Paper Session Descriptions
(Anti-)architectures of Colonization During the Cold War (Virtual)
During the past three decades, architectural historians have examined how the built environment sustained and supported colonialism. More recently, following challenges from decolonial theorists, scholars have explored architecture’s relation to debt traps, labor, and migration. Building upon this work, this panel proposes shifting the focus from colonialism to colonization. Although the second half of the twentieth century is commonly associated with decolonization, a continuation of colonial development programs–not at least within the framework of postcolonial development–led to an unprecedented expansion of the colonization of nature. Subordinating resistant environments, humans reached into the heat of the earth through ultra-deep mines in South Africa and populated previously uninhabited territories of the Polar North in Eurasia, descended into the depths of the Pacific Ocean, and even left the earth, in pursuit of mineral resources. Inevitably, colonization required architectural infrastructures: roads, ports, and moveable, modular, prefabricated constructions that can be easily assembled on site. Our panel will explore this shift as well as the technologies that, spreading around the globe during the Cold War, enabled its emergence.
We welcome proposals that consider new extractive regimes, resistance and new alliances, and examine architectural technologies in the light of critical theories of colonialism and colonization. We propose to ask such questions as: How did developments in twentieth-century design reflect and shape the fight against neocolonialism as well as new strategies in colonization? What is the relationship between colonial, post- and neocolonial programs and techniques of development? Answering these questions, we hope to discuss architectural expertise within postwar circuits of biopolitical management, and also redefine notions including territory, resource, and colonization.
Session Chairs: Megan Eardley, Princeton University; and Alla Vronskaya, Universität Kassel
Administering Architecture: Actors, Processes, and Systems (Montréal)
The term “administration” broadly conjures up actions of direction, distribution, and management. In the wake of Max Weber and Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., a growing cross-disciplinary scholarship has investigated the development of administrative structures and the ways they facilitate encounters among individuals and forms of knowledge. While there is a robust body of literature on institutions and their architecture, questions of administration and management as they relate to building production have received less attention. How is architecture, as both object and practice, affected—even shaped—by administrative acts? On the one hand are processes and negotiations taking place in offices, at building sites, on paper, and tele-technologically that produce the built environment. On the other hand, are state organs that deal exclusively with architecture, there are government organizations and corporations that oversee architecture as part of a broader portfolio. These entities and their administrative practices draw architecture into dialogue—and potentially conflict—with broader institutional or state priorities.
This panel invites contributions that address how processes of administration shape, transform, protect, or destroy architectural production. How have bureaucratic entities throughout history managed the production of architecture? What of the policies and procedures for establishing official stylistic idioms? How have architects functioned as administrators and vice versa? What new possibilities do administrative records open up to uncover the various non-elite figures who shape the built environment? How do such records situate architecture within a broader cultural matrix that includes colonial projects of oppression and global infrastructural networks?
We especially encourage proposals that deal with the role of extra-architectural actors, encounters between architectural knowledge and other forms of expertise, the relationship between architectural administration and state formation, or administrative technologies that have transformed architectural practice. Reflecting the pervasiveness of administration within architecture, the temporal, geographic, and material scope of this panel is open.
Session Chairs: Matthew Gin, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; and Hannah Kaemmer, Harvard University
Architectural Experiments in Decommodified Housing (Montréal)
Housing is one of the hottest news items in Canada today, but it is typically discussed only in terms of (un)affordability in the private market. Home ownership is a means of wealth accumulation, and government policies fuel this vision. Neoliberalization since the 1980s and financialization since the 2000s have created the current conditions of housing inequality in Canadian cities and beyond. Home ownership is ideologically connected to citizenship, which itself was tied to the privatization of communal land as property by the settlers and the dispossession of Indigenous peoples. Rather than crisis, however, this panel seeks to map a genealogy of architectural experiments that emerged from an understanding of housing as a right.
Co-op housing is one of the better-known types of experiments in non-profit housing in Canada. Through the 1960s, the co-op sector moved away from a model of private property, where once the buildings were completed, the coop would dissolve, to one of social property, that is, to continuing or tenant co-operatives. Continuing co-operatives offered their members control over their living conditions and environments. In dense areas such as in Montréal’s urban core, co-ops such as Milton Park, which remains one of the largest renovated housing co-op developments in North America, have helped renovate existing housing stock and contributed to historic preservation and inner-city regeneration. Through collective ownership, such co-ops helped curb appreciation of property values. From the mid-1980s, the Canadian government started withdrawing its support, and by 1992 had cancelled its co-op housing programs. Yet, co-ops are still being built with provincial and municipal funding schemes and new challenges, like increased inner-city land prices. This panel builds on the work of Matthew Gordon Lasner, on co-owned and cooperative housing in the US, and seeks to contribute to current efforts for housing justice by bringing into dialogue papers that offer social and spatial histories of decommodified housing experiments.
Session Chair: Ipek Türeli, McGill University
Architecture and Interspecies Relations (Virtual)
Given the planetary urgency of biodiversity, climate change, and health, it is time to take the built spaces that humans cohabit with nonhuman animals more seriously. This appeal is principally made by animal studies scholars and geographers, as well as environmental and urban historians, who study the social and spatial relations of humans and animals at the scales of cities and landscapes. Although their accounts often give short shrift to architecture, buildings create the material settings for interspecies encounters, whether intimate or exploitative. Accordingly, architectural historians—who have mainly treated animals on a representational level—are well poised to examine (or reconsider) sites like farm outbuildings, kennels, menageries, zoos, aquariums, natural history museums, arenas, factories, markets, laboratories, veterinary schools and hospitals, the domestic settings of pets, and so forth. This session investigates the histories of these places to better grasp the intertwined social, spatial, and material implications of interspecies relations in the past and present.
A consideration of architecture and interspecies relations raises several questions, regardless of whether spaces are explicitly designed to house animals. How do interspecies relations impact the design, construction, maintenance, and repair of buildings? How do buildings cast social and spatial webs between animals and humans? How do buildings foster, discourage, or limit certain behaviors? Finally, how do animals defy or transgress the spaces they share with humans? Addressing these and related questions allows us to confront the implicit anthropocentrism and human exceptionalism of architectural history.
Although this session invites explorations into any period or geographic location, papers should articulate how human-animal relations are historically constructed in a particular time and place, and how these historical relations shape—and are shaped by—architecture. Methodological, thematic, and theoretical inquiries that cast light on these historical concerns are also welcome.
Session Chair: Sean Weiss, The City College of New York
Architecture and Modernization in North Africa (Montréal)
Over the past two centuries, modernization efforts in North Africa have dramatically transformed the physical fabric and spatial organization of cities and territories. These efforts, often involving wide-ranging and complex processes, vary considerably from region to region; they span colonialism and postcolonialism and they have been carried out by both endogenous and exogenous means. This session examines the architectural and urban planning interventions that were central to these modernization efforts in North Africa, from the end of the eighteenth century to the present: that is, from the Ottoman Tanzimât reforms and Napoleon’s incursion into Egypt, through the French conquest of Algeria, the establishment of protectorates in Tunisia and Morocco and the Italian colonization of Libya, to the period of decolonization and post-independence. The intention is to consider those processes that are connected to European power and dominance—that is, to colonialism and its persistent economic and political legacy—as well as to mechanisms initiated internally by North Africans, such as the pre-colonial Khedivial transformations of Cairo and Ahmad I Bey’s democratic reforms in Tunisia or, in the postcolonial context, the intense programs of modernization initiated in Egypt and Algeria.
The session seeks contributions that explore the question of modernization from multiple perspectives. It invites submissions that qualify or challenge the linear and Eurocentric character of theories of modernization, whether through recognizing its partial rejection owing to the resurgence of religion, the adoption of pre-colonial technologies of construction, retreats from global market forces, or the endurance of kin-based social structures. It seeks papers that explore the connections between modernization and the social and cultural dimensions of colonialism as exhibited, for example, by the enduring effects of racial and religious categorizations. It also invites perspectives that foreground transnational networks and the diversity of influences in North Africa.
