• Thursday , 19 July 2018

Model as Medium and Method


Venue: Cork Centre for Architectural Education, 9-10 Copley Street

Dates: 3-4 November 2016

The ARENA DR_SoM group invites architects and architectural design researchers to share their experiences with peers. This will not be done in a theoretical way, but based instead on the presentation of own current design and research work. A Scientific Committee will select 10-15 proposals for presentation at the event.

The fifth session of DR_SoM (Design Research Series on Method) will take place at the Cork Centre for Architectural Education, Ireland. It will focus on when, how, and why design research can methodologically rely on spatial models, both physical and virtual. More particularly, the seminar will investigate coherence between the insights which are provided by the model or by model-making, and the research question at stake. Why is making a model the most appropriate way to answer the research question? The DR_SoM session looks at the revealing and constituting power of models, and aims to inspire the participants in the capacity of models and model making as particular ways of gaining and sharing insights.

We are looking for presentations of projects and practices that frame models and model-making in a rigorous way, in terms of aims, methodologies, and forms of critical reflection that might even acknowledge and celebrate the importance of meandering and failure. Participants who want to ask questions about which way to go, are welcome. Presentations are invited from architectural researchers who are undertaking design research in practice and academia, and from those who are studying the processes and methodologies of design research.


This meeting is focussed on an artefact and a process which is familiar to all architects. However, the function of the architectural model is not always made explicit. The meeting therefore is intended to re-examine the role of modelling, and in particular, its relevance in carrying out design research. This may be a preliminary process leading to a design product, or it may be a more abstract process carried out for the purpose of generating knowledge.

Design process models are not necessarily concerned with the production of an iconic representation with the primary purpose of mimicry of the appearance of a proposed new building. The abstraction that is adopted in such models is often a key to their functionality as a research tool. Abstraction is a process of isolating or emphasising that which is considered most relevant to a question the designer wishes to answer. At the early stages of design, sketches also fulfil this function, and might be considered as graphic models which have the great advantages of economy and ease of production, manipulation and modification. Models can clarify the research position, but also extend it; they can produce, disrupt, or provoke; they can be inquisitor and witness.

Both spatial models and sketches may also be used as search tools, with the purpose of identifying which questions need to be answered in a particular project. The identification of Research Questions is one of the most important differentiators in achieving external recognition of the ‘research’ nature of architectural enquiries. We need to be aware that there are still fundamental differences in approaches to identifying ‘Research Questions’. These range from ignoring the need to identify the Question, in favour of open-ended explorations of identified topics of interest, to an insistence on the refinement of a Research Question until it fits with a specific methodology for providing an unambiguous answer. Most recognised design research proposals fall between these two extremes and identify a question that at least appears to be ‘answerable’.


In this meeting we are ready to go beyond the collection and categorisation of lots of examples of the different ‘media’ in use. We wish to discuss the relationship between the Research Question and the Medium. What and how is the model actually mediating? In particular, we would like to hear presentations about the epistemology behind the selection of a specific medium, and its coherence with the question which is to be answered or the issue which is to be explored.

Proposals, registration, publication

The DR_SoM seminar at Cork will take place on Thursday 03 and Friday 04 November 2016. There will be no parallel sessions. There is no registration fee; however, the number of participants will be limited to 30, of whom a maximum of 15 researchers can present their research. For each presentation, a timeslot of about 40 minutes provides plenty of time for presentation and discussion. Discussions will be held as a round-table debate.

Candidates who wish to present their research send an abstract of no more than 250 words, (and any additional graphic material, if required) in pdf to johan.dewalsche@uantwerpen.be before Monday 3 October 2016. Selections will be made by the scientific committee, and communicated on Friday 7 October. As far as the number of participants allow, researchers and practitioners can join the session and contribute to the debate without presenting; please contact johan.dewalsche@uantwerpen.be.

Full papers are not required as we recognize work in progress. On the contrary, participants are invited to write an illustrated paper afterwards. The accepted papers will be published as an ARENA open-access on-line publication, with a print-on-demand option, as part of the DR_SoM series (with ISBN and ISSN number) by BK Books Delft. For the first issue of this series, take a look at: arena-architecture.eu/publications/dr_som-01-prototypes-and-paradigms/

For any questions related to content of this, the fifth DR_SoM session in Cork, please contact Kevin McCartney at k.mccartney@ucc.ie. For any questions related to practicalities and organisation please contact Gerry McCarthy gerrymccarthy@ucc.ie. For any questions on the project of DR_SoM in general, contact Johan De Walsche at johan.dewalsche@uantwerpen.be.

3 October 2016 Abstract submissions

7 October 2016: Notification of Acceptance

Provisional programme

3 November 2016

ca. 13.30 Session 1

ca. 19.30 Dinner (to be paid by participants)


4 November 2016

ca. 9.00 Session 2

ca. 13.00 Lunch (provided by CCAE)


The Cork Centre for Architectural Education will provide coffee, tea and snacks at mid-afternoon, and the mid-morning breaks.

For more information see DR_SoM Group see here: arena-architecture.eu/

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