Thursday, April 10, 2014

Place for Research by David Alison, International Science and Technology, September 1962

This article was published in 1962, during the age of faith on ‘endless frontier’ with development of science and technology. Main point of this article is to spotlight the increasing importance and emphasis on architectural structure of research laboratory. By pointing out architectural fashion and style of the age, this article reveals that the role of architects was increasing though it did not always meet scientists' needs who worked inside of the building. Overall, this document could be regarded as a primary source which illustrates the increasing concern on how to design the research place to facilitate the research activity at the age of one of the golden age of American science research. 
           According to author, growing interest on architectural design of research place is due to the amplification of support compare to pre-war age. Thus, science laboratory was becoming a symbol of “temple of our century” which promises the development and economic pay-off. For instance, modern art picture had to be on the wall, and air conditioning system should be installed to enhance the productivity of research work even in the room without window. To fit into rapidly changing research structure, walls of building had to be removable, so that scientists could literally reassemble their research spaces.
           However, obsessive emphasis on functional design of laboratory space did not always work for scientists. For author, modern laboratory was losing the humanity component which old style laboratory such as Cavendish laboratory had acquired. One scientist in IBM laboratory confessed that “it taken me one year to learn to live in this building.”
           Then, what was the road to take? Author claimed that architects' focus should be beyond the designing of efficient space. For instance, how to organize the research place in ‘human scale’ in big science to maximize the intimate collaboration and creativity? Thus, “the best kind of architect for a research facility is one who understands the creative process.”

1) What were the factors behind the boom of research space design during the 1960s? Research fund boom was probably merely one of factors. For instance, rise of modernism in architecture which does not hide the function of the space could be one factor.
2) Was the architectural design of research laboratory fundamentally new phenomena during the 1960s? I can immediately recall research by Owen Hanaway on the case of Tycho Brache’s Uraniborg design. Space design of research institute has always been one of important concerns when scientists build the research place.
3) On the other hand, is the design of space exclusively important in research laboratory? Design of workshop, factory, and even the business office has been a concern of historians and sociologists in terms of how design of such places represents not only the function of the place, but also the meaning of the place in broader social context.
4) Directly linked to the third question – what are the relationships between function and symbol? In other words, design of research space has both functionalistic and symbolic purposes. Are they two independent factors? Or, are they two sides of coin?

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