Session Chairs: Ralph Ghoche, Barnard College, and Mary McLeod, Columbia University
Beyond Housing: Transnational Programs and Speculative Developments (Montréal)
After World War II, Turkey and Greece followed similar paths of economic and physical development under the Truman Doctrine which set the foreign policy of the United States (US) to build the Western Bloc. Subsequently through the Marshall Plan and the Point IV Program, the US provided capital and technical expertise for housing and promoted aided/assisted self-help housing in both countries. The US supported individual or cooperative efforts in house-building and home ownership for publicizing the US manner of democracy against communist tendencies. Soon, self-help housing with or ‘without architects’ became a global norm in aided/assisted house-building as part of transnational activity by the US as well as international organizations of postwar development.
Guided by this common transnational activity, Turkey and Greece experienced strikingly similar housing practices for low-cost and rapid construction by private initiatives, which were allegedly autonomous yet actively legislated and assisted by public loans. Called yap-sat (build-sell) in Turkey and antiparochí (in exchange) in Greece, common patterns of development turned housing to a speculative industry in which small-capital or non-capital actors thrived more than big-scale real estate developers. Such activity allowing building for selling/renting, led to a distinct parcel-based ‘apartment block’ scheme which became the prevailing type of urban housing in both countries with many similarities.
Although postwar self-help housing has been of interest in architectural historiography, transnational activity informing local housing practices still needs to be brought to surface. In this session, we seek to establish the common grounds of housing aid/assistance schemes and the subsequent small-to-big scale speculative developments experienced in countries which received any kind of foreign aid/assistance during the second half of the 20th century beyond economic/political/geographical limitations. We especially invite papers discussing the role of housing aid/assistance programs and experts as well as of transnational/local legislative or other measures in promoting private housing markets next to specific building modes and architectural/urban typologies.
Session Chairs: Sıla Karataş, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL); and Konstantina Kalfa, Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA) & National Technical University of Athens (NTUA)
Beyond the Mall: Retail Landscapes of the Late Twentieth Century (Montréal)
Over the past fifty years, the landscape of retail spaces has changed dramatically, raising new questions about the relationships between space, consumer capitalism, and consumer culture. The storied figures of the mall, the festival marketplace, and the lifestyle center have been challenged, superseded, and reimagined by new and alternative retail forms and spaces responding to new consumer desires and economic realities. Beyond typologies, the very nature of these new retail models has changed the landscape of consumption from the scale of the store interior to the global infrastructures that support these models.
A broad range of retail forms have emerged to serve an increasingly segmented buying public. From swap meets to street vendors, big box stores to dollar stores, pop-up shops to online retail pick-up hubs, these forms have changed the settings and ways in which people buy, sell, and interact with goods and their purveyors. This splintering has also resulted in a range of new spatial, visual, and social strategies to persuade, engage, and respond to consumers.
This session seeks papers that interrogate these new and alternative retail spaces in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, looking at typologies, spatial practices, designed and crafted interiors, and connection to or rejection of earlier models of retail space. We also invite submissions that look at how designers, developers, real estate professionals, and independent entrepreneurs have restructured buildings, cities, and landscapes to encourage or capitalize on emergent consumer behaviors. We are particularly interested in research on how these practices have reconfigured social norms, racial dynamics, and power relations. Interdisciplinary work that engages with economic and business history, design history, media and visual studies, urban and cultural geography, ethnic studies, and sociology are especially encouraged.
Session Chairs: Elaine Stiles, Roger Williams University, and Alec Stewart, University of Pennsylvania
Colonial Surveys (Virtual)
To colonize lands, resources, and people, colonial authorities commissioned and relied upon geographic, geological, ethnographic, economic, landscape, and architectural surveys. For both civil and military purposes, European surveyors measured and mapped lands, drew borders and cities, generated statistics and charts, photographed buildings and landscapes, evaluated existing modes of constructing and living, and produced manuals and handbooks. These colonial surveys influenced the colonizing powers, however, the interaction with and the understanding of local contexts and knowledge were often limited and biased.
Among the most canonical examples of European surveyors in the twentieth century were the British architects Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry in Ghana and Nigeria under British colonial rule, the French architect and planner Michel Ecochard in Lebanon, Morocco, and Syria under French colonial rule, and the German architect Otto H. Koenigsberger in Egypt and India under British colonial rule, before heading the Department of Development and Tropical Studies at the Architectural Association in London. Some of these professionals worked for architecture magazines, whose role was key in disseminating many of the “standards” used in architecture, construction, and engineering fields. Others served as consultants to the United Nations (UN) Technical Assistance Administration and the Housing Committee. Their manuals became influential textbooks.
How were colonial surveys produced? What kind of discourse did the published manuals engender? Who and what was being analyzed and investigated and why? Did the architect surveyors act as colonial ethnographers? What was the utility of this knowledge at that time? Do UN experts still use those guidebooks today? This session seeks to address these questions and expand on the study of colonial surveys in architecture, landscape architecture, and planning. It welcomes papers that investigate and question the mechanisms of production, use, and circulation of colonial surveys across the world since the late fifteenth century to this day.
Session Chairs: Samia Henni, Cornell University, and Dalal Musaed Alsayer Kuwait University
Designing While Black (Montréal)
With their frequent omission from architectural history in mind, this panel centers Black architects as subjects of focus. While often preoccupied with the same workaday concerns as any of their peers, racial identity has shaped uniquely the opportunities, concerns, and reception of Black architects. Blackness has determined the social world that sought their expertise, defined the universities in which they learned their craft, and influenced their understanding of the role of architecture in the world. Architectural historians have increasingly turned their attention to the fundamental role that race has played in structuring the built environment, attending to the ways racism and white supremacy have permeated architectural style, altered urban form, and defined the architecture profession itself, yet little scholarship has as-yet attended to the specific experience of Black architects as professionals, educators, and symbolic figures. In creating a space for scholarship that does exactly that, seeing Black architects as an always-small but disproportionately revealing part of the profession, this panel seeks to cast new light on familiar histories and reveal obscured figures, works, and subjects too.
We invite proposals that rethink modernity and architectural modernism through the eyes of Black designers; consider Black architects and urbanists in fiction and film; examine the education of Black architects; explore the role of crucial clients, like Black churches; address the inclusion and omission of Black architects in architectural media; or consider the history of historic preservation of works designed by Black architects. We also welcome papers that read broadly into Black architectural interventions as responses to sustained and systemic anti-Black racism and those that reimagine how Black cultural forms, spaces, and practices have historically informed the built environment by creating sites of respite, resistance, liberation, or imagination. Papers may pursue well-developed case studies or synthetic, comparative analyses in any relevant period or site.
Session Chairs: Brian D. Goldstein, Swarthmore College, and Peter L’Official, Bard College
Development Zones at Home and Abroad, 1800-Present (Montréal)
In recent scholarship, the Global South has emerged as the quintessential territory of development zones understood as projects designed to improve physical and social infrastructure, ranging from housing, education, and heritage preservation to transportation, farming, and resource extraction. Much less attention has been paid, however, to similar developments that have been concurrently taking place across the geographies of the Global North.
This panel seeks contributions that take both geographical and conceptual leaps to explore, comparatively and relationally, development zones in the Global North and South. We invite empirically grounded papers that bring into dialogue projects of internal colonization and international exchange across multiple geographies. How would, for instance, postcolonial approaches, typically reserved for sites of European imperialism, international aid, and cooperation, help advance our understanding of American settler expansionism, evangelical programs, or New Deal projects? Similarly, how would projects of decolonization, liberation, activism, and solidarity in various parts of the world reframe the spaces and struggles of the Civil Rights movement, Occupy Wall Street, or urban renewal in the United States, Canada, France, or England?
We welcome contributions that offer new frameworks for bridging epistemic gaps between such fields as American Studies, Area Studies, and/or Global Studies. Ideally, the case studies in the panel will cover a broad historical range from the nineteenth century to the present. Without ignoring contextual differences, this panel will examine the links between development zones focusing on their underlying practices, ideologies, and policies, as well as the institutions and actors involved. We encourage proposals that critically probe racial, religious, ethnic, and other forms of domination and disempowerment from a comparative or relational perspective. Topics may include, but are not limited to sites of missionary establishments, infrastructure concessions, archeology, urban and regional planning, rural development, technical and vocational training, or tourism and recreation.
