REF Architecure Design Folios | Experimental Practice

Kester Rattenbury

Architectural practice, pursued at high level, offers characteristics essential to research: originality, rigorous testing, new contributions to knowledge, peer review and real significance. Yet much of the knowledge generated remains tacit: embodied in building projects or ongoing investigations, shared using sophisticated, but rarely explained, professional and cultural skills and networks of information which themselves vary substantially because of the range of design work, and the vast range of knowledge contexts across which any given practice may operate.

Despite a culture which typically shares and disseminates its working processes and projects, it’s extremely rare for designers to have to set out their work in terms of research: of research questions, methodologies, findings, outputs and explicit contribution to knowledge. Yet these all exist and, periodically, the Research Excellence Framework asks us to complete this audit. Drawing on the Practice-based research methodologies developed at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the 2021 REF submission process set up a series of public and private forums, with critical discussion, writing and editing support to enable the highly diverse, rich and impressive work generated by our superlative design and teaching staff working across so many different fields to be set out publicly for the impressive contributions to knowledge they represent.