Session 7: Research, Education and Practice

Date: April 1, 2016
Location: Herman Miller Showroom – 600 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Kate Renner, AIA, EDAC, LEAN-SIX, SIGMA CE, LEED AP BD+C | HKS Inc. & Anna Barbour, AIA, LEED AP BD+C | Shalom Baranes Associates

Session 7 PDF


The integration of research in both education and practice formed the framework for Session #7 – “Research, Education and Practice”. The session was organized by Anna Barbour and Kate Renner, in the Herman Miller Showroom. The day started with Douglas Palladino, Thea Scott-Fundling and Patricia Andrasik presenting three distinct research methodologies that they’ve integrated into their pedagogies in their respective academic environments. Each speaker provided examples of the impact research methodology has had on the education of future practitioners.

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Mr. Palladino explored where design begins by posing two questions: “How do we make decisions?” and “Where do ideas come from?”  He covered the scope of decision making with categories of origin: “Intuition and rationale decision”. The process of making an idea less bad involves taking the idea or design through research to make it better. He reminded the scholars that design is the blending of science and art. Thea Scott-Fundling led a presentation that emphasized research as a process of discovery. Through 15 years of understanding applied research as an Interior design professor at Marymount University, she presented her work with students as part of their Design-a-thon. This program emphasized the importance of students understanding the empathy of clients; communication and discussion as well as being a representative for social justice. Through her applied research in interior design, the scholars were given an example of data gathering metrics categories for effects of human behavior, evidence based design and research methods that span case studies, literature reviews and behavioral mapping (observations on site). The scholars where left with the emphasis that clients want a better place to live and work. Patricia Andrasik focused her presentation on the use of analytics to inform changes in design.  Her building performance analytics require passive optimization tools, typical meteorological year(TMY) files, and conceptual energy analysis to set up a framework which generates data for strategic design decisions. Her students benefit greatly from the experience gained through the use of up to date data resource tools – which help them gain an employment edge and help elevate the profession as their use continues to increase in practice.

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Next, Gretchen Gscheidle and Dr. Upali Nanda presented specific research methodologies that can be applied in practice. Gretchen Gscheidle presented Herman Miller’s approach to research as an insight and exploration to connecting the dots in a journey map. Herman Miller merges outside partnership and resources to create a digital ethnography as a research tool to inform the slightest design changes in a product. Dr. Upali Nanda emphasized how Research and Development models in firms are still in their infancy, but increasingly in need in large firms.  Dr. Nanda urged that there is a need for a more consistent vocabulary and lexicon as a foundation to begin standardization and integration of R& D models for architecture practice. She presented three types of research: Project Base – Research for a resolution, Deep Dive – Research for knowledge, and Database – Research for institutional knowledge. The scholars were given an opportunity to consider research as an evidence leading design process that starts with a visioning goal (why build), innovation (what to build), application (how to build), execution (build), and reflection (occupancy and assessment). Both presenters then led the scholars in a lab exercise challenging the group to be specific on creating a research approach that sets up a system of inquiry that leads to concise data collection. The presentation ended with an informative tour of the Herman Miller Showroom.

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Lastly, Bruce Leonard and Deanna Siller shared with scholars their application of research based expertise in their business practice. Both speakers gave examples of specific research strategies used in their practice to make and assess design decisions. As a principal of Streetsense, Bruce leads real estate business solutions for retailers where place matters and data gathered from assessments are the key to better decision making. Deanna, partner at Gensler, offered an alternative perspective as an “integrator” between research and design/delivery. The scholars were informed of the importance of understanding global trends, best practices and benchmarking, brand awareness and brand indifference as well as consumer insights that inform the shifts in desire and trickles down to shifts in design solutions.

The message imparted to the scholars after all of the presentations, in simple terms was this…

Research has always played a vital role in our profession – as architects, we need to continue to challenge ourselves to integrate research in our daily design decisions.

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