Session Chairs: Burak Erdim, North Carolina State University, and Sibel Zandi-Sayek, College of William & Mary
Extractive Entanglements in the Histories of Canadian Architecture (Montréal)
From the stoic Montreal greystones to the iconic headframes of the Abitibi Gold Belt, the extractive industry has had an indelible impact on Québec’s landscapes and built environments. This session will bring together scholarship that focuses on how architectural histories are entangled with the processes of resource extraction both within the province of Québec and in Canada more generally.
Canada is at once the hub of extractive companies and financing, while at the same time containing untold numbers of mining sites within the settler colonial borders of the state. Taking this economic position as a provocation, this session builds on recent scholarship on the entangled histories of resource extraction and architecture within Canada and is further interested in developing the ways that these relationships manifest within the architectural history of Québec. The session invites papers that consider how the processes of extraction have shaped landscapes throughout history, how extraction has influenced the architectural record of the country, and how materials form connections between sites of extraction and those of accumulation in the urban form. Although the focus is on extraction within the Canadian context, the session is further interested in papers that trouble the settler colonial border and consider wider networks of extraction.
Suitable contributions to this session include works that articulate the architectural histories of mining company towns, histories of the formation of the landscapes of extraction, examinations of the material connections between quarry and building, and the histories of the buildings that have housed financial infrastructures for extractive ventures. Presentations that address the histories or architecture, landscape architecture, and urbanism that have been formed through their relationship to resource extraction in Canada are all welcome, as are interventions from across scales and time periods.
Session Chair: Zannah Matson, University of Guelph
French Beaux-Arts Migrations to the Americas: Contexts and Issues (Montréal)
From Montreal to Santiago de Chile, the Western hemisphere has hosted French-born architects trained at the Paris Ecole des Beaux-Arts. A pioneer was Grandjean de Montigny: from 1816 to 1850, this Rome Prize winner helped Brazilian taste shift from Spanish Baroque to Classicism. As designers, educators, planning consultants, professional and cultural stewards, several generations of Frenchmen helped shape Eurocentric societies; those leaving major brick-and-mortar traces are better remembered than consultants or collaborators, such as Maxime Roisin in Mexico and Quebec. In Latin America, French-born architects contributed to nation-building through legislative palaces and courthouses; their townhouses and theaters materialized the rise of a Francophile elite; their commercial structures eased processes of modernization in a global economy. In the United States, seeking Gallic talent focused on design instructors or deluxe draftsmen, recruited on the strength of their Ecole transcripts and comradeship. Rather modest in numerical terms, this mosaic of migrations - accidental or strategic, temporary or permanent, successful adaptations or overambitious failures, marked by Gallic charm or arrogance - is greater than the sum of its parts and must be contextualized in terms of pro-French geopolitics, Beaux-Arts supply and local demand. Focusing on French citizens who passed the Ecole entrance examination before 1940 and experienced immersive expatriation, we seek thematic rather than monographic inquiries, comparative studies across countries and time periods, and approaches which move away from the “Beaux-Arts style” label and challenge the idea that no technical or social progressivism could be gained from studying in Paris.
Session Chair: Isabelle Gournay, University of Maryland
Graduate Student Lightning Talks
The Graduate Student Lightning Talks provide graduate students with the opportunity to test ideas, refine thoughts, and enhance presentation skills among a circle of empathetic and supportive peers. This session is composed of up to 16 five-minute talks of approximately 650–700 words each that allow graduate students to introduce new and original research in various stages of progress. In their presentations, students are encouraged to raise questions over the direction of their investigations, explore methodology, or present challenges they have encountered in the development of their ideas. Papers should be clearly and concisely presented, with focused and well-chosen images, in order to encourage thoughtful feedback from the audience during the question and answer period. Students at both the master’s and PhD levels are invited to apply by submitting a succinct abstract of no more than 300 words. Authors/co-authors must be graduate students at the time of the conference and must present in person at the session. The SAH Board of Directors’ Graduate Student Representative serves as chair of these popular five-minute presentations.
Session Chair: Katerina Bong, University of Toronto
Implicit Choices and Appropriations. Architectural Software Histories (Virtual)
Research into the history and theory of architectural software is in its infancy. The pioneers of the born-digital are currently retiring and the preservation and contextualization of their work is now a priority in architectural collections. While born-digital tools pervade contemporary architectural practice, a profound understanding of the current state, and, especially, past developments is crucial.
Computer programs frequently originated in the engineering industry’s need to rationalize and accelerate production and were only later appropriated for architectural use. Therefore, it is significant when architects themselves developed software in accord with design philosophies and fashions, such as the 1990s computer program Form*Z, which was based on Peter Eisenman’s design practice.
Be it software that was adapted or specifically created for architecture, the implicit choices in its development are not obvious to the casual user. Even today, the makeup of software influences how architects conceive and render their ideas.
This session aims to collect significant case studies that address the historical and theoretical dimensions of architectural software from its beginnings in the 1960s until today: how and why it was first developed, how it changed over time, and what it was and is used for.
We are interested in work that draws from archives of born-digital content, such as corporate repositories of software developers or pioneering inventors and architects; programs that were developed for architectural purposes or that were adapted from contexts such as engineering, film, game design, aviation, or the automotive industry; papers that introduce a global dimension to this topic, such as Soviet or Japanese developments; recent architectural software uses, such as the modification of gaming engines for participatory design practices or bespoke software tools developed through scripting.
Session Chair: Philip Schneider, Technical University of Munich
Invention and Inventory: Material Histories of Model-making (Montréal)
This panel invites papers that explore architectural model-making and modeling techniques through its material histories. A material history allows us to understand architectural interests expressed through the selection of materials, construction techniques, and degree of detail, which captured different users. While model research is often centered around their representational capacities for architecture, this session is interested in histories of model-making through the procedures that precede the model, in order to articulate the conditions of production that enabled model-making to serve as a fundamental act of architectural production. This is an unwritten history.
The session solicits papers that explore histories of material culture in model-making practices. How did the availability of specific tools and machines, and the skill tied to the use of instruments, affect modeling practices as well notions of authorship, labor, and knowledge in architecture? How did the introduction and distribution of manufactured materials, products and inventories affect architectural modeling? How are models coupled to histories of industry and invention? How are models evidence of histories of obsolescence?
Alongside histories of singular objects, the session seeks papers that can articulate the processes by which such objects come into being, and their effects on the working procedures and sites of production. Of particular interest are papers which put forward histories of modeling techniques, material standards, and historical uses of tools and technologies; those which describe changing sites of model production; those that track the emergence of model-making suppliers and businesses; those which explore historical distinctions and overlaps between the history of material specification and scale-model suppliers; and those which consider the history of digital modeling software and their material outputs. The chairs encourage a variety of approaches, including perspectives from histories of business, technology, media, material culture, design and craft in the broadest historical terms and across global contexts.
Session Chairs: Teresa Fankhänel, Independent Curator, and Jia Yi Gu, MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Lines of Property and Regimes of Ownership (Montréal)
Varying notions of a singular idea–that of property ownership–apply to the built environment. Some concern the technical production of buildings, and others relate to their physical settings, but intellectual property (patents, trademark, and copyright) and real property (real estate) intertwine in architectural production. The session considers the dispositif of property ownership in the built environment writ large.
The architect’s intellectual property might include drawings, models, computer code, and an idea behind a “design,” delimiting her scope of authorship and seemingly reducing liability for social problems, including those around class, ethnicity, race, and creed. This differs from the intellectual property of engineers and their architect-kin, in which building design has been fundamentally changed by a succession of inventions, including replicable architectural elements like garbage chutes, dumbwaiters, mechanical windows and moving walkways. Finally, real estate conventions such as property lines, privately-owned public space and air rights have offered potentially lucrative mechanisms regulating building production at another scale. We seek the commonality and difference of these practices under concepts of property ownership.
The session invites papers that consider concepts of ownership as they shape relations between buildings, people, and places. The way property functions in industrial societies has remained as if epiphenomenal to architectural history, even as sites–and situatedness–are as crucial to the success of buildings as are technical inventions. Among our questions are: what differentiates ownership of an idea, a technology, or a piece of land? what places and techniques ought no one person (or corporation) own? If the built environment connects varied kinds of ownership, how might this connection be mobilized? The panel seeks case studies, intellectual settings, or legal frameworks that address these and other questions about architectural, environmental, or urban property across regions and forces of colonization in the modern period.
