AA Files 76 is structured as a glossary of terms relevant to contemporary debate in architecture. Each entry has been contributed by a different author, and represents a personal position as much as an attempt to frame the topic in a broader context; the issue therefore maps both a landscape of current concerns, interests, and ambitions, and also an overview of diverse positions and forms of practice. The authors of this glossary are practitioners, academics, students, lawyers, politicians, activists, and their contributions do not only seek to explore the potential of the themes put forward, but also to question the ways in which we can discuss space – as designers, as scholars, as citizens.
Maria Shéhérazade Giudici
If, as Ulysses so persuasively states in Dante Alighieri’s Hell, the desire for knowledge is what distinguishes humankind from brutes, then conducting research – an action that is fundamental for any form of learning – is to be regarded as an essential human activity. Applied to an endless field of disciplines, it is almost impossible to offer a definition of research – even a subjective account for the term. Research becomes an even more intricate word if we think about it from the perspective of architecture, as we could argue that the discipline itself, in all its applications is a form of research, a process through which we try to understand and shape the world around us. Perhaps paradoxically, there resides the potential that the most radical context to reflect on the meaning and role of research for architects is the least built continent: Antarctica. The Earth's southernmost territory is in fact the only one in the world that is uniquely devoted to research. It is a site in which research is totalising – its outcomes prelude to the possibility of human survival beyond planet earth. Antarctica can thus be seen as a continent-laboratory; one in which boundaries are in constant flux, national entitlements are deferred, new geopolitical practices are established, daring architectural prototypes are the norm, urgent scientific investigations are underway and survival is uncertain.