research log: grey matter jkmm

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log: empty rhetoric about interdisciplinary studies

On the one had, they are a valued step towards a bright future, if you listen to the abundant rhetoric on the subject.

On the other:

log: dissertation defence today

‘Writing Architecture. Textual image practices – A textual approach in architectural research’

Architects need to understand the textual nature of an image


Architects work primarily with images, which is why the pictorial understanding that forms the basis of their work is not irrelevant.

To avoid various problems, architects should pay more attention to the fact that an image is open to many interpretations, says Architect Sari Tähtinen in her doctoral dissertation.

Tähtinen, who is defending her dissertation at the Aalto University School for Arts, Design and Architecture, presents a textual approach to architecture and architectural research. This means, for example, the understanding of images as textual, multidimensional structures.

‘Images and their use are considered to be an unambiguous and unproblematic way of communication. The prevailing representative concept of images works under the assumption that an image would disclose some kind of a commonly shared content about itself. This notion should be expanded’, Tähtinen says.

In her study Tähtinen stipulates that pictures are textual, layered structures which need interpretation and reading to be dealt with. The different backgrounds and education that people have influence how images are made and interpreted. For this reason, architects often encounter problems when others do not read their plans – that is, their images – in the same way that they do.

‘If architects were more in tune with the textual structure of images, we would have better instructions for participatory planning, for example, in which the planner should be able to work together with people other than experts of their own field’, Tähtinen suggests.

research log: working on new portfolio

Latest versions here:





Older versions with critiques, here:


Feedback from colleagues is useful information so included on pdf above and in text (from different colleagues) below.  Page numbers refer to slightly different preliminary version of pdf, which include yet another set of post-its (so there are 4 commentaries in total spread across 2 pdfs):

fra comments

a.  how it looks on your monitors? We think that the resolution needs to be bigger so the images don’t get so pixelated when you zoom in. Looking at the portfolio on the small screen of our laptop, the quality already affects the crispness of the images. So think desktop, it will look even more fuzzy. So yes, definitely bigger even if it means less images
b.  if there are images that should be removed?

p3 the two big pillars in the foreground are not quite straight. Can you correct this or have you done it already and this is as good as it gets?  If so, then we think best to lose from portfolio

p8 picture on left looks a bit out of focus or whats in focus is not very obvious. Whereas in the pic next to it, the selective focus really works!

p16 lose images of kid immediately! Unless your aiming for IKEA

 we think the images are not particularly strong so if you need to cut a page, this would be a good place to start. Also, this building is repeated on p 19 no?

 left image looks a bit strange on its own on the page. We think either lose it or include in previous spread with the other three.  Perhaps have the image on the right as a 2ble spread if it fits

 Not sure these are ‘architectural’ enough to be in this portfolio, you have much stronger work to show! Unless we are being too old school, your more down with the kids these days so perhaps this is the latest trend?

and p41 these are beautiful images but do they both need to be included if this is a portfolio aimed to get you architecture work?
Same for p43.

c.  if you think the page order works?

Sequence is fine, perhaps some captions either adjacent to the pictures or at the back would be useful so that we know exactly what we are looking at.

d.  if there is stuff of mine i have left out?
Is it only your most recent work to show? Because there are some stunning pics on your website that could definitely go in. Ida likes the Coventry pics in particular. I really like Pen&Hammer, Sipo

research log: 6th time lucky?

1st version: 14 may article

2nd version: 30 october article

3rd version: 5.nov.charts.only 7.november.article.text.only

4th version: 12.november.article.text.only

5th version: 28 nov.text.only charts and photos

6th version: 4 feb 2014 9 facts

Notes on the all important back story (making of) which ultimately reveals far more than the convincing narrative we eventually submit.  I believe in transparency as more than just lip service.

Goodwin Marc kirjoitti 4.11.2013 kello 15.37:


I have shown this paper to both supervisors: Antti Ahlava and Merja Salo, and both have ok’d it…  So you cannot imagine how helpful your feedback to keep me from moving forward with blinders on.

At the level of my dissertation, context is covered in a 45 page literature review, where Ceferin’s excellent book is dealt with.  But it is good to know that I should include it here.  Concise precise writing is obviously the order of the day, but leaves lots of questions about what to include and what to leave out.  All of which I believe you have answered.

