Conference Report: A World History of Architecture

Conference Report: A World History of Architecture

The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

November 2-4, 2018

Eliana Abu-Hamdi Murchie: emurchie@mit.edu

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A World History of Architecture, a small but mighty conference organized by Murray Fraser took place at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, November 2-4, 2018. Over two days, and only eight sessions, Fraser was able to curate a cumulative and rigorous series of presentations that tousled with all facets of teaching global architectural history to the undergraduate and graduate audience. The conference focused on the term “global” in two ways. The first was as a geographic lens, a method that leaned towards the increased inclusion of previously ill-studied parts of the world into the architectural survey. The second was an intellectual engagement with the instruction of global architectural history, and an analysis of its growing interdisciplinarity with neighboring fields of study. The aim of these methods of engagement was explicitly to study and inform on the future direction of global architectural history in universities.

The morning session on day one, The Expanded Field, had Mark Jarzombek tangling with the concept of tradition, a theme that can be in one sense totalizing of all that is non-modern, but in another, a useful/clever label used to project value and meaning onto art and architectural objects. The presentation intended to make clear a much needed separation between the term traditional – so often a synonym for the vernacular – and the meaning of global history.

 Subsequent sessions were based on the themes of:

Global Domesticity

Colonialism, Post-Colonialism and Beyond

Architectural History and Design Research

Informalities, Identities and Subjectivities

Culture and Architectural History

Architectural History as Pedagogy

 

Evening sessions focused on a discussion of the architectural object on the first day, and closed with an ambitious debate of the future of architectural education on the second. Throughout, the group of global scholars shared the pedagogical challenges of teaching in architectural history in their home institutions, in hope that together, they could begin to envision a way for the discipline to transcend beyond its seemingly fixed limits. David Leatherbarrow, in his presentation on Architectural History as Pedagogy transformed architectural survey into a study of architectural details, with intense focus on the various elements that compose the architectural object, rather than a rote evaluation of the whole. In this way architectural education takes pause, ensures that the students absorb and evaluate, not just commit the basic facts of architectural history to memory. Students thus are able to engage emotionally with their object of study, connect with the built environment around them, and, most importantly, hone their critical analysis skills.

 

 

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