RCAT - Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics

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The Changing Shape of Practice [CSoP] project was initiated in 2010 by Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel and Prof. Dr. Fredrik Nilsson. The objective is to establish a research framework that analyses the growing element of research in architectural practice, to define objectives, modes and modalities of practice-based and practice-oriented research, as well as developing new collaborative research platforms with practice.

Architectural practices worldwide have to deal with increasingly complex design requirements the following questions arise: How do practices acquire the ability to adress increasingly complex design problems? Which knowledge fields are needed and produced in different types of practices? How are results, new knowledge and competences documented, shared and disseminated internally and externally? Is research itself now used as a strategic tool by architectural offices? How do research and practice in architecture mutually shape one another? What kind of impact does the above have on collaboration models and business plans?

In 2011 Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel implemented the CSoP project in the context of the research project Architectural Inquiry Decoded [AID] at the Research Centre for Architecture and Tectonics at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. In collaboration with Prof. Dr. Fredrik Nilsson the project commenced in the format of a book and symposia series, scientific papers and a series of spin-off activities, which have in the meantime attracted a wide roster of collaborating partners including university, practice, and cultural and professional organizations.

Since 2016 the core CSoP research team consists of Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel [Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway], Prof. Dr. Fredrik Nilsson [Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden], and Prof. Walter Unterrainer [Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark].


The book series takes a global outlook and maps the way in which practices of different sizes and in different contexts engage research in their activities and build their businesses around these activities. Volume 1 was published in 2016 and volume 2 will be launched in 2018.


CSoP Vol. 1

Hensel, M. and Nilsson, F. eds. (2016). The Changing Shape of Practice - Integrating Research and Design in Architecture Volume 1. London: Routledge.

Practices included in Volume 1:

AECOM, Perkins + Will, White, Woods Bagot, UN Studio, SHoP Architects, PLP Architecture, Kieran Timberlake, 3xN/GxN, Thomas Herzog + Partners, Herreros Architectos, AZPML, ONL, Spacescape, Special Case: OCEAN Design Research Association

CSoP Vol. 2

Forthcoming: Hensel, M. and Nilsson, F. eds. (2018). The Changing Shape of Practice – Further Cases of Integrating Research and Design in Architecture Volume 2. London: Routledge.






The symposia series was preceded by a preparatory seminar in Holmsbu, Norway, in Spring 2013. The seminar focused on the questions as to what constitutes knowledge in architecture and how such knowledge can arise from scope of targeted inquiries.


Participants: Prof. Mark Burry (RMIT), Prof. Dr. Peter Carl (LMU), Helen Castle (AD Wiley), Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel (RCAT, AHO), Prof. Dr. David Jolly Monge (e[ad]), Prof. Dr. David Leatherbarrow (UPenn), Prof. Dr. Branko Kolarevic (U Calgagry), Prof. Dr. Birger Sevaldson (AHO), Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel (AHO), Prof. Dr. Inger-Lise Syversen (Chalmers), Jeffrey P. Turko (U Brighton)


Funding: Strategic funds of the Research Centre for Architecture and Tectonics at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

rcat holmsbu_seminar

Participants from left to right: Prof. Dr. Branko Kolarevic, Prof. Dr. Inger-Lise Syversen, Prof. Mark Burry, Helen Castle, Prof. Dr. Peter Carl, Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel, Senior Lecturer Jeffrey Turko, Prof. Dr. David Leatherbarrow, Prof. Dr. David Jolly Monge, Prof. Dr. Birger Sevaldson

CSOP 1 | 2013 | SE


The first symposium took place at Chalmers University of Technology in September 2013. It was co-organized by Chalmers University of Technology, RCAT at AHO, the Swedish Association of Architects, and OCEAN Design Research Association. The objective was to address the perceived need of the Swedish Association of Architects to generate more research capacity in Swedish practices to enhance their capacity to address increasingly complex design problems, as well as their international competitiveness.


Participating practices: Foster + Partners (UK), Helen & Hard (NO), Kieran Timberlake (USA), 3xN GxN (DK), White (SE)


Funding: Swedish Association of Architects, Chalmers University of Technology, Oslo School of Architecture and Design Strategic Funds, OCEAN Design Research Association

csop 2013_chalmers

Participants from left to right: Francis Aish [Foster + Partners], Kaspar Guldager Jørgensen [3xN GxN], Reinhard Kropf [Helen & Hard], Fredrik Nilsson [White / Chalmers], Billie Faircloth [Kieran Timberlake], Michael U. Hensel [AHO RCAT / OCEAN Design Research Association]



The first symposium was accompanied by a seminar with the presenters from the invited practices to discuss how the series of events can be developed so as to be useful both for the audience and the presenting practices. The resulting insight was that the discussion between the involved practices and the related exchange of experience is key to further development of research in practice.


Participants: Francis Aish (Foster + Partners), Reinhard Kropf (Helen & Hard), Billie Faircloth (Kieran Timberlake), Kasper Guldager Jensen (3xN GxN), Fredrik Nilsson (White, OCEAN Design Research Association), Michael U. Hensel (RCAT | ACDL @ AHO, OCEAN Design Research Association)



CSOP 2 | 2016 | NO


The second symposium took place in September 2016 at AHO as part of the Oslo Architectural Triennial 2016 and was co-organized by RCAT at AHO, the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture (DogA), Chalmers University of Technology, and OCEAN Design Research Association. The objective was to generate and strengthen collaborative interfaces between practice and universities in research activities. The event consisted of a one-day symposium, a thematically related one-day PhD seminar, an exhibition and a book launch, as well as a seminar at DogA that involved all participants in preparation of a spin-off in the form of a series of round-table discussions in 2017 that are co-organized by DogA and RCAT at AHO.


