The Estonian Academy of Arts (EAA) Faculty of Architecture’s research and development strategy
The EAA Faculty of Architecture is Estonia’s most important architecture educational centre and centre of excellence in the field of architecture, encompassing also interior architecture, urban planning, furniture design, landscape architecture and urban studies. The core of the education provided is made up of the architecture and urban planning speciality and the interior architecture and furniture design speciality. The former encompasses modern architecture education in the best sense of the word, with equal attention devoted to specific buildings and the space between them, as well as the broader context in which they are located.
Landscape architecture is a specific field of study within the architecture and urban design speciality. The second speciality – interior architecture and furniture design –deals with human-scale design in the planning and production of furniture and interiors. Architecture and interior architecture are essentially very closely related specialities, with significant overlap and joint projects both in the academia and later practical work in the speciality. A key value for the EAA Faculty of Architecture is the historical ties and continuity between specialities devoted to space and materials, extending from the scale of design to the dimension of urban construction, public space and landscape architecture. In 2004, an international Urban Studies curriculum opened, which unlike the specialities described above is not practice-based but rather deals with text-based research. It examines the functioning of the modern city from the perspective of its different users, interest groups, the people and planners guiding decision-making processes, and develops applied strategies for solutions.
1. Mission of the EAA Faculty of Architecture
1.1. The mission of the EAA Faculty of Architecture is to continue to be a centre for teaching and research in the field of architecture, interior architecture, city planning, furniture design, landscape architecture and urban studies in Estonia, responsible for the organization and quality of integrated education, continuing education, and research and development in the field of spatial culture pertaining to the entire living environment. The quality of the material culture, including product development and the manmade environment, is directly tied to the quality of teaching and R&D in the faculty.
1.2. The EAA Faculty of Architecture creates the possibility for architectural, technological and economic innovation at the highest education level, being aware of its role of intermediating technological and material sciences achievements and synthesizing them into a living environment that is comprehensible for people, well-functioning and sustainable.
1.3. The graduates of the Faculty have a double responsibility: through sustainable design, planning and construction, they must improve the living environment, and also preserve and develop professional legacy and know-how.
2. Long-term goals of R&D in the Faculty
In order to develop, the architecture field requires specific works of research into the history of the field itself, in theory as well as in practice. In-depth research is necessary for making educational progress in the field as well as for the development of individual specialities pursuant to the changes in the society’s technological and cultural capability, cooperation with other fields and a broader debate with society. High-level education in the field of architecture encompassing technology, economics and design innovation promotes the competitiveness of all of society and the country.
2.1. The Faculty of Architecture proceeds in its activity from the principle that the material part of the field and cultural experience should be preserved and continuity ensured, as well as the principle of promoting architecture and urban culture and developing future scenarios and carrying out experimentation in the field. Architecture as an experience and vision undergoes constant renewal and, as such, offers Estonian society and the economy possibilities for self-reflexion and innovative processes.
2.2. Research activity in the Faculty of Architecture falls into two important fields. The first of these deals with the history, theory and philosophy of architecture, interior architecture, city planning, furniture design, landscape architecture, and rests above all on the methods of history and philosophy of architecture. The second one deals with practical research in the aforementioned specialities, viewed from within the speciality using native techniques, not from the outside as in the case of history and theory of architecture. The practice-based field is in turn divided into two fields of study:
2.2.1. Practice-based research – which holds that new knowledge and an original approach to the research problem take shape in the (architecture) office and requires an already functioning (innovative and ambitious) practice in order to carry out the research. This is aimed at already-experienced practitioners who wish to develop and shape the landscape of experimentation taking place in practice, new frames of reference and solutions and to mould them into academic research.
2.2.2. Research by design – where the research takes place as a part of a specific creative process and the result of which is the creative work’s product itself as well as the process of attaining it, and novel approach and solutions to the research problem. This is aimed at younger researchers who have recently received a master’s degree, and it often requires availability of contemporary software and hardware.
2.3. The Faculty of Architecture sets the goal of establishing favourable conditions for technology-based applied research and applied outputs of research findings based on integrating information technology with the spatial environment and the sustainability of that environment. This includes modern production technologies, information interfaces and sensor devices as well as geodesign on the urban and regional scale. For this purpose, an integral development module must be organized in the faculty, which can periodically be supplemented with researchers and scholars for project-based activities and which has a clearly defined programme and necessary economic underpinning. This field of study is supported by the activity of 3D Lab, on the basis of which it is planned in the longer term to develop an institute of experimental architecture.
2.4. The curricula in the Faculty of Architecture are internationally competitive and in conformity with society’s changing needs. Those who complete the curriculum are well trained specialists in their field and competitive in the ever-changing job market.
3. Short-term R&D activity areas as a means for achieving long-term objectives
3.1. Developing internationally competitive doctoral studies helps to significantly activate research activity in this field. Doctoral studies feed a new crop of research staff and contribute to the sustainability of the Faculty. The new architecture and urban design doctoral curriculum focuses on research within speciality practice including both practice-based research and a research by design.
3.2. The practice-based research areas in the Faculty of Architecture are:
a) automating the design process, focusing on experimental development of new generative modelling methods with the goal of creating prototype solutions based on environmental conditions for the parametric model of the building being optimized and a simulation of self-organizing spatial communities and spontaneous settlements;
b) innovation processes in the practice of architecture offices in spatial, technology, material and budget-based solutions and possibilities for synthesizing them for a sustainable and innovative living environment. The key research areas for the Faculty of Architecture in the history and theory of architecture are an exploration of the historical origins and development of the settlement structures in Estonian towns and cities, and cognitive and conceptual structures of architecture.
3.3. The Faculty’s 3D Lab will be developed into a broad-based research centre. The lab director, researchers, head of research, R&D coordinator and research groups participate in the activity of the 3D Lab. The periodic research groups are assembled based on research subjects and projects. 3D Lab can be used for creating and experimenting with software and hardware prototypes and developing, on their basis, practically usable products.
3.4. The Faculty senses the necessity of increasing the share of R&D in its activity, and also strongly integrates R&D with teaching work through research projects with practical value.
3.5. The Faculty takes active part in international cooperation activities – student workshops, research projects, involvement of external supervisors and critics, open guest lectures and projects carried out in collaboration with international professional associations and partner schools.
3.6. The Faculty engages in cooperation with Estonian institutions of higher education and research institutions to supplement the existing aspects and create a new integrated knowledge base in teaching and research in architecture, technology, materials science and design.
3.7. Practice-based research is promoted among the professors and core teaching staff of the Faculty. With the assistance of the EAA Research & Development Department, the public and government education and research organizations are provided with consultation on the form and objectives of practice-based research work.
3.8. The brands created in the Faculty are introduced to the public at fairs and exhibitions and through direct marketing. The best student works are grouped under the departments’ brands, teaching students to think more about the substance of their work, and giving knowledge about marketing, imagology and various business models.
3.9. The Faculty is developing a special marketing education lecture series aimed specially at architecture and interior architecture students, to increase the competitiveness of graduates of both fields on the international labour market, impart knowledge and skills about the prevailing market situation and to understand the functioning of an (interior) architecture office as a private firm.
3.10. The Faculty engages in cooperation with professional associations, employers and other professional bodies in the framework of teaching and R&D. The requirements of occupational standards are followed in developing curricula.
3.11. Faculty-organized open lectures, conferences, seminars, public presentations of works, exhibitions and publications serve as the public-oriented format of R&D. A large part of these activities are international and conducted in English.