' and to do it immediately, and the result always is guaranteed failure. It is far better to do very little and to do it extremely well, than to do a great deal and to do it in a sloppy manner. For the first months of our existence, the activities of CSBE were limited to organizing a lecture series and an architectural forum. However, we emphasized bringing high quality speakers to those events and to putting mechanisms in place that allow for a high quality exchange of ideas in those events. In fact, from the beginning we have been able to host a number of internationally and regionally acclaimed specialists to speak at our lectures and forum sessions. Little by little, we expanded our activities to carry out other projects. I cannot emphasize enough the issue of giving quality priority over quantity.

I found it interesting that Ashraf referred to CSBE as an 'individual' endeavor. In fact, this is an issue of great concern to us although it should be emphasized that all the work that comes out of CSBE is the result of extensive group efforts. One of our first priorities is institutionalizing CSBE. Administratively, this is carried out by giving considerable authority and decision-making powers to all our staff members. We continuously are exploring processes of increased decentralization at CSBE, and there is a general agreement that the true success of CSBE will be established when I (as the founding director) can step down knowing that CSBE will continue and will grow.

It should be noted that a research institution does not function as an isolated body within its society. The idea of reclusive researchers working on their own is a romantic myth that exists primarily in novels and movies. Once a given research center comes into being, it immediately begins to enter into various relationships, both positive and negative, with individuals and institutions from both the private and public sectors. One definitely needs to reach out and create friendships and alliances. Along the way, we at CSBE have gained very valuable moral and material support from numerous individuals and institutions, and for we are most grateful to them. At the same time, it is unfortunate that as one's work becomes known to a wider segment of the population, enemies emerge, and they will pop out from different unexpected places. One will come across enemies that one never met before. These include those who feel that your work treads on their self-declared intellectual or professional territory; those who feel excluded or marginalized from your projects; and those who simply are negative in disposition and will put down any accomplishments that they cannot claim as their own. In fact, a problem that one regularly faces in the developing world, is that unfortunately there is a significant number of those who view the accomplishments of others as a threat since it exposes their own inadequacies and failures. Of course, we in the developing world cannot afford to give in to such negative forces.

Finally, it is interesting to note that many reports coming out of national and international institutions mention that a major problem facing development efforts in a region such as that of the Arab world is the lack of funding for research. It is a positive step that this problem has been acknowledged although we have yet to see it being addressed.

There is much more to say, and these are some very basic and rudimentary thoughts about the subject. I hope that they will be of some value to this ongoing debate.

Mohammad al-Asad
Director
CSBE
www.csbe.org
Mohammad Al-Asad
Priorities for research in developing countries
This is very valuable to the discussion. Mohammad's remarks are really important and offer a "reality" dimension to the issues raised. Yes, Mohammad, I see it a successful endeavor and also individual. Actually, what I meant by "individual" is not in the sense that work is undertaken individually, but in the sense that it is an individual case, which cannot be generalized to describe the status of research in the country. So, it is a successful effort, by a small group of committed professionals. To me and based on your description--, the following statement expresses the present and the future of the CSBE. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has..... Margaret Mead."

Many of the issues you have mentioned correspond directly to the issues generated in my first posting. I second your views on:

- Collaborative flat management
- Funding challenges
- The development of a sense of ownership and empowerment through collaborative decision-making
- Giving quality priority over size and material possessions. However, it depends on the perception of a client or a funding agency, since to them, sometimes size matters attracting more funding for large-scale research projects even though they do not have true impact the quality of work
- Creating friendships and alliances

It is apparent that the research projects carried out by CSBE are very critical not only in the context of Jordan, but in the region as well, and this something I should congratulate you for. It would be important to know the mechanism of conducting critical assessment studies for quality architectural works, in terms of funding, the nature of the client/public agency who seek this service.

