Re-enacting Tacit Knowledge: 20th Century Architecture Summer Schools
The two-week intensive summer school for early stage researchers (ESR) and external participants is organized by the early stage researcher working on the ‘Transmitting Tacit Knowledge‘ research project, Hamish Lonergan (ETH). This summer school will focus on the role that tacit knowledge plays in architectural education, and (particularly) on the ways in which it is transferred. The summer school hosted by the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam.
At the start of this two-week summer school, a customized reader will be made available, which provides key texts and drawings, as well as outlining the aim and tasks of the summer school.
6-17 September 2021
Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI), Rotterdam, NL
21 June 2021
During the twentieth century, some of the most interesting experiments in architectural education developed outside traditional institutions, within collaborative international summer schools. In 2021, ‘Re-enacting Tacit Knowledge’ will use these seminal summer schools to launch a pedagogical experiment of our own, drawing on the archival holdings and expertise of the Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI), Rotterdam. Exploring methods of performance and re-enactment—and their entanglement with queer and feminist theory—we will reflect on the role that tacit knowledge played in summer schools, and in architectural education more broadly.
International summer schools played an important role in bringing together students and teachers from different architectural schools, albeit predominantly Western ones. Examples such as the CIAM summer school (1949-1956) Sommerakademie Salzburg (1953—) and the International Laboratory of Architecture and Urbanism (ILA&UD, 1976—) represent rare sites of direct interaction and encounter, revealing the often-unconscious tacit knowledge at play in various educational systems. Precisely because of these encounters, summer schools developed a repertoire of formal (seminars, studios, walking tours) and informal (meals, conversations) pedagogical tools to bridge between ‘communities of tacit knowledge,’ promoting cooperation and mutual intelligibility.
‘Re-enacting Tacit Knowledge’ frames these summer schools as particularly fruitful sites to reveal the tacit knowledge of different ‘communities of tacit knowledge’: a moment where the tacit comes to the surface. They were often richly documented in annual publications, dedicated archives, and the archives of individual participants, including significant holdings at HNI related to CIAM and educators such as the Smithsons, Bakema and van Eyck. The ILA&UD Annual Reports, for instance, carefully delineated the contributions of participants, divided into accounts of the ‘permanent activities’ completed by each school in advance, the seminars delivered by distinguished practitioners, and the design tasks completed in groups, deliberately mixing and recombining participants from various schools. Yet, even in the best archives, there are inevitable gaps in our understanding. These explicit documents—texts, drawings, models, photographs, schedules, etc.—can tell us little of the social, embodied and often-unconscious workings of tacit knowledge, and the precise mechanisms of its transfer. Indeed, one of the paradoxes of tacit knowledge is that anything written or otherwise recorded is unlikely to be tacit at all.
Re-Enactment & Performance
‘Re-enacting Tacit Knowledge’ activates the archive through re-enactment and performance, allowing direct observation of tacit knowledge in operation. We will develop and follow a program of seminars, lectures, walking tours and site visits, simulating similar programs at prominent summer schools. We will conduct a close reading of explicit archival documents and materials, forming the basis for design projects and activities performed ‘in character’ as the various designers and schools of those historical summer schools themselves. At the same time, we are interested in unpacking the potential of these approaches in architectural education in other cases. Emerging from feminist and queer theory, re-enactment and performance help renegotiate traditional hierarchies, acknowledging the way that all identities and roles are ‘performed’ in pedagogy: from teachers to students, from the master architect to the first-year undergrad. Through queer and feminist theories, we will reflect on the power dynamics that remain substantially tacit in twentieth century summer schools, including issues of representation and authority.
‘Re-enacting Tacit Knowledge’ is part of the research network ‘TACK / Communities of Tacit Knowledge: Architecture and its Ways of Knowing’, funded through the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions within the European Framework Program Horizon 2020. TACK gathers ten major academic institutions, nine distinguished architecture design offices, and three leading cultural architectural institutions. Participants will collaborate with, and draw on the expertise of, the entire network, including the innovative archival program at HNI and similar re-enactments conducted at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and KTH Stockholm.
‘Re-enacting Tacit Knowledge’ is hosted by the Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI) in Rotterdam. It is deliberately framed as a non-hierarchical, collaborative and experimental environment. Across three phases, all of us—participants and organisers alike—will work together towards a group re-enactment and performance.
Phase 1 will lay the groundwork for the re-enactment. It will involve seminars lead by expert guests on theories of tacit knowledge, the history of summer schools, and methodologies of re-enactment performance, and fictocriticism. At the same time, participants will contribute to internal workshops and discussions, and conduct archival research in the HNI collection.
Phase 2 will focus on the re-enactment itself. Working in small groups (2-3), participants will follow a program of site visits, seminars and studio work, documenting their progress through video-diaries. This will culminate in a public presentation and performance of their projects, completed ‘in character’ as prominent architecture schools and designers from historical summer schools.
Phase 3 will involve a final day of focused collective reflection on the re-enactment and what it reveals about tacit knowledge.
These reflections, final projects, video diaries and archival findings will be assembled in an exhibition and/or publication.
Participants will be provided with dedicated working space at the HNI, with access to the HNI archival holdings. Site visits to nearby parts of the city will be accessible on foot or by public transport.
Fees & Accommodation:
There is no fee for participation. The summer school will provide complimentary lunch each day, and two communal dinners. Participants are responsible for their own travel, accommodation, and all other meals and expenses.
The summer school is planned as an in-person event, and will follow all official directives on hygiene and rules related to the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, the organisers reserve the right to adapt the program as circumstances change.
The summer school offers 10 ten places for external participants enrolled in masters or doctoral programs in the fields of architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, and related disciplines. External participants will collaborate with the 10 PhD candidates in the ‘Communities of Tacit Knowledge’ project (https://tacit-knowledge-architecture.com/doctoral-students/). All applicants should be legally entitled to stay in the Netherlands for the duration of the summer school. The summer school will be conducted in English. Use of personal laptops/tablets is expected.
To apply, please send the following documents by 21 June 2021 to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- A motivation letter (max. 500 words) outlining: your interest in the topics and methods of the summer school; relevant academic or professional experience; and contact information and affiliation.
- A sample of either design (max. 3 pages) or written work (max. 1500 words).
For more information, contact the organiser, Hamish Lonergan: email@example.com