Research by Design Definition by Johan Verbeke



  1. The Unthinkable Doctorate, 2005, Brussels, Proceedings available here
  2. Design Enquiries, Stockholm, 2007
  3. Research into Practice, London, 2008
  4. Changes of Paradigms in the Basic Understanding of Architectural Research, Copenhagen, 2008
  5. Communicating (by) Design, Brussels, 2009
  6. The Place of Research/The Research of Place, Washington, 2010
  7. Knowing by Designing, Brussels, 2013

Professional Bodies



  • The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts, published in 2010, Book
  • Journal for Artistic Research, established 2011
  • Jan Kaila, The Artist’s Knowledge, 2006

“Research” Definition

  • Original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding; it includes work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce, industry and to the public and voluntary sectors; scholarship; the invention and generation of new ideas, images, performances, artifacts including design, where these lead to new or substantially improved insights; and the use of existing knowledge in experimental development to produce new or substantially improved material, devices, products and processes, including design and construction (RAE, 2008)
  • Human learning and (social) constructivist thinking are strongly based on experiences, perceptions, and interactions between people (…) as a result these people develop a mutual intersubjective understanding
  • Research itself is design: there is no such thing as research that is not designed (Glanville) Seen this way, design has the power to facilitate the generation of knowledge
  • Research is the curiosity-driven production of new knowledge. (Nowotny)
  • Research is inherently beset by uncertainties, since the results or outcomes are by definition unknown
  • Any kind of inquiry in which design is a substantial constituent of the research process is referred to as research by design/ act of design is key, peer review is essential to maintain quality/ it has to be openly connected to practice and studio work (EAAE, 2012)

Polanyi: there is more than factual and explicit knowledge

Schon: importance of reflective thinking in the development of understanding and knowledge in creative disciplines, focus on othe rtypes of knowledge

Gibbons Mode 1: Knowledge is the complex of ideas, values and norms that has grown up to control the diffusion of the Newtonian model of science to more and more fields of enquiry and ensure its compliance with what is considered sound scientific practice

Gibbons Mode 2: Knowledge production carried out in the context of application and marked by its transdisciplinarity, heterogeneity, organizational hierarchy and transcience; social accountability and reflexivity-it results from the parallel expansion of knowledge producers and users in society.

Stefan Ostersjo doctoral thesis: critical moments in developing insight during practice/play; it acts as an exemplar of research where the doing plays a crucial role.

Nonaka-Takeuchi: combination, internalization, socialization and externalization

Johan Verbeke: INPUT: local statements/ OPERATIONS: anything that is done to change the input/ OUTPUT-KNOWING: everything that results when the application of an end rule to the process of operating on the input comes to a stop/ DELIVERABLES: all tangible manifestations of the outputs


  • Verbeke, J., 2013. This is Research by Design. In Murray Fraser’s (ed.) Introduction to Design research in Architecture: An Overview, edited by Murray Fraser, Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 137-159
  • Full text available here/ Image available here

#The City we need


Twitter Chat with Roberto Rocco/ Tuesday 30.01, 14:00-15:00 (GMT +3). Extract from the brief:

The way in which planning and design are generally taught does not cater for the need to create sustainable, fair and inclusive cities. Many planning and design schools follow an old paradigm of architectural education that privileges individual genius and design creativity and do not prepare students to understand the implications of social, economic and environmental sustainability, spatial justice and the right to the city (…) This poses the question: what can spatial planning and design schools actually DO in order to help deliver the city we need? What do we need to teach, and how, in order to be able to deliver enlightened professionals who are able to work in a transdisciplinary way, incorporating grassroots participation and multiple stakeholders in planning and design processes that embrace complexity and are embedded in local social, political, economic and cultural landscapes?

Organization: The World Urban Campaign/ Image available here

HABITAT III, Quito/ New Urban Agenda


It presents a shared vision/ a paradigm shift based on the science of cities (…) The following articles are indicative of the document’s content:


  • 10. culture and cultural diversity are sources of enrichment for humankind and provide an important contribution to the sustainable development of cities, human settlements and citizens, empowering them to play an active and unique role in development initiatives.
  • 11. equal use of cities/ promotion of inclusivity/ no discriminations
  • 13. toward cities that: a. fulfill their social function/ b. promote civic engagement/ c. achieve gender equality/ d. meet the challenges of economic growth/ e. fulfill their territorial functions. f. promote age and gender responsive planning/ g. adopt and implement disaster risk reduction/ h. protect, conserve, restore and promote their ecosystems


  • 14. Leave no one behind/ ensure sustainable economies/ environmental sustainability
  • 15. readdress the way we plan/ recognize the leading role of local governments/ adopt sustainable, people-centered integrated approaches to urban development



