Context PhD School core curriculum (15 ECTS)

Context introduces first-year PhD Fellows to a range of themes central to advanced research in the history, theory and practice of architecture, design, urbanism, landscape and related fields. The first part of the course (semester 1) is concerned with areas of common ground across AHO's areas of research expertise, and presents a series of practical, conceptual, critical, methodological and epistemological lenses for thinking through the unique problematics and possibilities emerging within and between the candidates' individual research projects. The second part of the course (semester 2) takes the specific needs/constituency of the year group as its driver, exploring in depth particular areas of methodology, history, theory and practice in dialogue with the development of the PhD Fellows’ unfolding research projects.

A working concept of “methodological bricolage” serves as the course’s underlying critical-creative framework, tasking PhD Fellows with interrogating and reflecting upon issues of collecting, analyzing and communicating research, both within and beyond the disciplinary field(s) pertaining to each project. Variations and alternatives in approach are considered and tested, ranging from established scholarly traditions to emerging experimental and performative alternatives.

Throughout semesters 1 and 2 of the PhD Programme, the course is run as a 1.5-to-2 day seminar every two to three weeks. Following an introductory session to each theme, PhD Fellows work with a repeating series of directed reading and writing assignments, with individual responses being prepared for peer-oriented presentation, discussion and review during the next session, typically held two weeks later. Core skill sets in gathering, reading, reviewing, analyzing, synthesizing and authoring research materials are continuously exercised, with PhD Fellows progressively building up an individual “scrapbook of potentialities”, as well as a collective "augmented bibliography" of reference material.

Following the conclusion of the PhD School in year one of the PhD Programme, PhD Fellows complete two further assignments as part of their participation in the course: the presentation of a conference paper in the PhD Programme’s annual PhD Colloquium (year 2 / semester 3); and, the organization of an Expert Seminar engaging the Fellow’s work with that of an internationally-recognized voice in their field (year 2-3 / semester 4-6).

Fieldwork looks at relationships between existing understandings and practices of fieldwork in architecture, design, urbanism and landscape studies, and the colonial-ethnographic lineage and contemporary theorizations of fieldwork within cultural anthropology in particular. It is concerned with exploring how one disciplinary framework might challenge, activate or extend an awareness and understanding of the boundaries, taboos, prejudices, predilections and (unrealized/hidden) potential existing in another.
Interview focuses specifically on the characteristic type of knowledge that a choice of method, and the way it is enacted and applied, ultimately (re)produces. We will consider how data is both collected and (re)presented – in terms of technique and media, for example – through different interview paradigms, as well as the range of typologies and their socio-cultural connotations (from cross-examination to experimental auto-dialogue) that might be available to us as either scientific method or creative practice. Here, questions of voice and the ethics of collaborative practice (or its absence) are of central consideration.
Archive is interested in better understanding how collections of research material might be engaged with, whether in terms of acquiring and systematizing, or as in working with and through. The cultural currency and dominance of the archive as an institution within conceptualizations of modernity is treated and tested, as well as disciplinary understandings of authority and truthfulness with respect to the positioning and deployment of archival work in the construction of subject-specific claims to authenticity.                    
Experiment turns attention to the workings and potential of speculative enquiry, placing particular emphasis on the role and importance of the fictional in both generating and thinking through research. This pairing of seminars aims to specificallyisolate issues emerging out of contemporary understandings of and approaches to "practice-based research" / "research-by-design" methodologies, such as the crafting of prototypes and various associated options for the (re)presentation and integration of these within published academic work. Consideration is given to the international framework in which this type of work emerged and is carried out at present.

Image introduces concepts gleaned from contemporary art theory and visual/cultural studies to interrogate more closely the multiple functions that might be played by images in research projects. These sessions include group workshops in curating, exhibition design and caption writing, as ways of exploring the possible agency and socio-cultural behavior of a variety of image types ranging from photographs to maps and diagrams.