TACK Talks #3

3rd Series: Communities of Tacit Knowledge: Architecture and its Ways of Knowing – Lecture series at the Institut für Kunst und Architektur, Akademie der Bildenden Kunst Wien

After the two previous series, asking architectural practitioners “How do we know?” and cultural institutions “How to? A guide through knowing”, the Communities of Tacit Knowledge network is pleased to announce the third round of the TACK Talks. This year, the talks will be hosted by the Institut für Kunst und Architektur (IKA) at the Akademie der Bildenden Kunst Wien (ABKW) and organised as a series of discussions between two or three academic partners of the research project who will offer their understanding and vision of the tacit dimensions of architectural knowledge.

The title and theme of the research project, and consequently of the lecture series, derived from the idea of “tacit knowledge”, which was introduced by Michael Polanyi and Gilbert Ryle starting in the 1950s. They addressed the fact that there is a whole range of forms of knowledge that we learn and apply implicitly, mainly through immediate physical implementation, without being able to explain them precisely. For Polanyi, this meant that, “we know more than we can say”. (Riding a bicycle is often cited as an example of “knowing how” rather than “knowing that”.) Architecture, and especially the architectural design process, fits well into this thesis. For although many architects make great efforts to explain and (post-) rationalise their design approaches, the actual process remains unknown, even when working in a team. The physical activity of sketching, drawing, building working models, etc. is individual and collective at the same time, since in addition to the subjective choice of forms and structures, there is also recourse to the familiar, because it is easy to communicate: processes, images and jargon, which in turn also promote habitual prejudices.

It would be easy to say that this implicit knowledge need not become explicit. This attitude has in fact intensified, especially as part of modernist criticism from the 1970s onwards: architecture should be autonomous again, should be art, and should do without rational explanatory patterns. But there are some points that, conversely, should make interest in tacit knowledge grow. First of all, of course, there is the increased use of digitalisation tools in the design process, which promotes rationalisation. If the only physical activity in designing is clicking a mouse, can something like tacit knowledge emerge? And wouldn’t we need it? By whom and how is architecture then explained? This leads to the second point. In times of crisis, construction should critically engage with the public. Enigmatic explanations of beautifully drawn architectural visions are no help. Conversely, an artistic process does not have to be described prosaically. Instead, awareness of and sensitivity to other kinds of knowledge should be communicated in order to be able to promote precisely the creative power of unconventional projects. And furthermore, research into “tacit knowledge” in architecture would at the same time be a contribution to “artistic research” in architecture, a field that is yet obscure and needs to be explored in greater detail, which task the ten doctoral students involved in the research project are taking on in particular. 


2 – “Narratives of Tacit Knowledge”

Monday 6th December 2021, 7pm CET

This TACK talk will bring to the fore a few, specific, place-related narratives of tacit knowledge in architecture. These narratives will focus particularly on how tacit knowledge manifests itself in architectural pedagogy. Through case-study examples from around the globe, Klaske Havik and Janina Gosseye will highlight how in different places and at different points in time, different (often unspoken, but nonetheless intelligible) ideas have emerged regarding what architecture is, and how it is to be practiced and taught.

Prof. Dr. Klaske Havik, TU Delft

Klaske Havik will open the session with an introduction to the notion of narrative, explaining how literary and spoken language may offer information about site-specific social spatial practices. Indeed, it is often through stories that knowledge about particular ways of doing can be shared. Taking this notion to the field of architecture, and specifically that of architectural education, she will show how in some architectural schools -particularly those of Valparaiso and Porto, narrative approaches to architectural education have been developed.

Prof. Dr. Janina Gosseye, TU Delft

Janina Gosseye’s lecture will focus on the formation and operation of communities of tacit knowledge in architecture. Narrating the events that were staged by architecture students in Brisbane (Australia) between 1967 and 1972 – which confronted ‘the establishment’ and, in doing so, conceived of an architecture with new social and cultural values – Gosseye’s talk will demonstrate how communities of tacit knowledge are shaped by codes and conventions, as well as reactions against existing codes and conventions; against prevailing modes of architectural design and practice.

Due to the Covid-19-regulations the event will be hold exclusively digital.

Watch this talk live on our YouTube channel.


1 – “Architecture and its Tacit Dimensions”

Monday 11th October 2021, 7pm CEST

Prof. Dr. Lara Schrijver, University Antwerp

Much of architecture’s knowledge resides beneath the surface, in non-verbal instruments such as drawings and models that articulate the spatial imagination of the design process. Tacit knowledge, described by Michael Polanyi as what we “can know but cannot tell”, today often denotes knowledge that escapes quantifiable dimensions of research. Through a number of historical examples, this talk shows how architecture’s tacit knowledge can help to understand the many dimensions of the spaces we inhabit, from the ideas of the architect to the more hidden assumptions of our cultures.

Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete, ETH Zurich

In the field of architecture several ‘epistemes’ are constantly at work, but often without being explicitly discussed or critically scrutinized. These tacit forms of knowledge not only inform but also determine the way that architects observe their environment and the way they intervene in it. This talk will address the presence of this ‘black box’ of epistemes within architectural culture and illustrate how it informs a new domain of architectural research.

Watch this talk on our YouTube channel


January 2022

(The date will be confirmed closer to the event)

Prof. Dr. Tim Anstey, Oslo School of Architecture

Prof. Dr. Helena Mattsson, KTH Stockholm

Prof. Dr. Jennifer Mack, KTH Stockholm


March 2022

(The date will be confirmed closer to the event)

Prof. Dr. Christoph Grafe, Bergische Universität Wuppertal

Prof. Dr. Peg Rawes, Bartlett, UC London


May 2022

(The date will be confirmed closer to the event)

Prof. Dr. Margitta Buchert, Leibniz Universität Hannover

Prof. Dr. Gennaro Postiglione, Politecnico Milano

Prof. Dr. Gaia Caramellino, Politecnico Milano


The lectures will be accessible via our Youtube-Channel.