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I n t e r v i e w

Making a Case for Research

Authors of Evidence-Based Design explain the importance of measured results by Jesse Hager

In their recent book, Evidence-Based Design for Multiple Building Types, David Watkins, FAIA, and Kirk Hamilton, FAIA, offer case studies involving several built projects that illustrate the importance of empirical research for the benefit of architects and owners. Though often associated with healthcare design, the authors state that evidence-based design is a methodology that can be used in any sort of architectural practice. Watkins and Hamilton are two of the founding principals of WHR Architects in Houston. Their book was published last year by John Wiley & Sons.

Much of the discussion of the need for evidence-based design is phrased in language re-asserting the limited role of the architect. Is evidence-based design about the value of architecture and a reclaiming of lost territory and market share taken over by consultants focused on one aspect of building? [DW] I think it is directly tied to the architect’s relevance. [KH] If it is true that the architect’s role is eroding, then the use of data is certainly a way to reinforce the validity of the profession. Until architects stop expressing themselves in the realm of subjective judgment, until we can point with confidence to credible material with which to reinforce design decisions we will continue to see our roles diminishing. [DW] Unlike medicine, architecture is not a profession with a long history of research, yet both are directly concerned with the health and well-being of people. The amount of information that an architect is required to know is increasing exponentially. The decisions of architects need to be defensible and based on more than an opinion or that of a consultant.

How do you respond to criticisms that evidence-based design will increase specialization? [KH] A client wants to know that you have the expertise in their particular type of facility. It is a fantasy that firms are truly diverse: they may have a range of skills among their employees which permits this perception but a client will demand the team with the most experience in their type of project. [DW] Specialization is already a given. The qualifier is that every practice consists of a multitude of specialists. When a firm states that it specializes in a typology what they are saying is that they have


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Texas Architect May/June 2010: Health  

Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...

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