Session Chairs: Peter Christensen, University of Rochester, and Claire Zimmerman, University of Michigan
Making Sacred Spaces in the Diaspora: Re-purposed Architecture (Virtual)
Scholars have recently noted that immigrants forming religious communities in diasporas re-purpose a wide range of spaces to serve as temples, mosques, gurdwaras, and cultural centers. Such adaptive reuses of churches, houses, warehouses, restaurants, libraries, grocery stores, and other buildings have provided places of worship for ethnic and religious minorities. This session is concerned with sacred spaces where religious and ethnic minorities develop new social practices and facilitate new spatial patterns. This session is open to papers considering the making, construction, adaptation, and use of sacred spaces of distinct immigrant groups, including—but not limited to—Yazidis, Copts, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, or Zoroastrian, residing outside of the country of their origin.
This session focuses on the making of minority spaces with particular attention to how the sacred spaces of minorities can be crucibles for the construction of both difference and community across racial, ethnic, and religious lines. Papers may consider how religious minorities employ distinct architectural practices to forge collective identities and create a sense of belonging.
This session welcomes papers engaging with marginalized geographies of any period. It welcomes papers that explore practices of religion and community-building in architectural thinking, and papers that contribute to the scholarship on spaces of resilience and justice. Proposals considering colonialism, gender, race, xenophobia, media, migration, discrimination, segregation, and marginality are encouraged.
Session Chair: Muna Güvenç, Brandeis University
Material Religion Through the Sacred Interior (Montréal)
Following the Protestant Reformation, clerics and church officials stripped the interior spaces of many western medieval churches of their polychromy, textiles, choir screens, side altars, and sculptures, fundamentally changing the sensorial experience of worship for both clergy and laity. These changes had an impact on how scholars approached medieval church interiors, causing some to overlook the presence of furniture and other portable furnishings. Instead, art and architectural historians have emphasized architectural structure, frescos, and painted altarpieces. Other scholars analyze aspects of the liturgy that engage with select objects, but there is much more to be said about items long since removed.
This session invites papers that investigate how sacred interiors were furnished with items such as—though not limited to—textiles, side altars, altar cloths, and choir screens. How did these material objects influence the experience of the worshipper in this holy space? How have museums’ categorization of furniture as part of the decorative arts impeded the study of these items? Is the term “furniture” the correct or relevant term to use for items such as altars and choir stalls, and can this be clarified by writers? What role did textiles play in creating movable temporary spaces within the larger building? Investigations of these themes in relation to sacred spaces from all eras and places are welcome. Differences in experiences of the sacred interior based upon gender, socio-economic class, and race are encouraged. As art historian and religious studies scholar David Morgan observes in his recent book, The Thing about Religion, material objects are the “things…[that] make religions happen.” This session seeks to explore the medieval western church interior (c. 500–1500) as a space where material objects have been employed to make religion happen.
Organized by the SAH Historic Interiors Affiliate Group.
Session Chair: Tania Kolarik, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Modern Architecture Below the Mason-Dixon Line (Montréal)
This session seeks papers that explore modernism’s influence in the southern United States. Focusing on the period between the 1930s and the 1970s, it welcomes papers that question how modern architecture challenged, affirmed, and reshaped notions of regionalism, tradition, and place in the south. It especially encourages perspectives on local conditions, case studies of projects that move beyond derivative examples of the established canon, and studies of designers who brought modernism to the South.
The papers will explore tensions between avant-garde modernism and the conservative, tradition-bound culture of the southern states. How did southern communities respond to the sleek aesthetics of the International Style and other varieties of modernism? What discourses did modern architecture set in motion, and how did they engage ideas about progress, tradition, and regional character? How did the theories, construction methods, and aesthetics of modernism find expression in the South? How did modernism intersect with the South’s social and racial hierarchies, and its politics? How did southern architects see themselves in relation to the modern movement, and what role did the South’s climate play in the application of new materials and building technologies?
This session also questions the South’s place in the historiography of American modern architecture. Although architectural historians rarely include examples of modern buildings in the South in surveys, modernism had a transformative effect on the region. Potential paper topics may address the South’s role in the history of urban renewal, community development, cultural identity, or architectural education and professionalization.
Session Chairs: Lydia Mattice Brandt, University of South Carolina, and Daniel Vivian, University of Kentucky
Neo-Medievalism Studies: New Directions for Architectural Historians (Virtual)
This session explores the architectural repercussions of medievalism and the study of those repercussions, across cultural, stylistic, and historical boundaries. Since the codification of medievalism studies in the 1970s, scholars have devoted great attention to “the study of responses to the Middle Ages,” to quote the definition attributed to Tom Shippey, literature academic and expert on J.R.R. Tolkien. Yet within medievalism studies — an interdisciplinary genre involving, for instance, scholars of literature, history, and cultural studies who explore time periods after the Middle Ages (despite its traditional association with the study of the actual Middle Ages) — architectural history is under-represented and the role of the architectural historian remains unclear. Conversely, although there is a great body of scholarship on neo-medieval architecture, it is not seen as part of a defined academic subfield within architectural history and is, instead, associated with the study of specific cultural spheres, stylistic outcomes (the Gothic revival, in particular), and time periods (the late modern).
Setting aside other meanings of “neo-medievalism” (for example, Umberto Eco’s notion that we are living in a sort of new Middle Ages ), the term has a comfortable fit in architectural history to describe the various manifestations of the medieval in post-medieval architectural culture and to denote the antithesis of classicism. Larger than the study of style, neo-medievalists are called to consider the revival of the Middle Ages as a perennial trope. “Neo-medievalism studies” can demark the responsibility retained by the architectural historian to contribute to the understanding of the topical return of the Middle Ages, including the burning issue of its political exploitation. The session invites explorations of neo-medieval architecture, and its history, theory, and historiography, in Europe and beyond, from the end of the Middle Ages to the present century and provides a place to discuss the subject matter of neo-medievalism studies. Papers relating neo-medievalism to broader historiographic, cultural, and political discourse are especially welcome.
Session Chair: Tommaso Zerbi, Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History
Neuroscience for Architectural History (Montréal)
One of the most exciting developments in recent biological research has been the explosion of knowledge about the brain. Beginning in the 1990s, neuroscientists began to employ various new technologies to probe patterns of activity in areas of the brain. It is no exaggeration to say that new discoveries since that time have revolutionized our understanding of human nature.
Perhaps the most controversial hypothesis advanced in cognitive science is the extended or enacted mind theory, sometimes called embodied cognition. When applied to philosophy and cultural theory, this “body-mind-environment” fusion has challenged established epistemologies.
There are new areas of inquiry with “neuro” tags in the humanities, social sciences, and hard sciences. John Onians and colleagues introduced the field of “neuroarthistory” following the millennium, while the AIA created the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture in 2008. A group of architectural historians began to employ similar strategies during the last decade as well.
This session invites scholars to bring their assessments and applications of neuroscience in their work to the SAH community, whether in germinal stages or established research programs. What is the state of the art in this new discipline? What are its potentials and limitations? Do the new discoveries, and hypotheses, emerging from brain science challenge or refute established strategies that architectural historians use today? What new avenues are opening that may unite the sciences, social sciences, and humanities in exploring the history of the built environment?
Papers may be as broadly or narrowly focused as time allows, but please ensure that established work in cognitive science informs your arguments. Work that touches on creativity is encouraged, as long as there is a focus on building, landscape, or urban history. Since the body and environment are linked in much new research, papers that explore this linkage will be particularly interesting. Avoid prescriptive, deterministic arguments; pose relevant questions that have yet to be answered by architectural historians.
