Designing and Researching: Reflections on Bridging the Gap

John Hunt

Professor of Architecture.
School of Architecture and Planning. University of Auckland.
Auckland, New Zealand


The paper examines the central place of arguments and argumentation in both designing and researching, and explores the kinds of argumentation associated with design work that is also research. The notion of ‘inquiry’ provides an opening into an investigation of design as research, with the expectation of knowledge contributions as a defining condition of research based inquiry. Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial project is reviewed as an example of design research, specifically in regard to processes of argumentation, and as a point of reference for subsequent sections of the paper. The nature of design as reflective practice is then examined, with reflection interpreted as argumentation. The concept of abductive inference, as outlined by Walton, is advanced as a basis for such reflective practice. This form of argumentation is seen as part of the chain of reasoning that culminates in research conclusions capable of demonstrating knowledge contributions. On this basis it is suggested that the ability to reflect on action and to argue are essentials cognitive skills needed by students preparing to undertake design as research.