Collective Impressions

A paper delivered by Roberta Marcaccio on DSDHA's Grounded Research methodology at the Inter=Photography and Architecture International Conference in Pamplona, Spain.
When architects give lectures about their work they tend to show a series of photographs of their completed buildings: striking images (often devoid of human presence) taken by third-party professional photographers, suggesting a totally unproblematic relationship between design practice, physical artefacts and their photographic representations. But this is clearly not the case. 

Arguably indeed architects do not make buildings; they rather craft the instructions and oversee the processes that eventually lead to their completion. Processes over which they have no monopoly – as they can take place even without their mediation and always involve many other ‘actors’. What is it then that makes the photographs of those buildings so central to architectural discourse? 

This paper will first unpack the complex nature of the relationship between architecture, buildings and photography, to then introduce the way in which DSDHA, as research-oriented architects, experiment with the photographic medium; treating it as a design tool rather than simply fixing on glossy images the final outcomes of our endeavours. 

The focus will be on DSDHA’s techniques of ‘grounded research’, which use photography as their starting point to investigate our sites and identify the latent concerns, aspirations and trends of the many individuals which inhabit them – all aspects that often remain hidden to the generic gaze of statistics and evade the canonical artifact-focused photographic representations of architecture. 

The images we manufacture by means of these techniques are our starting point to map what we call ‘personal landscapes’, and understand how individual narratives relate to the urban morphology as well as to the history of a place. It is from this vantage point that we then proceed to speculate on future scenarios.

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