Session Chair: Mark Hewitt, Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture
Night Scenes: For a Nocturnal History of Architecture (Montréal)
For centuries, architectural theory and discourse have been based solar paradigms. Vitruvius makes few references to night in De architectura, and the same absences can be identified in Renaissance treatises by Alberti and Palladio. Since the invention of widely available artificial light, the urban environment has seen human activity expand and intensify. Today we sleep one hour less than one hundred years ago; people work and socialize after dark. Time has become elastic. From casinos to nightclubs, from movie theaters to corner shops, cultural and retail spaces are inseparable from the experience of night. On the one hand, a nocturnal history of architecture reveals precarity and insecurity in haunted places, but, on the other hand, night scenes may offer a laboratory for the hope-filled development of better forms of living. Building on the work of scholars like Dietrich Neumann and Sandy Isenstadt, papers in this session may analyze how artificial light transforms space and architecture. We especially welcome papers that explore the larger topic of night and architecture in a wide range of historical time periods.
Session Chairs: Roberto Zancan, Genève-HSE-SO, and Javier Fernandez Contreras, Genève-HSE-SO
On Belonging: Architecture and Property Law (Virtual)
Most broadly, property can be understood as a relational term: a “property” defines that which is characteristic, or unique, to a given thing vis-à-vis another. As the legal historian Charles Donahue has pointed out, etymologically it is also a spatial term (pro, prae)— “in front of,” “what stands before”; or, more divisive, “that which separates me from you.” As this formulation makes clear, property calls attention to both social and spatial notions of what belongs and what does not.
This call invites papers that offer specific examples of how architecture has instrumentalized property law, or, more broadly, that address how architectural practice (either implicitly or explicitly) has historically structured legal concepts of property. How has architecture been leveraged as evidence for or against legal claims to property? How have particular building forms been leveraged to mark, reinforce—or, conversely, resist—property boundaries? Might considering legal frameworks of property change how we formulate architectural histories of colonization, demarcation, or belonging?
Legal scholars typically frame the idea of property as an abstract set of rights and privileges. Despite this abstraction in law, property is very often associated with the materiality of the built environment. In different ways at different times, social values regarding ownership have been projected onto objects, buildings, or parcels of land. From colonizer’s use of buildings (or lack thereof) as justification for bypassing aboriginal land claims, to the production of de-facto spatial segregation through mortgage default evictions, architectural imagination has bolstered perceived rights of the hegemonic class. At the same time, architecture has also been used to resist or re-script these same power structures, through, for example, the contestation of racially restrictive housing covenants. This panel will explore architecture as integral to a wider set of property relations, which includes property’s built form alongside its social form. Case studies from any[CY1] period and geography are welcome.
Session Chair: Lisa Haber-Thomson, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Open Session (4) (Montréal)
Open sessions are available for those whose research does not match any of the themed sessions. Papers submitted to the open sessions are assessed in terms of perceived merit, and not in regard to geography, era, theme, etc.
Session Chairs: TBD
Open Session (4) (Virtual)
Open sessions are available for those whose research does not match any of the themed sessions. Papers submitted to the open sessions are assessed in terms of perceived merit, and not in regard to geography, era, theme, etc.
Session Chairs: TBD
Paradoxes of Connectivity: Urban Infrastructure Corridors (Montréal)
The need to preserve and construct ecological corridors has been a cornerstone of landscape design and planning since the mid-1990s. Passageways connecting habitats of specific animals and plants establish vital migration routes that facilitate the movement of species and ensure the balanced distribution of natural resources. Although they are anthropogenic interventions, evolutionary biologist Robert Dunn argues that such spatial regimes, as a mode of “living with nature,” help maintain environmental integrity in the face of territorial fragmentation, physical isolation, and climate change. Yet, by enabling the migration of all kinds of organisms and resources, ecological corridors put their circulation beyond direct human control, resulting in unanticipated and unintended consequences.
This session explores the paradoxical nature of ecological corridors, relating the agency of connectivity and migration to the broader discussion of infrastructure and urbanization. Different modes of connectivity unite our cities, neighborhoods, homes, and bodies, and facilitate information exchange, yet organisms and diseases unwelcome in our environment appropriate these artificial ecologies. Caravan trade routes across deserts and steppes used to spread plague, railroads increased the speed of enemy armies, shipping containers provide passage for insects and pathogens that defoliate forests, and social networks propagate misinformation.
Historically, urban infrastructural corridors served as a means of escape from unfavorable environmental conditions, both for humans and their enemies. Today, they enable the spatial distribution of organisms, materials, and information at an ever-expanding pace and scale. We invite proposals that address the past and future of urban connectivity systems. Whom and what do these spatial and temporal ecologies benefit? At what scales do they operate? How do the dynamics of social diversity and climate change play into this picture? Do possibilities exist for the emergence of novel infrastructure corridors? Potential scenarios and case studies from any historical periods and geographical regions are welcome.
Session Chairs: Kathleen John-Alder, Rutgers University, and Anatole Tchikine, Dumbarton Oaks
Playfulness in Modern Architecture (Virtual)
It has increasingly become a dominant trend in 21st-century architecture to yield novel projects that either respond playfully to contemporary cultures or foster playful activities, including those not conventionally associated with play, such as museums, libraries, and office buildings. The emphasis on playfulness is related to post-industrial capitalism, thriving tourism, the gaming industry, the development of automation and communication techniques, and other shifting human conditions in recent decades. As firms and cities are driven to innovate in the post-industrial age, there has been an increasing demand for a creative workforce. Whereas much twentieth-century discourse centered around work, today, more and more humans view themselves as playing beings, broadcasting their leisure activities regularly through social media. A growing body of literature has explored the nature of play in response to shifts in social life, with Johan Huizinga’s conceptualization of humans as players in his 1938 book Homo Ludens widely adopted as a framework for this discussion. Playfulness has become a key concern in business literature for instrumental purposes. The fast growth of the gaming industry is accompanied with the development of ludology (game studies). Many urban design researchers have explored the potentials for built environments to act as play spaces that inspire social interaction and address our innate need to expand mental and physical boundaries. Was modernist architecture more or less playful than what came before? Did classical regularity hinder the playfulness of spaces? This panel seeks papers that explore these under-appreciated dimensions twentieth- and twentieth-century architecture. Topics might include, but are not limited to, spatial, intellectual, aesthetic, and programmatic playfulness in architecture, the influence of modernist art on architectural playability, utopianism, and the infrastructure of play.
Session Chair: Duanfang Lu, The University of Sydney, Australia
Port of Call: The Indian Ocean's Early Modern Landscapes & Heritage (Montréal)
Recent research has looked at the Indian Ocean rim during the Early Modern period as a place of African-Asian-European cultural encounters and negotiation, in the tradition of earlier trade relations, challenging historiography’s earlier hegemonic views of imposed dominance. These views, often framed by the formal reality of European colonial empires of the 19th and 20th centuries, tended to perceive Early Modern European administered port settlements as self-contained devices of colonial power, cordoned-off from their surrounding landscapes, and impervious to the diversity and influence of their populations.
Looking at aspects such as indigenous agency, settlement patterns, building technologies, spatial traditions, arts, and agrarian customs, recent research has proposed new readings for the cultural heritage of port-settlements and coastal landscapes as intertwined cultural landscapes of encounters and negotiated interactions.
On the other hand, recent approaches have also considered the multi-layered nature of the cultural heritage of the Indian Ocean’s port-settlements in the context of contested heritage, a growing area of concern in the field of Heritage Studies. Addressing the various issues arising when different societal groups attempt to claim, manipulate, or erase elements of specific heritage sites, issues of contested heritage are critical in South and Southeast Asian contexts - especially considering that cultural heritage can become entangled with the painful realities of post-colonial struggles. In some cases, cultural heritage perceived to be predominantly of European influence can become a vexed issue for states or nations whose governments adopt hegemonic discourses in relation to culture, heritage and history.
This session welcomes papers that question how African-Asian-European cultural encounters and negotiation impacted and shaped the built environments and landscapes of the Indian Ocean’s Early Modern port settlements, and their respective hinterlands. Studies that intersect these perspectives with issues of contested cultural heritage, heritage conservation and heritage management are particularly encouraged.