New Urban Agenda, 2017. United Nations, Habitat III Secretariat

The Habitat III Conference and the city of Quito welcomed 30,000 participants from 167 countries, with online platforms and tools that enabled people all over the world to follow principal events online

Image available here

Funding the Cooperative City by D. Patti & L. Polyak


In the context of increasing pressure on public administrations to become entrepreneurial, financial capital has had a growing role in shaping cities across the world (…) In the financialised city, buildings are “no longer something to use, but to own (with the hope of increased asset-value, rather than use-value, over time).” When the exchange-value of buildings gains prominence over their use-value, they lose all relationship with actual needs and become acting “similarly to how financial products are being created and sold that have lost any connection with real production or a real economy” (…) In the context of the crisis, many local and cultural communities witnessed their spatial and economic resources diminishing with the drainage of funding and the withdrawal of institutional support (…) as a response, many of these communities set themselves to create spaces and services on their own (…) These new forms of governance contributed to the formal or informal extension of the field of actors in urban development and to the outsourcing of “former public tasks and services to volunteer organisations, community associations, non-profit corporations, foundations, and private firms” (…) The engagement of non-institutional and non-profit actors in renovating, operating and managing civic spaces brought participation to a new level: instead of expressing consent or dissent related to a planned development project, or even contributing to the program or design of a new urban area, many communities took the initiative into their own hands and became developers – urban pioneers, spatial entrepreneurs or city makers – themselves. 



Daniela Patti & Levente Polyak (eds.), 2017. Funding the Cooperative City: Community Finance and the Economy of Civic Spaces, Vienna: Cooperative City Books

Funding the Cooperative City is a research and advocacy project initiated by the Rome- Vienna-Budapest-based organisation Eutropian.

Image available here

What is a system?


A set of things -people, cells, molecules, or whatever- interconnected in such a way that they produce their own patters or behavior over time. It can be buffered, constricted, triggered or driven by outside forces (…) We are complex systems—our own bodies are magnificent examples of integrated, interconnected, self-maintaining complexity. Every person we encounter, every organization, every animal, garden, tree, and forest is a complex system (…) A system isn’t just any old collection of things. A system is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something. If you look at that definition closely for a minute, you can see that a system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose (..) Is there anything that is not a system? Yes—a conglomeration without any particular interconnections or function (…) there is an integrity or wholeness about a system and an active set of mechanisms to maintain that integrity (…) Some interconnections in systems are actual physical flows (…) Many interconnections are flows of information—signals that go to decision points or action points within a system (…) System purposes need not be human purposes and are not necessarily those intended by any single actor within the system (…) Systems can be nested within systems (…) A system generally goes on being itself, changing only slowly if at all, even with complete substitutions of its elements—as long as its interconnections and purposes remain intact. If the interconnections change, the system may be greatly altered (…) To ask whether elements, interconnections, or purposes are most important in a system is to ask an un-systemic question. All are essential. All interact. All have their roles. But the least obvious part of the system, its function or purpose, is often the most crucial determinant of the system’s behavior.



Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A primer, (Diana Wright, ed.). London; Sterling: VA

Image available here

Donald Schön I


Schön set out the limitations of those teaching disciplines in universities that were in the business of creating and promulgating largely propositional knowledge [knowing that or textbook knowledge or knowing about] (…) he suggested that propositional knowledge, on its own, is of limited value for the emerging professional because it does not take into account the realities of professional life and practice (…) yet the emergent professional develops practice experience [knowing-in-action and knowledge-in-use] (…) He referred to this as professional artistry,where professionals deal with the unique, the unanticipated, the uncertain,the value conflicts and indeterminate conditions of everyday practice for which there was no ‘textbook’ response (…) He looked to those relatively unusual institutions where reflecting in and on professional practice was an intrinsic part of the professional’s training [reflection in action: immediate significance for action and a critical function, questioning the assumptional structure of knowing-in-action] (…) Schön found the teachers and students engaged in reflection on emergent practice that was to underpin their learning and therefore enhance their practice: they reflected on their practice and they were able to reflect in the actionone is to convey interaction between action, thinking and being. The second is to suggest an immediacy inherent in reflection and action (…) First, consciously engaging in reflective practice enables the teacher to learn from and therefore potentially enhance their practice and learning about their practice (…) Secondly, by engaging in reflective practice, I as teacher can uncover, unravel and articulate my practice with a view to learning from that reflection (…) Thirdly, making reflective practice accessible to student learners, enables the latter to become more conscious of their own approaches to their learning and thereby promote critically reflective learning



Brockbank, A., McGill, I., 1998. Facilitating Reflective Learning in Higher Education. Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press

Image available here