Prof. H Martin Edge






Edge, M, Craig, T, & Conniff, A (2004).

Mapping Research on the Social Value of Architecture

In Evaluation in Progress - Strategies for Environmental Research and Implementation (Eds. Martens, B. Keul, A.G.), IAPS, Vienna (ISSN/ISBN: 3-85437-263-9). (url)


The authors were commissioned by the Scottish Executive to carry out a mapping survey of ‘non-technical’ research related to the social value and benefits of good architectural design. In this context the Client’s use of the term ‘non-technical’ implies the exclusion of research based in the physical sciences and engineering. Although the study was primarily concerned with research in Scotland, it also involved limited comparative study of research in the rest of the UK and elsewhere in Europe. The Scottish Executive, the newly devolved seat of central government in Scotland, has recently introduced a ‘Policy for Architecture’. This is the first time that anywhere in the UK has had such a policy and the Mapping Survey is their first attempt to investigate how well the relevant research is, or could be, supporting the delivery of that policy. They were also interested in making the connection between the Policy for Architecture and policies on sustainability, which are of increasingly central importance in Scotland. Within central government architecture resides in a portfolio which includes ‘culture and sport’. Significantly it is separated from the departments responsible for planning and for the technical standards governing building. Both the policies on architecture and sustainability in Scotland have very strong social dimensions and their measures of success tend to stress socio-economic criteria more than physical resources and ecological considerations. For the purposes of the project the authors sought to define the terms of reference of relevant research as that which: Is primarily focused on aspects of quality in the built environment; Seeks to investigate the relationship between people and the process or product of architectural design; Uses measurable criteria to evaluate architecture and built environments. As such there is a close match between the terms of reference of this project and research by IAPS members which is concerned with architecture. The main product of the first, funded phase of this exercise has been the creation of a prototype, searchable database giving details of relevant projects. Currently the database, which is intended as an ongoing, developing resource to be used by researchers and others, contains details of 141 research projects. The format is such that any researchers can enter the details of their projects remotely. Data was gathered by targeted email questionnaire, web searches and interviews with selected key individuals. At this stage the database is by no means exhaustive, but will form the first research information on a new National portal for information on architecture at The nature of the study is such that statistical inferences cannot be drawn from the data, but a number of findings which will be presented in the paper pose interesting questions about schools of architecture as centres of research, the relationship between social scientists and architecture and how people perceive the relevance of their research to the social value and benefits of good architectural design. Whilst there is a large amount of interest in the idea of research on the social value and benefits of good design and a lot of social science research which touches on the built environment, there is a relative dearth of research tackling such issues directly. The research community in this area in the UK is small and scattered and must compete for funds with larger centres focusing on process rather than product. That is on the construction industry and on the physical sciences. Relatively little socially oriented research is carried out in departments of architecture. In well funded university departments representing built environment professions, most social science research is concerned with aspects of the procurement process rather than with design and the end user. Public participation and research on participation are neither popular in mainstream architecture nor particularly encouraged by institutional systems in the UK compared to some other European countries. However new policies on architecture and sustainability mean that the construction industry and designers are increasingly being encouraged by Government and others to concentrate on the realisation of objective, process-driven assessment criteria. Such criteria extend to defining design quality in terms of social objectives. There is therefore a great opportunity for the people-environment studies research community to take a more central role in helping to realise and measure the success of built environments in relation to that policy. Achieving this will involve enhanced communication between the design and research communities and Government. The prototype on-line database produced by this research project is a first step in this direction in Scotland.


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