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During the 20th century, summer schools emerged as influential moments of encounter and collaboration between students and teachers from diverse cultural contexts. Yet despite their persistence and prominence, there has been relatively little exploration of their role in architectural culture and education. Re-enacting Tacit Knowledge, a summer school about the tacit dimension of summer schools held at Het Nieuwe Instituut in September 2021, set out to fill this gap. The event formed part of the ongoing collaboration between the institute and the Horizons 2020 Innovative Training Network: TACK / Communities of Tacit Knowledge: Architecture and its Ways of Knowing.

In part, the neglect of the summer school relates to the ephemeral and intangible quality of the format: intense, productive, social, life-changing – but only for a month or two. These qualities are difficult to capture in a text or a drawing in an archive. In Re-enacting Tacit Knowledge, therefore, we began, with the hypothesis that a set of experimental research methods – fictocriticism, performance and re-enactment – might help us understand the embodied, social, experiential and often unconscious forms of knowing embedded within, and transferred by, these recurring educational events.

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All together

On the final day, each group delivered a final “performance” to a panel of members of TACK and Het Nieuwe Instituut, combining their drawings, films and texts with more theatrical dialogues and presentations, “in character” as their assigned school. It pushed many out of their comfort zone, while nonetheless generating productive speculations on embodied and social tacit knowledge: particular presentation styles, forms of group discussion, dynamics between teachers and students, and ways of seeing and experiencing the city.

What, though, did this re-enactment and performance accomplish? We certainly started to look at archival documents in a different way. Not just as evidence to be assembled as part of an argument about what might have happened, but also indicating gaps in the historical record: what was not said, or could not be said; what was hidden and what was tacit. For everything described or represented in the annual reports, there was a real action – embodied by a real person – the impacts and effects of which cannot be entirely captured in these documents. On the simplest level, the relationship between drawing a line on a page and on a screen or in virtual reality: the time it takes, and how your body moves to do it. We started to understand, too, something more of what it felt like to be all together for a prolonged period. Even if we were only in Rotterdam for two weeks, rather than the two months of ILAUD, we experienced the productivity of working together so closely, but also the frustrations and complications that De Carlo only alludes to in the reports. Sharing informal moments seemed as important as the formal seminars and activities. Indeed, as we observed, it is often in these moments that a group of individuals from different cultural and pedagogical backgrounds really starts to come together to form the new, shared “community of tacit knowledge” of the summer school itself.

Thank you to all the participants involved: Jhono Bennett, Valeria Casali, Filippo Cattapan, Shriya Chaudhry, Eric Crevels, Emanuele De Angelis, Claudia Mainardi, Filippo Oppimitti, Lucia Pennati, Michele Porcelluzzi, Ionas Sklavounos, Yagiz Soylev, Paula Strunden, Mara Trübenbach, Anna Livia Vørsel and Caendia Wijnbelt.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 860413. This website reflects only the author’s view and the European Commission Research Executive Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.