Session Chairs: Marta Peters Oliveira, University of Porto, Portugal, and Sidh Losa Mendiratta, University of Coimbra, Portugal
Postcolonial Strategies for the History of Materials (Montréal)
Architectural materials traverse uneven geographies of power as they pass through different stages of extraction, use, decay, and renewal. In the Global South, these trajectories have been formative to hierarchical relations between center and periphery, colony and metropole, and occident and orient. Extraction, exploitation, and pollution remain enduring facets of struggles over postcolonial sovereignty and indigenous and subaltern claims to housing, land, forests, and resources in the South and North alike. Moreover, in a neo-imperial, global context of climate emergency, materials are caught between the promise of sustainable consumption and the crisis of devastating extraction. In accounting for these histories, this panel will examine how materials are used to both constitute and contest hierarchical relations and power. How, we ask, do materials offer rich archival sites for tracking transformational political claims in the postcolonial world?
The panel contributes to emerging scholarship on materials by situating their spatial, temporal, and aesthetic trajectories within a discourse of imperial and settler colonialism, and the asymmetric geographies that have emerged in their wake. We invite papers that address the political, economic, and social inequities that shape the extraction, use, and afterlife of materials in the South as well as settler-colonial contexts in the North, spanning from histories of colonization to the present. Examples of potential paper topics include, but are not limited to: social movements that resist the conversion of land to raw materials, the production of polluted “peripheral” landscapes by rare earth and stone mining, subaltern geographies of plastic, transnational histories of soil cement, the chemical and cultural politics of colored paint, asbestos sheets and their impacts on native/settler bodies, and the changing trajectories of colonial commodities such as rubber and timber.
Session Chairs: Curt Gambetta, Cornell University, and Ateya Khorakiwala, Columbia University
Queering Spatial Histories: Intersectional Approaches (Montréal)
Recent controversies over transgender access to bathrooms highlight a persistent fight over who gets to inhabit everyday spaces and how. At a time when advances in LGBTQ rights during the last three decades are increasingly facing political and policy obstacles globally, such controversies demonstrate society’s enduring perception of some bodies as spatial interlopers, especially the bodies of queer, transgender, and non-binary people of color.,. Their fights are contemporary manifestations of conflicts about space and access to resources that have shaped LGBTQ histories during the last century.
As spaces associated primarily with middle-class homosexuality have now entered the sphere of mainstream urbanity, queer theorists have argued that cultural assimilation has erased the insurgent aspects of LGBTQ social movements often leading to gay gentrification. Although it is well understood how assimilation operates as an economic and cultural phenomenon, it is less clear how queer people have historically responded to it by making their own social values visible through the design and use of physical spaces. This session aims to expand existing literature on queer spatial histories by probing into the material and aesthetic attributes of particular spaces, how people inhabit them, and how spatial contestations shape queer social politics.
This session seeks papers examining what it means for a space to be queer and what these spaces can reveal about how architectural historians theorize cultural differences. Papers can examine queerness as embodiment of sexual difference in any historical period and geography. Of particular interest are intersectional approaches that consider race, ethnicity, bodily ability, environmental in/justice, and those that investigate the meaning of the terms gay, lesbian, and transgender in physical spaces and situated histories. Comparative studies of LGBTQ spaces that demonstrate the transfer of place-making knowledge are encouraged, as are case studies that examine how anti-hegemonic self-mobilizations de-center western urban landscapes as exceptional locations of queer spatial histories.
Session Chair: Stathis G. Yeros, University of California Berkeley
p>Reading Postcard Architecture Against the Grain (Montréal)
Scholars in the humanities and social sciences, including architectural historians, have addressed issues related to mobility. This session will shed new light on the transmission of images of architecture and the city through studies of postcards. It aims to widen our understanding of coloniality and post-coloniality by inviting participants to discuss how photographers, printers, and patrons framed cityscapes within a given postcard; the rationale for choosing what was depicted in the image and what was cropped; how such postcards were used to propagate narratives of development, specifically when they were sent back to the metropole from the colonies; how they were (and are being) collected; the nostalgia that is sometimes associated with them; the role of communities, researchers, archives, and museums in producing critical knowledge about postcards; and how postcards were reinterpreted by different actors. We encourage discussions about the role of postcards in a variety of contexts, including networks of production, constructing narratives, gift giving, monetization, and auction houses. We invite interested scholars to reflect on circulating images featuring architecture; how postcards disseminated cityscapes and iconic buildings. Furthermore, we seek to interrogate and challenge the way that some architectural historians deploy this highly-specific medium as if it were neutral. The session aims to find new and alternative readings of postcards through a deep analysis of case studies of the built environment.
Session Chairs: Suha Hasan KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Vera-Simone Schulz Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut
Reinventing Islamic Architecture in the 20th and 21st Centuries (Montréal)
This panel investigates the phenomenon of 20th- and 21st-century architects and patrons who make references to premodern Islamic monuments and built environments. The modern and contemporary resurrection or reinvention of “classical” Islamic forms can serve diverse functions and contexts. It can proclaim connections to a glorious imperial past; craft new national identities through architectural revivals; recall a nostalgic homeland for diasporic communities; or incorporate Orientalist tropes to convey luxurious consumption or cosmopolitan sophistication. Within the discipline of Islamic art history, scholars have debated the logical terminus for the field’s timeline, with traditional narratives ending before the rise of European colonialism. Recent studies have expanded the consideration of art and architecture beyond this limited framework, but scholars are only beginning to question how pre-colonial Islamic art history informs post-colonial architectural practice. Papers for this panel will be drawn from transnational, cross-cultural contexts and can feature examples from a wide range of geographies. The panel is open to a variety of topics and themes, but we welcome papers that investigate, for example, the reimagining of imperial Ottoman forms in Erdoğan’s Turkey; anachronistic Orientalization in American Shriner architecture; the emergence of the neo-Mudéjar style in Latin America; representations of Islamic spaces in theme parks and video games; or the use of historical forms in restoration and cultural heritage projects in the Middle East. We are particularly interested in examining how scholarly narratives of pre-colonial Islamic art history have shaped these architectural projects and welcome papers that explore how the built form references visual representations of historic monuments that are reproduced in academic publications and mass media. In doing so, we seek to offer new insights into the connection between modern/contemporary architecture and the historiography of Islamic art.
Session Chairs: Jennifer Pruitt, University of Wisconsin – Madison, and Emily Neumeier, Temple University
Resisting White Consumerism: Alternative Spatial Practices in Midcentury America (Montréal)
Historian Lizabeth Cohen has argued that in the aftermath of World War II, corporate leaders, politicians, journalists, and advertising executives promoted mass consumption as “a civic responsibility designed to improve the living standards of all Americans.” Architecture, in turn, became another product to be advertised and sold at a market price, as demonstrated through popular magazines, builders’ journals, television, advertising, and mass media in general.
The midcentury social critique of such consumer practices reflected the growing anxieties of the era, although many theorists privileged study of the white middle class and failed to uncover alternative forms of citizenship beyond consumption. Adorno and Horkheimer (1947) saw the evidence of social control disguised under ideals of capitalism and democratization. In Riesman’s three-tiered model for understanding the evolution of society (1950) the current stage was explained as focused on consumption. Whyte (1956) described the era as the age of conformism. De Grazia (1962) argued that true leisure disappeared in a world dominated by mechanization, production, and the quantification of time.
This session seeks papers that critically examine midcentury forms of resistance to the normative standards of consumer culture in North America. If being a good citizen was being a disciplined white consumer, who were those left behind by the consumer’s society? How did they configure the spaces of domesticity, production, and leisure that neither conformed to mainstream consumption, nor withdrew in counterculture ideologies? What domestic practices did they enact in American city centers once the white middle class abandoned them? How did rural communities organize their local economies while being excluded from the growth happening in urban and suburban areas? How did African American and Latino communities live when their access to most of the new suburban developments was effectively restricted?
Session Chairs: Andreea Mihalache, Clemson University, and David Franco, Clemson University
Rewriting Architectural History Through Reparative Descriptions (Montréal)
Many museums and collecting institutions are evaluating their role and influence in society, specifically in terms of how their practices might perpetuate systems of injustice and exclusion. In collecting and access strategies, certain concepts, peoples, and genders have been privileged over others. Acknowledging this history, institutions are increasingly revisiting their practices around description to allow for new research to emerge, for new narratives to be written, and for other material to be found.
Cataloguers, archivists and curators produce descriptions when objects enter the collection. In the past, the practice was that such descriptions tended to be permanent, like the permanency of safeguarding the object itself. Collection descriptions are therefore never entirely up to date and are thus themselves historical records.
