Ethnography Field Study Essay

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The term “Architectural ethnography” consists of two words “architectural” and “ethnography”. In the dictionary, the noun “architecture” is defined as “a physical enclosure that protects and supports human life and activities”, while “ethnography” is about the “representation of a society and culture of a specific ethnic group based on fieldwork”. Powell further explained “ethnography” in his article Viewing Places: Students as Visual Ethnographers as “a process of inquiry that involves the description and interpretation of the cultural and social practice of people, “the written representation of culture” that emerges from a lengthy period of in-depth study, and often, residence in, a particular setting.”

Architecture ethnography, defined by Monoyo Kaijima, is about the traditional ethnography study with an add-on layer of drawings that are of, for, among, and around architecture. The drawings are not typical architectural drawings, instead, always from the perspective of the people who use and transform the buildings. In 2017,

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This new methodology is extended from many ethnographic studies carried on in Japan in the 20th century when the country was under rapid urbanization and modernization with the fear of the gradual extinction of the old livelihoods. From the end of the 1990s, Kajima started a series of research regarding individuals about buildings and cities, using a similar ethnographical approach. Eventually, she defined her way of working (which is investigating architecture and human life by talking with people and later interpreting this fragmented information into drawings) as “Architectural Ethnography” during the survey of the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. In 2017, an exhibition named as “Architectural Ethnography: Atelier Bow-Wow” was hosted at Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.

As outlined above, architecture ethnography is a combination of ethnography study with drawings as a way of expression.

An example of an ethnographic study on the topic related to my graduation studio could be Alazar Ejigu’s research on condominium housing in Addis Ababa. In 2019, he conducted a four-month participant observation of condominium living, at different times of the day, and in different representative locations. To document his findings, he often would take short notes several times during the daytime, and write down detailed diaries in the evening. It had proved that this way of working brought the fragmented information together and then naturally revealed the form behind it. Thus, most of the analysis was already made during the field study. There are a few strategies he made to improve his ethnographic study. First, he moved into the condominium unit with his family, which reduced the suspicions of the residents. Then he put himself in a position of “passive observation”, by sitting for hours in the common yard. He was gradually recognized and trusted.

An example of drawings in the field of architectural ethnography could be the book series: A Little Bit of Beijing, by Tongji University, which is the illustration of research on three characteristic places in the city. There are four types of drawings involved correlating with a larger and a smaller scale. The urban surroundings are first shown in a panoramic axonometric drawing, functioning as a 3d map. Then, a specific location will be elaborated by architectural sketches (are defined as axonometric drawings of a single building in this context), comics (inspired by the American artist Chris Ware), and full-page illustrations (in a way of artistic reprocessing of the scene atmosphere). Photographs are also interspersed in the book.

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Ethnography Field Study Essay. (2024, March 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/ethnography-field-study-essay/
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Ethnography Field Study Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2024 Mar 27 [cited 2024 Jun 16]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/ethnography-field-study-essay/
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