Tacit knowledge, queer experience and architectural education since 1970
by Hamish Lonergan

This dissertation explores the little-known influence of Michael Polanyi’s philosophy of tacit knowledge on architectural education. It examines four moments when tacit knowledge, though always present in the design studio, was explicitly addressed: in the studios of Melvin Charney and Colin Rowe in the 1970s; the International Laboratory of Architecture and Urban Design (ILAUD), 1976-1986; the “post-critical turn” of the early 2000s; and contemporary studios at ETH Zurich. Tacit knowledge is elusive: its embodied and collective dimensions are difficult to grasp in archival documents or capture in traditional academic writing. For this reason, I develop a set of experimental methods informed by queer and feminist theory—autoethnography, fictocriticism, and re-enactment—going beyond intellectual history while acknowledging my tacit knowledge as a researcher. Despite Polanyi’s engagement with exclusionary forms of neoliberalism, these moments and methods act to reframe—or queer—tacit knowledge, pointing towards more inclusive pedagogies that bridge individual differences and shared communities.

This research forms part of a larger EU Horizons 2020 project, ‘TACK
Communities of Tacit Knowledge: Architecture and its Ways of Knowing’, grant no. 860413

Hover Image: Re-enactment progress, 2021. Photograph by Jana Scheithauer

Hamish Lonergan