In recent years architects and their practice have become a focus of anthropological research. Such research enables us to describe the successive stages in the production of architectural knowledge and artefacts, buildings and urban plans.
One of the most fascinating results in this field is Albena Yaneva’s ethnography of design, based on fieldwork and participant observation at Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). If one follows a model or an architect in their mundane trajectories through the office, traces the small operations of recycling and reusing material from past projects, watches how a model comes into being, is reused and circulated, one will be able to witness that they are made of a much vaster collection of entities than the society or culture that is meant to explain them.
There is more complexity in these tiny operations than at the level of the final building. To do ethnographic fieldwork in an architectural office shows and recounts the multifarious aggregates that architecture links together. It turns out that the 3D-CAD rendering of a project is utterly unrealistic. Where do you place the angry clients and their sometimes conflicting demands? Where do you insert the legal and city planning constraints? Where do you locate the budgeting and the different budget options?