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Orientations

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We are interested in activities of architectural, urban, or landscape design considered as a set of practices which contribute to the definition of projects. Focussing on the actors of design, we are taking into account their relationship with the whole set of those involved in projects, and notably those those projects are made for, as well as with the produced objects or settings.
The LET studies the organisation of activities, at an individual as well as collective scale, cooperation, competitions and negotiations which are present in project elaboration, implementation and reception. To stress on the architectural and urban work means to study its actual and thinking frames, the instruments of activity, knowledge and tools, mobilised abilities and action catalogues, as well as the networks and collective sets within which it exists.

Let us recall that we are interested in activities of architectural, urban, or landscape design considered as a set of practices which contribute to the definition of projects, without limiting ourselves to a priori distinctions as the one opposing “maîtrise d’oeuvre” to “maîtrise d’ouvrage”, for example. By focusing on the design actors, we take into account the relationships these actors have with the set of circles involved in the projects, notably their consignees, as well as with the produced objects or arrangements. To choose the notion of work means that we are interested in the organisation of activities, in the individual and collective scale, in its components and organisation, in interprofessional cooperations and concurrences, as well as in the negotiations which stand out work relationships when elaborating implementing and taking delivery of projects. To stress on the architectural and urban work means to study its actual and thinking frames, the instruments of activity, knowledge and tools, mobilised abilities and action catalogues, as well as the networks and collective sets within which it exists. It is also questioning the building up of these knowledge and abilities, their capitalisation and their circulation. The work of design is the one of actors inscribed in professional fields which are evolving according to the dynamics of the positioning and building up of professional identities which contribute to organise the relationships between the different project actors and between the various professional fields. But the work of design is more widely inscribed in the economic, social and political field which not only gives rise and receives designer works, but also contributes to shape their activity following conditions.

Notably, the evolution of contexts of design activities has been synthesized in two publications we took part to [1]. Let us consider here some tendencies which, we think, seem to durably impact the elaboration conditions of architectural and urban projects. The fragmentation of action contexts and of decision processes, and the increasing number of actors intervening in these projects has given rise to the development of functions of coordination and control of projects. Within these projects, attentions paid to “downstream” stages, i.e. delivery and use, are more and more referring to “upstream” stages and are giving rise new contributing abilities in project studies. Functions of assistance to “maîtrise d’ouvrage” have been developing and new professional figures are emerging which notably provide functions of project development and of mediation between partners or actors concerned by the project. Finally, the renewed interest borne to customers and users leads to associate in project design heterogeneous knowledge, i.e. professional and outsider knowledge, which are questioning and transforming design practices. While taking these evolutions into account, we are looking at new interactions which are appearing between designers, commissioners and users, as well as at new mediations supported by practices, speeches, and images through which architectural and urban activities and resulting works are socialised. The work of professionals is thus perceived within the dynamics of elaboration of projects and, beyond them, within the everyday work to have this acknowledged in the professional and social field [2]. Within this perspective, we consider the whole set of contributing actors and objects in a movement which simultaneously redefines their place and their social identity, according to a point of view which is close to some streams of sociology of sciences. The will to highlight social and cultural particularities of architectural and urban design activities lead us to implement a pragmatic or socio-semiological approach in order to explore symbolic aspects of the work of professional and the set of mediations which are inscribing their activity and their works in society.

Other conceptual and methodological fields are summoned to meet the requirements specific to each thematic axis’s which are the components of our scientific project. It was necessary to point out in this introduction that these supports and borrowings are inscribed in a whole perspective of conceptualisation of the architectural, urban and landscape design work.

Three thematic axis’s have been detained to structure our scientific project :
- Design, uses, experiences
- Images and architectural and urban representations
- Professional identities and polarities

We propose various fields of research : workspaces, urban projects, and dwelling. We must make particular mention of a field on which the LET is a resource centre : workspace. We are keeping on studying it and performing scientific watching in relationship with scientific cooperation networks we are involved in. Moreover, we would like to draw attention to the particular effort we will make during the coming years in order to publish, in a synthesized and up-to-date way, works which have been performed during these last years. Three books are actually projected, a first one on the history of workspaces (F. Lautier), a second one on contemporary workspace architecture (T. Evette), and a third one, with an operational ambition, on workspace design (M. Fenker). Valorisation will also be reinforced by the development of the LET website documentary function.

Notes

[1Bonnet M., dir., La conduite des projets architecturaux et urbains : tendance d’évolution, Paris, La documentation française, 2005 et Courdurier E., Tapie G. dirs., Les professions de la maîtrise d’œuvre en France, La documentation française, 2003.

[2Pousin F., dir., Figures de la ville et construction des savoirs, Paris, Cnrs éditions, 2005.