The issues of emerging enemies&--unfortunately,-- seems to be inevitable and unavoidable. Placing low value on the good work and putting down accomplishments is a paradox. However, this is not limited to the developing world. It exists and it is more extensive in the developed world too, but in a "politically correct" manner. This reminds me of one of the Egyptian journalists commenting and making jokes of situations like these, saying that there should be a political party that can be named the "enemies of success party" and this is due to the fact that many would love to enrol in it or even put their names as members of the party.

Thank you Mohammad for sharing your experience. We hope to see more research findings coming out of CSBE, and that you will continue to be able to sustain the high quality staff and work. I look forward to your continuous engagement in the discussions.

Ashraf Salama
Ashraf Salama
Priorities for research in developing countries
Hi all participants,

I am often puzzled by what passes on as architectural research. As architecture is a profession and discipline, which touches on a plithora of human and technical issues and therefore draws on many disciplines and professions, research on architecture could touch many disciplines. Consequently, there often is a lack of what could be called a core area of architectural research. Perhaps, this is true even of design research.

One can be sure of what constitutes and what could be the focus of construction research, structural engineering research, building material research, and even research on anthropological issues of space use in partiucular societies or economics of housing land in an urban area. And we find that architects or architectural departments in many places do such research, which could be done by other disciplines as well. Then what makes the core? Is there any?

Like marketing research or even much of management researches can architecture as a discipline do only applied research?

Most of the researches which pass off as architectural research especially in India, happens to be works on building materials and construction technologies ( high tech low tech or intermediate or approprialte) using methodologies and techniques developed by engineering. Some other works are of documentation or of historical nature. Using methodolgies of archeologists, historians and social sciences. In India, we also had researches leading to discovery and translation of ancient texts as well. Still others, too few in developing countries, work on sociological, anthropological issues or on urban or human settlement issues again using methods and techniques barrowed from other disciplines.

We know that architecture has not been a research discipline for a long time and research in architecture and by architects is a recent phenomenon. Most and almost all writings and theory on architecture also was largely borrowed from other disciplines including philosophy. Much of these amount to simple polemics. We often relish that too.

We all agree that we have to move from this position to make architecture a knowledge based profession. Is it possible?

In this context, it is impoprtant that we clarify the following, which
I think would be the urgent priority, especially in India.

1. What should constitute the core of architectural research? Planning research is more focussed. In what manner research in related areas could be linked architecturally? To clarify this with an example, when does a building technique research, become architectural?

2. Can we promote a purely academic and research disciplne of architecture or habitat studies? This need not be a prerogative of architects alone. Can we make other disciplines interested in the issues of architecture and habitat, and promote a body of research professionals whose works, the professions can utilise? We know where Ekistics stande today.

3. We have been freely borrowing terminologies, methodologies and tools from othere disciplines. Along with we were importing the flaws and inadequesies as well. How can we integrate them into the discipline of architecture and promote a set of methodolgies of its own? A discipline comes of age in academics only when it developes core research tools of its own. Is it possible in architecture?

4. Given the nature of architecture, is it possible to do the above? If not we should be happy with the present confusion and develop the strength from its nebulous and multivalent nature.
B. Shashi Bhooshan
Priorities for research in developing countries
Thank you Ashraf for the great topic and everyone here for their contribution in the discussion. As a practising architect who loves research, I would like to add my own experience too. I spend the best of my time on research, I do not agree that practitioners are not interested in research. Design, supervision and construction as jobs do not prevent me from it. But one should note there are obstacles to research in developing country or to be more specific in the Middle East where I have had the experience.

