Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt, Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Architecture and Sustainable Environment at the University of Kent, writes about his experience of leading research projects within Parliament in the field of architecture.
"I have been conducting research into the historic technology of the Palace of Westminster since 2011, particularly looking at the original complex ventilation and climate control system. Initially the research was confined to the study of archival material and was only intended to be an academic study within the history of architecture. Soon after beginning this research, however, I became aware of a Parliamentary inquiry into the Restoration and Renewal (R&R) of the Palace. I presented a report to the House of Commons Commission, and was then invited to speak to staff of the R&R programme.
R&R agreed to act as the institutional partner on a competitive bid for a research grant to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), written and submitted in Spring 2015. The grant allowed me to be on a secondment to Parliament for two years to lead the research project ‘Between Heritage and Sustainability - Restoring the Palace of Westminster’s nineteenth-century ventilation system’. This led to a contract to continue the research through a grant from the House of Commons. Throughout, the aspiration has been to undertake research that yields peer-reviewed academic publications as well as providing technical insights with direct practical application within the R&R programme.
The research has yielded academic publications in the field of architecture, and also provided deeper technical insights that informed the work of the client, Select Committees and various external consultants. An overview of the research and how it feeds into the work at parliament was the subject of a cover feature in the CIBSE Journal.
My project had to bridge the gap between application and academic scholarship, which is challenging at times. I had to take an active role in facilitating the effective application of the research, including developing a new methodology and framework to bridge the gap between academic scholarship and practice-based research, giving workshops and lectures, and producing reports. The latter, which could not be published due to the sensitivity of the information, were distinct from my academic publications, yet represented substantial pieces of research in their own right.
This methodology and its wider applications within contemporary architectural conservation practice, was the subject of an article published in the Journal of the Institute of Building Conservation, and a symposium organised in collaboration with the Heritage Group of the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) in July 2018."