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Understanding the roles of tacit knowledge in the historical collaboration between AEC: a case study approach


Laurens Bulckaen

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June 21, 2023

This paper tries to introduce three kinds of tacit knowledge that, according to the authors, are present in the process of designing and constructing a building. By looking through the lens of the concept of tacit knowledge, collaboration between the architect, engineer and contractor, thus the building professionals is evaluated. By closely examining a limited number of key archival documents in three case studies that were already developed before, it becomes visible that tacit knowledge is an indispensable part of the intangible process of collaboration in building. Since creating buildings requires to assemble large amounts of knowledge from a wide variety of disciplines, also interdisciplinary knowledge is necessary, which is often tacit in nature. As the complexity in building grew, throughout history it also became visible that roles of the building actors started to shift and new roles emerged. Using the concept of tacit knowledge this research tries to bridge the gap of looking at the building process as a collaborative effort also showing that the building process is governed by much more than the factual explicit knowledge of only one actor.

This paper will be presented at the TACK Conference in the paper session ACTORS, 21 June 2023 between 09:30 – 12:00 (CEST) at ETH Zürich (Auditorium HPV G5).

Laurens Bulckaen is a Ph.D. researcher at the BATir department of the Ecole Polytechnique at the ULB in Brussels under the supervision of professor Rika Devos. He is currently preparing a dissertation with the title: A culture of collaboration: how architects, engineers and contractors interacted on complex projects in Belgium (1890-1970). This research is particularly interested in uncovering and understanding the guiding principles of the historical practices of collaboration in the Belgian building process.