OK, that’s great! Try to picture all your articles that will compose the final dissertation as sides of the same solid each of which can only be seen one at a time. Each side (article) will have a unique viewer (reader) who knows nothing of the other sides (articles). Each side should be a perfect geometric form, a unique miniature masterpiece, but only when you put the whole thing together (the dissertation), one could get the big picture and realise how each side links to oneanother and add to your great composition.

With this really dim allegory in mind, you could start re-composing your paper so that the 45 pages of existing literature review is reflected in each of your articles. As you won’t be writing 4-5 similar articles but each has a unique viewpoint to your subject, the literature review should be discussed accordingly. You don’t need to include everything in every paper, but rather, divide your ‘stash of ideas’ into the common ground and the more specific themes that will then build up the theoretical frame for each of your topics. The pdf that I linked has an excellent model for a structure, you could take that as your starting point.

I’m glad if I could be of any assistance!


Your roadmap for this article is crystal clear and helps me to move forward.  It is very kind of you to offer me such constructive criticism and specific advice on how to write a better article.  I’ve read loads on the subject, but the link you have sent is a much needed additional read, I can see.  I shall send it round the department.

Goodwin Marc kirjoitti 4.11.2013 kello 13.19:


Right, I’ll get cracking.  I’ve rewritten this article so many times already, I wonder if you could just verify my check-list.  I understand from your comments that I should do the following:

  • Remove the Spanish frame story

Not necessarily. The point is how you are using it. Currently, it’s a disconnected sideline in a narrative (your words: frame story). What we expect it to be, if used,  is as a case-study that points out or explains some of your research questions or methods or whatever.

  • Articulate and interprete results more

Yes. But also your questions and your methods.

  • Remove double-entendre discussion

Yes. And check your expressions. No ‘sort of’s, cut down metatext (“Now we come to the second question….”.

  • Change title to something more like Analysis of Conventions in the Finnish Architectural Review.

Not at all relevant at this stage.

  • Better situate research – compare with similar (though I am at a loss at the moment but will investigate)

Crucial! And not just for this paper but for the whole dissertation. Your references don’t mention any of the existing research on ARK or the agendas of Finnish architectural photography.  say, Petra Ceferin’s dissertation Constructing a legend (2003). Your article is, in other words, completely detached from what we know already about your subject.

You should start your work with mapping that out, firstly on the level of research on architectural photography / media, and then on the level of Finnish architecture. Then, on the other hand, the Corbin & Strauss book should not be in the references because it is an elementary handbook on research methods = common knowledge to your audience. The Foucault and Eco stuff should be discussed more accurately and more broadly at the beginning of your paper (as your theoretical context). They are so well-known and much-used philosophers that you really should be careful in the way you refer to them. Open up your key concepts, explain your reader how you approach them.

Oulu University has produced an excellent guide for writing scientific articles. I warmly recommend to check it out:

Strongly advice you to discuss your paper with your tutor as well. S/he should guide you in this, because this is what research is all about: sharing your observations with the research community of your field.



and previous (equally good, helpful feedback) from someone else:

I carefully read your article which is very interesting and significant for any academic publication, especially based on Scandinavia. I suggest that there would be two stages for your publication:

For stage one, you may simply edit and finalize it for a paper of related conference.

For stage two, you may continue to work on your paper for a peer-review scientific journal article, especially with the feedbacks you could have received from the conference.

The following are my suggestions to proposed publications with two stages:

Stage one:

Abstract – please mention journal Finnish Architectural Review, in your abstract.

Keywords – 5 keywords will be good enough.

Introduction – the reference of Compañía de Santa Teresa de Jesús is interesting, and you may find comparable reference directly from Finnish Architectural Review, or something directly related to Finnish architecture, to make your article tight, precise and straightforward.

Materials and methods – usually, it can be part of Introduction. Your six caveats could be denser.

Charts – they could be formulated with the same formatting.

Discussion – the first two paragraphs could be put into your introduction.

Stage two:

1.      Your first five caveats could be served as a base for your “qualitative study” to make your argument stronger, especially collaborated with the later section of your significant Discussion.

2.      In each of your “quantitative” and “qualitative” study, you may include some specific analyses on few iconic thematic publications, to exemplify your points.

3.      You may also include some historical narratives and technological descriptions of “photographing “ architecture and its related publication, to explore the mechanism behind the representation of architecture.