In light of activist approaches to decolonizing museums, institutions that had not questioned how descriptions perpetuated injustice and exclusion are now beginning to look critically at their practices. Those who work with collections are seeking to expand or correct descriptions to make otherwise underrepresented yet relevant aspects of an object’s history accessible and more importantly discoverable.
This work, carried out by archivists, librarians, and museum professionals, is crucial for architectural historians who are committed to critical engagement with the field. For example, critical cataloguing allows for the discoverability and expansion of scholarship on “Caribbean architecture,” a focus area that had been largely obscured by the term “tropical architecture,” thus impeding potential research into the architectural history of that understudied region. Reparative description is important for those writing about architecture as it allows for discovering historical materials that support research that would otherwise not be found.
The questions for which we seek papers are: what new histories emerge when collections are redescribed, when previously neglected narratives are foregrounded, and how can this practice influence new historical research?
Session Chairs: Michelle Joan Wilkinson, National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Martien de Vletter, Canadian Centre for Architecture
Safe Spaces (Montréal)
One of the most elemental ideas in architecture is that buildings should provide shelter, protection and safety. With the rise of the architectural profession, especially from the later part of the nineteenth century, the concern for safety has been increasingly made explicit and pursued through various kinds of technical regulation, sometimes internally but more often externally imposed. Architecture has also been called upon to enact wider agendas regarding safety including those to do with public health, hygiene, security and accessibility. It has thus become integral to the broader cultural imaginary of safety, whereby space can be seen to counter or to mitigate different kinds of harm, risk, or damage.
This session is concerned with the connection between the material, technical and spatial mechanisms of safety and architecture, and the social and political contexts which attend these. For instance, we might identify an ethos of social improvement at work in large-scale interventions such as housing standards and building codes. We might see the rise of legal and financial liability and risk management in instances of building failure. We might consider the marketing of safety as a product or service in defensive architectural formations such as gated communities, bunkers and panic rooms. Or we might examine the need for safe spaces in relation to the rights of the disadvantaged, marginalised and dispossessed.
Through case studies, we are interested in exploring the broader issues that safety presents for architectural history. How do we historicise questions of safety and articulate their importance for the discipline? How can a history of safety become more than a history of failure or triumph? What methods and forms of evidence are most useful in considering safety and architecture? We welcome papers that address cases and issues across different time periods, geographic locations, and cultural contexts.
Session Chairs: Barbara Penner, University College London, and Charles Rice, University of Technology Sydney
Silent Collaborators: On Authorship in Architecture (Montréal)
In November 1953, The Chicago Tribune published Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's proposal for a Convention Hall. The following month, Engineering News-Record reported on the project, pointing out that in its development, Mies had engaged Frank Kornacker as structural engineer. Peter Carter noted in Mies van der Rohe at Work that the architect developed the project both in his office and with a group of graduate students at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The Convention Hall, among the most ambitious projects proposed by Mies, was formalized in the joint master’s thesis presented by students Yujiro Miwa, Henry Kanazawa and Pao-Chi Chang in June 1954. Even so, numerous publications ignore this collaboration.
Recently, researchers have started bringing to light the work of silent collaborators in the development of some of the most iconic works of modernism. In this session, we invite investigations that value silenced voices, significant co-authors, and other contributors to works of modern or contemporary architecture: students working with their professors, women teaming up with their partners, engineers contributing to structural development, and so on. Papers that explore the inclusive nature of architectural teamwork are especially encouraged.
Session Chairs: Zaida Garcia-Requejo, University of A Coruña Spain, and Kristin Jones, Illinois Institute of Technology
The Architecture Competition as a Cultural Mechanism (Montréal)
Throughout history, architectural competitions have mediated between expertise and social demand. On the one hand, competitions were instrumentalized through commissioning processes that linked the winning (built) project with forms of representation and political power. On the other, they contributed to the intra-architectural discourse. Currently, the prevalence of competition systems in countries like Switzerland and Belgium has a palpable impact on the local construction cultures, whilst elevating the visibility of architecture in the public sphere – culturally and politically.
This session is based on the premise that competitions operate in both directions. Firstly, as means to instigate public debates, they educate clients and highlight the societal impact of buildings or urban space. Secondly, as ground for architectural experimentation, they contribute to a build-up of design expertise. Competitions are not solely defined by the winning entry, whose victory can be the result of ephemeral alliances of interest and circumstance. To the historian, competitions offer a rich field of interpretation as assemblies of experimental projects, mapping the discursive field around a general task – be it the development of building types, technologies, or significant sites. Architectural competitions thus hold more historical value when considered as matrices of potential solutions to a common task, than in the experimentation displayed by individual entries. Viewed in this way, competitions become complex constellations, articulating societal and cultural concerns through the medium of architectural expertise.
This session will examine architectural competitions as cultural mechanisms, operating simultaneously at the levels of intra-disciplinary expertise and wider socio-cultural frameworks. It invites analyses of competitions that reverberated beyond their specific program and location, shaping the outlooks of peer-architects, organizer-clients, and the wider community. We seek case studies that place competitions in a historical perspective, and investigate their fundamental role in the creation, or redefinition, of specific building cultures.
Session Chairs: Irina Davidovici, ETH Zurich; and Véronique Patteeuw, ENSAP LILLE
The Philadelphia School Goes Abroad (Virtual)
In 1961, critic Jan Rowan identified a new force in American architecture, gathered around the University of Pennsylvania, that was testing the orthodoxies of postwar modernism. The figures he christened “the Philadelphia School” did not, he made clear, comprise a regional architecture, but instead articulated new universal aspirations born of distinctly local conditions. Led by Louis Kahn and informed by Lewis Mumford, the group Rowan identified also included such figures as Romaldo Giurgola, Robert Venturi, Edmund Bacon, and Robert Geddes, as well as the French engineer Robert Le Ricolais, but excluded women such as Anne Tyng. Rowan’s inclusions and exclusions were partly echoed by Manfredo Tafuri when he identified a ”Kahn School” a few years later. A significant body of architectural design, city planning, and landscape architecture substantiates the critical weight given their collective effort, particularly in Philadelphia and the northeastern United States. Key figures of this circle were also influential teachers, and highly regarded designers whose wide influence reflects the increased accessibility of international travel and study.
This session invites scholarly contributions to the study of the so-called Philadelphia School that look beyond its immediate setting of the American northeast. How did ideas from this circle, first elaborated in Philadelphia, travel further afield? Which contributors and students remain unacknowledged, and which projects warrant further attention? Do neglected chapters, such as Giurgola’s post-Canberra output in Australia, Sweden, Brazil, and Singapore, reveal wider patterns of diffusion and transformation? What are the stakes of reasserting or contesting the idea of a school in the historiography of these prominent individuals and their close colleagues and students? This session welcomes scholarship that demonstrates the reach of this mode of (post)modernist practice across the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and questions the means of its spread and its importance for contemporary architectural history.
Session Chairs: Cameron Logan, University of Sydney, and Denise Costanzo, The Pennsylvania State University
The Unresolved Tensions of Mass Housing (Montréal)
Affordable mass housing projects of the twentieth century emerged in response to the severe shortages of the interwar years. For the first time, the state took on the role of patron of residential architecture. Housing became one of the primary objects of modernist architectural research, which approached it as a technical and economic problem.
After the earliest transfers from a few western European centers to the Soviet Union and the Mediterranean beginning in the late 1920s, by the mid-twentieth century standardized modernist housing projects appeared worldwide, despite significant geographical, cultural, and political differences. In Latin America, where extreme poverty forced intense out-migration from the rural Andes into the cities, the state attempted to solve the problem of housing the poor while fostering the illusion that all sectors of society share in its wealth.
Critics of modernist mass housing projects have argued that many of the difficulties lay in the incongruence between theoretical models and reality, standards and actual ways of life, and the supposedly typical nuclear family as opposed to diverse living patterns. Yet another set of problems emerged in the translation of standard housing models from the Urals to the Caribbean, without proper adaptation to climate and local building practices, and under various political regimes. In many cases, architects failed to address the social and cultural aspirations of the intended inhabitants, exacerbating segregation and reinforcing endemic problems. In other cases, inadequate design standards for disenfranchised dwellers stemmed from the practices of totalitarian or corrupt regimes. This session invites contributions that examine these dynamics in mass housing worldwide, in various historical contexts up to the recent years, with a focus on how the process and outcome relate to programs of social reform, restructuring or coercion, political action and other forms of community intervention.