1. An important bottleneck in research in the Middle East is that the industry is not connected to research, why? Because the researches come from supply and not demand side to be taken into account, which is the opposite in the developed world where the industry seeks out for researchers to conduct their specific research. but then again there is almost no demand for research, because of the mentality that most of us in the developing world specially the managers who believe they are knowledgeable of the essential factors. Categories are not specialized enough, and teamwork has not yet been developed, it��s more a one man show.
2. The natures of researches which need to be done are not technical but management based: the researches to be done in the developing world are more management and evaluative based such as for example construction management, property management, quality management and so on, as we hardly lack technical knowledge and skills. The evaluative and management based researches from the other hand can reveal the main bottlenecks to underdevelopment of these countries such as illegalities, corruption, under skilled management which in cases of authoritarian decision makers is the last thing to be uncovered. Yes in many cases we do not want to face our problems and flaws. It seems ok that they are there, but are not to be spoken, or written about let alone be researched upon.
3. One of the major bottle necks of conducting research and implementing the results in the Middle East is unavailability and non-achievability of basic data, there is a policy of privacy and secrecy of information in different levels --from academic to institutional level.
4. The traditional and historical methods of transferring knowledge and information in the Middle East is what we call heart-to-heart, it is true that although we are very rich in our architectural heritage but the arts and technics have always been learned in a master, student way which was not written or documented, that is perhaps why most of our architectural documentation was done by the westerners.
5. These methods have changed now but we still do not put much attempt on that regard, probably because we take it for granted, or as some thing inherited from the past which belong to the past. Due to the colonizing policies which have been publicized in the developing countries, there is this general tendency to assume whatever comes from the west is better than our own, and in most cases, blindly fall for a global modernization trend and fail to realize that the key to our sustainable growth is our vernacular, traditional, climatic and historical architecture and urban planning.
6. Still I agree that there is a huge amount of research taking place in the developing world but we fail to translate and publish it in international scenes. Most of our data remains at local or national levels. And this is a pity and a waste of global time and effort as many of these effort are re-done in the developed world which I consider re-inventing the wheel, for example where I was studying in Architectural and housing department of Lund University in Sweden, there were researches being conducted on sustainable architecture of warm-arid areas and we had lectures on that. What was common-knowledge or traditional methods of design to me as an architect from the region, was just being discovered there. I wished I could find something in English as proof of such over there, but there was almost none available.

For example if we take my case as a researcher: I had to write a thesis for my studies while I was abroad. I contacted the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, the municipality and some individual researchers and professors in my field in Tehran to find out if there is any topic that they would need or could use. But I did not receive any replies for 4 months, then I choose my own topic on urban revitalization and came back to Iran for my fieldwork. I had to get permissions from The Ministry of Higher Education, the Police department and the municipality to conduct my research, but none of which cooperated with me. But even more than that, even the universities which are supposed to be temples of research would not allow anyone but their own students to reach their architectural libraries.
You see, even in the information Era that we are living today, data in our field is considered classified and private in some parts of the world. I told myself many times it would have been easier and probably more useful if I worked on a topic about some far-away developing country instead of my own. Many called me insane for my persistence and told me that it could be dangerous for me.
But yes there are some people who want to do research but after going through a lot a hassle without any results? And one would think if s/he would consider research as a career, here is simply not the place for it. It is not just for reaching better living conditions that researchers flee, it��s like being a waterfront specialist in the middle of the dessert! They simply feel there is no need for them.
Hani Abtahi Baker
Priorities for research in developing countries
Dear friends,

One of the key field of research in the developing countries as well as developed countries is that of "humane habitat". How does one humanize and make our metropolises, cities and towns more humane?

Since Jan 1999, International Association for Humane Habitat (IAHH) has organized annual international conferences on different aspects of the humane habitat.

The 7th ICHH shall be held from Jan 29- Feb 1, 2005 on the theme " Enlightening Learning Environments: Education and Research for evolving humane habitat". ICHH 2005 shall be hosted by Rizvi College of Architecture in association with the Brihan Mumbai Centre of the Indian Institute of Architects, Forum of Colleges of Architecture, University of Mumbai, Indian Association of Schools of Architecture and the Commonwealth Association of Architects.

We do hope that you all shall join us and participate actively in ICHH 2005!

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
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