Visual representations and knowledge-intensive work: the case of architect work
Journal article, 2009

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to look into the knowledge-intensive work that entangles the use of various visual representations such as drawings, CAD images, and scale models. Rather than assuming that knowledge is exclusively residing in the human cognitive capacities, most knowledge-intensive work integrates a variety of perceptual skills and the use of language. Design/methodology/approach: A case study of a Scandinavian architect bureau, including semi-structured interviews with architects, design engineers and managers, was conducted. Findings: The study shows that architects mobilize and use a variety of visual representations in their day-to-day work. Such visual representations serve a variety of roles and purposes but actually more generally enhance communication between colleagues and external stakeholders. The paper concludes that visuality and visual representations deserve a more adequate analysis in the knowledge management literature. Originality/value: The paper contributes to an understanding of how visual representations are constitutive of knowledge and central to architect work. Rather than residing in language or being embodied, knowledge is developed through the use of a variety of tools and aids.


Alexander Styhre

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management

Pernilla Gluch

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Management


0305-5728 (ISSN) 1474-1032 (eISSN)

Vol. 39 2 108-124

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics

Civil Engineering

Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)



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