Session Chairs: Aniel Guxholli, McGill University, and Valentina Davila, McGill University
Transactional Spaces: Currency in the Imperial Built Environment (Montréal)
Recent scholarship on the relationship of architecture and capitalism has taken an affirmative turn to systems of extraction and circulation that account for empire’s global legacy. Yet amidst this infrastructural turn, few histories have questioned how architecture shapes the act of transaction itself, that is, the carrying out of business. To study transactional spaces–designed environments that played a pivotal role in the everyday functioning, maintenance, and perpetuation of empire–is to explore the material systems that determine how currency is exchanged for other forms of value, goods, or labor. A focus on the transaction uncovers architecture’s role in soft forms of coercion that legitimate the exploitation of land and bodies through a process of abstraction. We invite perspectives from the global context that consider how the built environment facilitated the flow of money before computational technologies radically transformed the architecture of international finance. Trading posts, docks, slave auction blocks, colonial bank branches, board rooms, wire transfer stations–what other spaces reveal the penetration of design into the core of imperial capitalism?
This session solicits methodologically innovative papers that emphasize the mercantile aspect of architecture, from the relentless search for luxurious commodities in the 17th century through decolonization in the 1960s. How does the construction of transactional environments (their materiality, tectonics, and organization) reveal undisclosed aspects of the financial systems they support? How are these spaces of commercial activity connected to sites of extraction and production, and to transnational networks of trade? We especially seek studies that complicate the colonizer/colonized dichotomy by looking at, for example, the role of Asian, African, and Latin American traders. We are also interested in moments of (financial) failure and collapse, disruption, and protest, which could help undo the conception of the circulation of currency and commodities as a rational process.
Session Chairs: Michael Faciejew Yale University, and Rixt Woudstra, University of Liverpool
Underworlds and the Architectural Imaginary (Montréal)
Following the opening of Place-Ville-Marie in 1962 and the Métro in 1966, Montréal has been renowned for its ville souterraine or Underground City. First conceived by Vincent Ponte and then popularized by Reyner Banham, this misunderstood network of interior spaces has served to transform—at least the in the city’s external imaginary if not always in actual practice—downtown Montréal into a tentacular megastructure.
Across the globe and throughout history, subterranean spaces and especially networks have been crucial to shaping the image of the city. From ancient myths regarding architecture’s possible cavernous origins to the frequent associations of the underground with death and burial, the emergence of geology as a scientific discipline, and the extraction of materials used in construction and the energy needed for habitation, the underground has been a key locus for the architectural imaginary.
In the nineteenth century, the earth was often seen as a site of miasmatic contagion. Locales such as the basement, crypt, and catacombs were also seen as nefarious venues for subversive plotting or reclusive phantoms. With technologized networks such as sewers and subways, representations of these subterranean spaces became symbols of metropolitan life. In certain examples, the underworld was shown to be ordered, disciplined, and safe. In others, representations mediated between technological rationalism and the subversive, suggesting an ungovernable space of resistance or even the phantasmagorical.
Whether as a site for monsters or engineering mastery, underworld imagery abounds through architectural and urban history. Our particular focus is representations: how do diagrams, drawings, novels, films, photographs, newspaper and magazine articles, paintings, etc. depict the underground? How does such representation mediate a hidden space which can only be glimpsed partially? How does it oscillate between the terrifying and the banal, the mystical and the knowable? We welcome contributions from all geographic locales and time periods.
Session Chairs: Sun-Young Park, George Mason University, and Peter Sealy, University of Toronto
What is “shared”? Architectural Heritage in Conflict (Virtual)
Scholars typically describe heritage as intrinsically dissonant or difficult, particularly in conflict territories, highlighting the socio-political differences that ascribe architectural value to buildings and sites. This session focuses on the potentiality of architectural heritage in conflict territories to become shared, contemplating whether “sharedness” may be possible at all.
What can be considered shared about architectural heritage in conflict territories, in what manner, and why? How can architectural history, and methodological explorations of writing the past, shed light on the complexities that surround the question of who defines modes of sharedness? To what extent can fluidity and uncertainty of meanings challenge the way architecture becomes heritage, dictating what is to be remembered and what it is to be forgotten? Can we speak about sharedness without forging commonalities and homogenization, but by utilizing the lens of architectural history to reveal the multiple frictions, narratives, interpretations, and stories that have remained hidden or paused on a particular time-space agency?
Papers may relate to the contested geopolitical, cultural, and historical constructs of the built environment as heritage in tangible and intangible terms, and across various periods and geographies. We welcome papers that interrogate competing narratives of nationalism and identity; oscillations between remembrance and oblivion; and preservation practices that experiment with potentialities of inclusiveness and alternative collaborations in framing the shared in architectural heritage.
Session Chairs: Savia Palate, University of Cyprus, and Panayiota Pyla, University of Cyprus
Whose Garden is it Anyway? Design, Ownership, Territory, and Agency (Montréal)
The genius hero-architect may be an outdated model, and yet this conception of what is important in and about buildings can haunt the way we perceive gardens and landscapes, both historic and contemporary. Gardens are often discussed as solely the work of a well-known landscape architect or landscape gardener, or as the creation of a (frequently wealthy) landowner. Forming a garden, however, is often accomplished by people other than named designers or owners, and these workers, literally on the ground, can be responsible for such key activities as the arrangement and selection of plants, rocks, or other materials, for example. Gardens shaped according to an initial vision will almost always change more rapidly than buildings. Is the later, changed garden justifiably still appropriately called the work of that designer as one would call a building the work of an architect, or are there other ways of seeing landscapes and the processes of change? What can we learn from a sense of proprietorship often found in those who use, shape, and maintain gardens yet do not legally own them, both at their inception and in their afterlife? How do matters of cultural hierarchy and identity, broadly or narrowly construed, or socio-economic power or its lack impinge (or not) upon garden proprietorship?
This session invites analytical case studies from a wide range of historic and geographic contexts that explore concepts of design, ownership, territory, and agency in gardens and designed landscapes beyond the idea that a garden is most meaningfully understood as the creation of a landowner or well-known landscape architect or landscape gardener.
Session Chair: Emily T. Cooperman, Independent Scholar
Writing Alternative Histories of Disaster Relief: Architecture and Humanitarianism (Montréal)
The architectural discourse on disaster relief has always been entangled with humanitarianism, but architectural humanitarianism is an imprecise concept that resides in the linkages between architecture and the two kinds of aid, humanitarian aid and development aid. The epistemological perceptions and the theoretical distinctions between these two kinds of aid became blurred with development aid supported by the 1947 Marshall Plan and the institutionalization of humanitarian aid with the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the founding of different United Nations (UN) bodies. This session is a call to rethink the architectural discourse on disaster relief from the inception of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1863 to the present, taking the perspective of the entanglement between architecture, humanitarianism, and disaster relief. The session sets out to correct the canonical histories of disaster relief that are largely dominated by the narratives of UN interventions, instead exploring the collaboration between architects and humanitarian organizations, such as the League of Red Cross Societies (LRCS), the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), whose contributions have largely been overshadowed by the UN. The session aims to improve understanding of how these agencies approach disaster relief differently and, in the articulation of their approach, rely on spatial typologies designed by architects. Scholars are invited to scrutinize the various roles of architects in disaster relief over time—as imperial commissioners, state professionals, and humanitarian developers—and elucidate the way differences in mandate have impacted architectural ideologies and their main conceptions. By tracing how the notion of disaster relief has changed in the contexts of imperialism, colonialism, postcolonialism, and neoliberalism, this session will demonstrate how the ideas of racism, citizenship, and class are fundamental to discussing architectural aid typologies and the everyday built environment in disaster zones.
Session Chairs: Cathelijne Nuijsink, ETH Zürich, and Fatina Abreek-Zubiedat, Tel Aviv University