Experiential Knowledge









Capturing architects’ designerly ways of knowing about users: Exploring an ethnographic research approach  

Valerie Van der Linden, Hua Dong, Ann Heylighen

University of Leuven, Tongji University, University of Leuven


Keywords: architectural design; ethnography; knowledge; research methodology


Transferring knowledge about diverse users’ experiences from research into architectural design practice is not straightforward. Effective knowledge transfer requires taking into account architects’ design practice. This paper explores a research approach to gain insight into architects’ designerly ways of knowing about users. It discusses why an ethnographic research approach offers a means to study a culture of practice such as architectural design practice. A fieldwork account from a pilot study in an architecture firm provides insight into the experiential issues architects deal with. It illustrates how fieldwork techniques can be applied to map the socio-material aspects (e.g., different stakeholders and design materials) that mediate knowledge about users. Exploiting these aspects of architectural design practice is expected to open new ways of thinking about informing architects about users’ experiences. For instance, there lies an opportunity in engaging architects’ creative representational skills, which challenges architects’ and researchers’ roles in knowledge transfer. 

This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Cite this paper: Van der Linden, V., Dong,H., Heylighen, A. (2016). Capturing architects’ designerly ways of knowing about users: Exploring an ethnographic research approach. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

This paper will be presented at DRS2016, find it in the conference programme

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