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Practice-Based Research: Kelly Haigh AIA

K Haigh

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Kelly Haigh AIA
partner, designLAB architects

Lightning presentation
2:15 pm - 2:30 pm EDT
Critical Stewardship

What is Critical Stewardship?
Critical Stewardship is an approach to design that is based on a universal responsibility to history and the environment as valued through the lens of community. Through this, the stewardship of our valuable resources (environmental, built or cultural) is emboldened by creativity, which is critical in both senses: essential yet offering critique.

How do you define practice-based research?
Our research is fundamental to our built work; the two cannot be separated. As a process, we see it as a reflection of what we do intuitively that elicits the most compelling design outcomes. However, by applying rigor and consistency as a defined research initiative, we ensure that as the firm grows and evolves it can be applied to all projects, regardless of team or circumstance.

What is the biggest barrier to practice-based research?
The first is time, it’s all too easy to get caught up in deadlines. Often, the research requires us to take a step backwards, which can be difficult under the pressures of deadlines and deliverables. A second (potential) barrier is that the research is often part of our own agenda, but not necessarily a stated goal from the client-side, so we sometimes need to advocate for certain initiatives. However, since we believe this leads to a more successful project outcome, we take the additional time to develop and advocate, just as we would with sustainability goals.

What is the value of practice-based research?
The value lies in better outcomes for the project, and ultimately all the people who are served by the project. Our approach is a central thread that runs through a fairly diverse array of projects, giving us a common language to advocate for certain design decisions - both within the design team and to the client and stakeholder community.

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Kelly Haigh is a partner at designLAB architects whose portfolio centers on arts, educational, and cultural work. Her portfolio includes the Carney Library at UMass Dartmouth, the MIT Theater Arts and Delbridge Center for the Arts at the Walnut Hill School, and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, which was named the 23rd Living Building Certification through the ILFI. Kelly is a national leader in the design community, having been recently awarded the AIA’s Young Architect Award for her design achievements and professional contributions at both local and national scales, including her ongoing work within the BSA’s Women In Design community.