Architects experiment upon the world. Researchers extend outside the laboratory by co-opting existing structures of influence and crafting new techniques of engagement. Even the effects of proving grounds–from Coney Island to emergency drills–leak beyond their boundaries without any official sanction. Impacts are often unpredictable, but no less powerful. The practice of human subject research has yielded the benefits of the polio vaccine and the horrors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, reminding us that, as a former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency once remarked, “When we fail, we fail big.”
‘Test Subjects’ focuses on the contended nature of application in architectural research. How do architects wield influence through research? As we weigh the risks and rewards of aggressive experimentation, how careful do we need to be? How do researchers maintain effects of their work, both intended and unintended? How does the agency of test subjects refigure the role of the expert in research?