Writerly Experimentation in Architecture: The Laboratory (not) as Metaphor


  • Willem de Bruijn Arts University Bournemouth (AUB)




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?

Author Biography

Willem de Bruijn, Arts University Bournemouth (AUB)

Willem de Bruijn is an artist and academic with an interest in the crossovers between architecture, philosophy and the visual arts. He obtained an MSc in architecture from Delft University of Technology and a PhD in history and theory of architecture from the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. He is currently senior lecturer in architecture at the Arts University Bournemouth (AUB), where he runs the Contextual Studies programme. He has published several articles relating to his doctoral thesis in journals such as The International Journal of the Book (2005, 2007), Library Trends (2012) and Footprint (2012). He has also been involved in various editorial roles for publications such as The Arcadian Library: Binding and Provenance (2014), Sigmund Freud’s Desk (Ro Spankie, 2015) and, most recently, Black Mirror: Magic in Art (2017), a book he also designed. Willem’s current research revolves around the role of the image in visualisations of history and theory.


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