Three Theoretical Assumptions Needed to Create Useful Applied Social Science Research for Architecture

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Published in: The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 4, number 10, 2009. pp.192-201.


Social science research has had minimal impact on architectural practice despite efforts since the 1960’s by organizations such as EDR(Environmental Design Research Association) and IAPS (International Association of People-environment Studies) and others. This paper questions three fundamental assumptions of environmental design research that may account for the underwhelming application of this research in architecture: 1) Social science methods are suitable for evaluation of buildings. To the contrary, social science methods may not be suitable for the more global, actionoriented evaluation of buildings. More accurately and more modestly, social science methods can assess specific users’ experiences of specific qualities or features of buildings. 2) Hypothesis science is the ideal for environmental design research. To the contrary, hypothesis science in environmental design research is not as productive as discovery science. 3) Architectural methods of documentation are not relevant to social science investigations of the built environment. To the contrary, accessing social information in the physical environment requires detailed documentation and evaluation of the built environment using architectural methods, similar to archeology.