Participating practices: Helen & Hard (NO), Kieran Timberlake (USA), SHoP Architects (USA), Snøhetta (NO), Void (NO, White (SE)


Funding: Oslo School of Architecture and Design Strategic Funds, Chalmers University of Technology


rcat web_CSoP_speakers_2016

Participants from left to right: Michael U. Hensel [RCAT - AHO], Julia Schlegel [Snøhetta], Kristian Edwards [Snøhetta], Eli Synnevåg [Snøhetta], Gregg Pasquarelli [SHoP Architects], Moritz Groba [Helen&Hard], Bille Faircloth [Kieran Timberlake], Bjørn Gunnat Staal [Void], Jonas Runberger [White], Joakim Wiig Hoen [Void], Sareh Saeidi [Research Fellow AHO], Ute Groba [Research Fellow AHO], Photography: Gunnar Knutsen, 2016




The second symposium was accompanied by a seminar at the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture (DogA). The seminar constituted an intermediary event for closer dialogue of practices and in preparation of the DogA round table discussions with practices in 2017.


Participants: Tor Inge Hjemdal (DogA), Elin Mørch Langlo (DogA), Benedicte Wildhagen (DogA), Billie Faircloth (Kieran Timberlake), Gregg Pasquarelli (SHoP Architects), Eli Synnevåg (Snøhetta), Julia Schlegel (Snøhetta), Kristian Edwards (Snøhetta), Jonas Runberger (White), Bjørn Gunnar Staal (Void), Joakim Wiig Hoen (Void), Ole Gustanvsen (Rector AHO), Rachel Troy (Vice-rector AHO), Prof. Dr. Andrew Morrison (Director Center for Design Research, AHO), Prof. Dr. Michael Hensel (Director Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics), Defne Sunguroglu Hensel (AHO), Sofia Martins da Cunha (AHO), Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen (AHO), Prof. Dr. Birger Sevaldson (AHO)

CSOP 3 | 2017 | DK

The third major event is organized as an international conference and will take place in September 2017 in Aarhus as part of the Aarhus European Capital of Cultural 2017 and Rising Architecture Week. For this event the scope of collaborators is expanded to include partners from three Scandinavian countries including Aarhus School of Architecture, the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, and Chalmers University of Technology. The symposium will examine two themes: research in practice and emergent practices in unsolicited projects.


Participating practices:

1. Research in Practice: Barkow Leibinger (D), 3xN GxN (DK), Kieran Timberlake (USA), Snøhetta (NO), Transsolar (D)

2. Unsolicited Architecture: Architects without Borders, Atelier d'Architecture Autogérée (F), Helen & Hard (NO), NONconform (At), Raumlabor (D)

Funding: Dreyer Fond, Aarhus School of Architecture, Research Centre for Architecture and Tectonics at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Chalmers University of Technology

CSoP3 speakers


CSOP 4 | 2018 | NO

The forth symposium is currently in the planning stage in collaboration with the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture (DogA). The symposium will conclude the roundtable discussion at DogA with the aim to increase research activity in Norwegian architectural and design prcatices. The event is planned for Spring 2018.


CSOP 5 | 2018 | UK


The fith symposium is currently in the initial discussion stage in collaboration with UCL Bartlett School of Architecture. The symposium is planned for Summer 2018.



In response to the positive feedback to the CSoP 2 Symposium in Oslo the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture (DogA) and the Research Centre for Architecture and Tectonics have partnered up to address the development of research in practice in Norway in a systematic manner through round-table discussions with invited practices. The aim is to provide the opportunity to pursue and discuss these questions in a series of events that aim to engage practices of different sizes, structures and needs.

Preliminary roundtables are held to identify key themes to be discussed in subsequent theme-specific roundtables. The first track will focus on architectural practice. The second track will focus on design practice. An eventual third track will explore potential interfaces, collaborations and convergences between architecture and design practices.

CSoP Round-tables Track 01: Architecture | Friday 16 June


Erik Jacobsen (Kontur), John Arne Bjerknes (Nordic), Magne Wiggen (MMW), Julia Schlegel (Snøhetta), Ingerid Helsing Almaas (Arkitektur N), Einar Bjarki Malmquist (Arkitektur N),Tor Inge Hjemdal (DogA), Benedicte Wildhagen (DogA), Søren S. Sørensen (AHO), Michael U. Hensel (AHO)

CSoP DogA_Roundtable_Arc_01

Participants from left to right: Ingerid Helsing Almaas (Arkitektur N), John Arne Bjerknes (Nordic), Einar Bjarki Malmquist (Arkitektur N), Søren S. Sørensen (AHO), Magne Wiggen (MMW), Julia Schlegel (Snøhetta), Benedicte Wildhagen (DogA), Erik Jacobsen (Partner, Kontur), Photography: Michael U. Hensek, 2017.

The follow-up CSoP Round-tables for the Architecture and Design tracks are planned for mid-August and mid-September.