During the 1960s and 1970s, the probity and relevance of the institutional model in most areas of life were called into question. Of particular significance were Michel Foucault’s studies of forms of institutionalised care and organised supervision which he associated with the exercise of dominance, surveillance and control – famously represented in physical form by the Panopticon (Discipline and Punish, 1975). While alternative models were and have been sought, few institutions were totally disassembled or abandoned. In fact, many of those that weathered the storm, especially within the financial sector, appear to have become larger, more dominant and more powerful.
Recent scrutiny of the abuses of power by religious clergy, politicians and corporate bodies has however lent impetus to the ongoing historical and theoretical investigation of institutions and how they operate. Old concepts such as ideology and the agency-structure dialectic continue to inform discussion, as does the consideration of new forces such as the internet which has complicated our conception of the social domain.
It is timely therefore to renew the discussion of the role and status of architecture in its relationship to the institutional realm, especially around questions of change and transformation. What ideals, principles and values have underpinned the architecture of institutional organisations and constructions in the past and have these changed in recent times? How has the role of architecture in the consolidation and exercise of institutionalised power and authority changed? What role can architecture play in the reconceptualisation of institutions? As was the case with Foucault, there will be conceptions of historical continuity and discontinuity as well as historical method that need to be considered.
The 32nd Annual SAHANZ Conference to be held in Sydney in July 2015 will be devoted to the exploration of architecture and institutions. Papers are invited that examine and reflect on various aspects and examples of this theme within different cultural contexts. There are many ways that this can be approached through a focus on the history of institutional building types and collectives, organisations, practices, customs, pedagogy and critique as suggested by the following sub-themes:
• Architecture and large institutional complexes, for example, architecture and the State, architecture and religious organisations
• Building types and building collectives, for example, educational buildings, hospitals, prisons, government buildings, art galleries, university campuses, military campuses, sacred buildings
• Professional organisations, for example, institutes of architects and their history
• The history of architectural and design education
• Intellectual and disciplinary histories, including architectural history and its institutional underpinnings
• Architecture and the concept of the public good
• The reform and/or reconceptualisation of the institution and its implications for architecture
• Alternatives to the institutional model
• The anti-institutional, for example, the counter-cultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s