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Title: Practiceopolis : journeys in the architectural profession
Author: Megahed, Yasser
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 9623
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2017
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The architectural profession is multiple, rich, and diverse. This multiplicity can be characterised by diverse cultures of practice that differ in their particular understandings of the profession and their definitions of the role of the architect within the process of building procurement and production. Among these cultures, my thesis proposes that two cultures of practice are most prominent: what I call the instrumental culture and the critical culture. The instrumental culture is characterised by what I term the technical-rational mode of practice, which is the dominant mode in the contemporary profession. This mode of practice is often adopted in the production of buildings by or for multinational corporations, and largely shares their values. The discourse of the instrumental culture is so influential that it is frequently embraced by regulatory bodies in architecture and the building industry. The critical culture, on the other hand, while not dominant, maintains a prominent presence within the cultural sphere of the architectural profession. It covers a broad range of practices that generally embody ideas of qualitative, sensory, and social conceptions of architecture, and shares the frame of knowledge of cultural and critical theory. This research pursues a creative practice methodology, beginning by mapping the territories of different modes of practice in the contemporary global architectural profession. It traces the discourse of the dominant instrumental culture of practice and the nature of the dialogue between this culture and the critical culture of practice. The research investigates this dialogue and its influence on the configuration of the status quo of the architectural profession. It interrogates the imperatives of this domination on the particular values of the architectural profession and its future trajectory. To do so, the research proposes the proactive metaphor of Practiceopolis: the city of the architectural profession. Practiceopolis is an imaginary world where the architectural profession is conceived as a city-state in a confederation of states representing different actors forming the ‘country of the building industry’. By using this metaphor, the cultural capital of the architectural field is architecturalised through visible and tangible elements in a series of iterative narratives that help to investigate the dialogue between prominent cultures of practice. Practiceopolis draws from the philosopher Andrew Feenberg’s classification of varying stances towards technology and technical knowledge as key factors of how contemporary practices differ in their ideologies towards the profession (Feenberg, 2012). In addition, they comprise an intrinsic component distinguishing the values of the dominant instrumental culture of practice. The first part of the research builds-up the metaphor of Practiceopolis through four narratives. It concludes with the acknowledgment of a critical ideological division between the two prominent cultures of architectural practice I have identified. This first part of the research in turn prepares the foundation for second part: Stories from Practiceopolis. The second part is a set of quasi-realistic stories that take place in the imaginary city. These stories take the form of a graphic novel, which narrates situations experienced by the researcher: a self-confessed technical-rational practitioner through his experience of working in a research-led practice which pursues a critical approach. The stories revolve around the researcher’s role in the renovation of a Grade II listed building in the UK. The investigations of the research expand upon Donald Schön’s methods of ‘reflection on action’ and ‘reflection in action’ (Schön, 1985; 2017). 3 The research concludes by warning against subsuming distinctive values of the architectural profession under the instrumental values of other actors in the building industry. The research warns of the danger of the domination of one mode of practice and the strict attachment to technological processes, which could result in influential changes to the foundations of the architectural profession. The research ends with propositions regarding the particular values and the tacit knowledge of the architectural profession, and proposes a critical-instrumental mind-set to explore how these values could be defined, communicated, and marketed. This idea of critical-instrumentalism offers an alternative mode of conceptualising architectural practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Design Office
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available