Reflecting on changes at BRI

Elizabeth Shove responds to Richard Lorch’s End of an Era editorial.

A journal with the title ‘Building Research and Information’ is not the most obvious home for adventurous and creative – not to mention policy relevant debate.  Nor is it clearly inviting to the social sciences.  But what makes a journal worthwhile, and what keeps it alive and interesting is not the title: what matters, in this case, is the approach and commitment of the editor.  Over the years, BRI has become a really influential ‘site’ through which to extend, expand and refresh a range of fundamental and also contested topics not only about the technicalities of building, but about buildings in use and in action.  For example, questions about what buildings are ‘for’; what services they offer, and what meanings of comfort they unwittingly reproduce have all been tackled.  In supporting articles and special issues that develop well researched, but also unconventional lines of enquiry Richard, as editor, helped establish fresh dialogue and exchange across and between fields and disciplines that do not usually meet.  It is, of course, impossible to know what the lasting effect of this might be – which ideas and agendas have been shifted, which topics attract just that bit more attention, and which are reformulated in new and interesting ways as a result?.  But it is very clear that this has been a generative process that depended on the extensive network, and the good will that Richard himself established and it is also clear that this will not be replaced any time soon. 

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Elizabeth Shove is Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University and PI of the DEMAND research centre (Dynamics of energy, mobility and demand).

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