Boundary spanning for construction excellence

Flora Samuel comments on Richard Lorch’s End of an Era editorial. 

We at the University of Reading School of Architecture are trying to make a new kind of school which works in collaboration with the construction industry. This takes effort and a special kind of vision as there are many cultural hurdles to negotiate at every level, not least on what constitutes the highest quality research across architecture and the built environment, but one thing that we have all agreed upon is that publication in BRI is the kitemark of quality in our field. In the terminology of STS (science and technology studies) the BRI journal has played an extremely important role as a boundary spanner – mediator –  between different parts of this fractured and dysfunctional industry and, most importantly between industry and practice and, I would argue, between women and men. This has been a long term project, as anyone who has tried to piece together the recent history of construction research will know. As Richard’s End of an Era piece makes clear institutional memory is desperately lacking meaning that the built environment sector is characterised by the reinvention of wheels.

Richard has been a remarkable focus filter, enabling us to see what really matters – coaching us into clarity, sometimes painful but all done in the best possible spirit. If you have ever tried to get past his reviewers you will know what I mean, and all done in record time. Every field needs a truly excellent journal that sets out the standards of knowledge, something to aspire to, something that we can measure ourselves against, something that reveals the seriousness of our endeavours to others. Journals like this need editors like Richard Lorch. BRI without Richard will not be the same.



Flora Samuel is Professor of Architecture in the Built Environment in the School of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading.

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