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CFP: Blueprints for green: The emergence of environmentalist design in Italy and its international dimension, 1954-1986

Blueprints for green

The emergence of environmentalist design in Italy and its international dimension, 1954-1986

International Workshop | University of Liège: Faculty of Architecture | 3 May 2019

This workshop explores the link between design and environmentalist discourse in historical perspective. Its scope covers the development of design discourse in Italy between 1954-1986. Practices and proposals that circulated during these three decades can be read as documents per se of three momentous decades in which design discourse in Italy effectively operated as a laboratory. Proposals and strategies developed over this period offer useful terms of comparison, and help describe the cross-national meshwork from which sustainable design discourse emerged.

The Italian case is relevant for several reasons. The 1950s saw architects and designers eager to discuss the impact of industrialisation. Thirty years later, the Green movement campaigned for a ban on nuclear power plants. A popular referendum was held in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster and a majority of voters decided to opt out of nuclear energy. The jury is still out on the implications and legacy of this referendum. It represented a clear and striking success in shaping policy for the new Green movement. In parallel, Italy was experiencing a series of contradictory phenomena. The country found itself in a strategic position in the Cold War era bloc politics. External interferences exacerbated a virulent ideological confrontation. A wide economic gap between North and South persisted. Breakneck industrialisation was taking place within a pre-existent structure of outdated institutions. A deep rift separated the two main confessions: Catholic Church and Communist Party.

The workshop argues for the need to fill this gap in historicisation. It invites contributions from perspectives including architecture, design, art and environmental histories. Its aim is to foster exchange and interplay between different narratives and genres. These include design practices, heritage, and environmental conservation. The workshop aims to revitalise a stagnant conversation and will provide an opportunity to test arguments and methods. Contributions exploring the historical continuity between heritage and environmental preservation are also welcome. In the period of time under consideration, some saw industrialisation as a threat. Industrialisation was perceived like a force looming on the landscape and architectural status quo. It stimulated a debate on what constituted culture and national culture with the goal to establish what was worth preserving for future generations. Was this discourse intertwining heritage and nature conservation specific to Italy as proposed by some scholars? It is an interpretation worth testing.

These questions have so far been addressed by scholars working within unconnected networks. The workshop is a contribution toward building bridges between approaches and institutions. We aim to develop its proceedings over the next two years into an edited publication.

We invite proposals for individual papers (20 minutes) in any area dealing with the remit of the workshop. Topics may include but are not limited to:

• Formal and informal education 
• Politics and activism
• Design by non designers
• Infrastructures and cities
• Conservation (architecture and landscape)
• Visual culture
• Utopias and dystopias across the media
• Manufacturing, industrial production, and materials 

• National identity in industry and landscape
• Interdisciplinary practices

Please send your proposals before 18 March 2019 to dprina@uliege.be and ucljgor@ucl.ac.uk. Abstracts should not exceed 300 words, and include a biographical note of ca. 100 words.  

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SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
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