Writerly Experimentation in Architecture: The Laboratory (not) as Metaphor
Within the last two decades, the use of the term laboratory or ‘lab’, as it is often abbreviated to, has become widespread in both the profession and in education. ‘Spacelab’, ‘Arch LAB’, ‘Laboratory of Architecture’ – these are but some of the names given to architectural practices today. Also, no self-respecting academic institution today lacks a ‘research laboratory’ or ‘lab’ of some kind, often set up in parallel to the conventional studio, but sometimes also as a substitute for it. In a more recent development, the laboratory has also been adopted as a place for exploring architectural themes through writing, as exemplified by the ‘Writing Labs’ set up at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. This development that has seen the laboratory become the very paradigm of conceptualizations of practice and research in architecture revolves, I argue, around a renewed interest in the notion of experiment and the spaces of experimentation. The question I want to raise in this article concerns the role of the laboratory as a metaphor in constructing spaces for writerly experimentation. For, outside the domain of science, how can a laboratory be understood as anything other than a (mere) metaphor?
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