CFP: Streitsache: Architecture as Matter of Contention

The interdisciplinary conference “Streitsache: Architecture as Matter of Contention” intends to probe the complex relation between architecture and conflict. There are numerous instances in which architectural objects become objects of conflict, ‘bones of contention, ’a Streitsache. Conceiving of architecture as a Streitsache generates new architectural knowledge, including knowledge on the interactions that emerge from and through the objects of contention. Architectural things, whether in the form of architectural details, buildings or entire cities, are actors whose agency becomes manifest in conflictual processes. The field of politics and the negotiation of law is constituted through and by them. As thresholds Streitsachen are politically operative because they render conflicts visible and negotiable. The debates surrounding the Stuttgart 21 project, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, or Les Halles in Paris could serve as recent examples.The aim of the conference is to expand the scope of thinking about architecture, its function and character, into fields of the theory of law and political philosophy. As agents of the political, ’things of contention render plurality and heterogeneous interests visible and negotiable. Architecture’s dissension opens up a new space for collective thinking and action. The conference is interdisciplinary and addresses scholars and practitioners from the fields of architecture, art, political sciences, legal studies, cultural studies, anthropology, science and technology studies, cultural technology studies, and media philosophy. The structure of the conference follows the phases of architectural processes in which matters of contention become visible and negotiable: a) design, planning, and implementation; b) judgment and critique; c) negotiation and settlement.
a) Conflicts arise because of sketches, plans, models, construction site protocols, budgets, legal rules, and press releases. How and through which circumstances does architecture turn into a matter of contention? What precisely is the disputed subject? How can we frame the design process as a sequence and as a negotiation of difference between agencies, both human and non-human? What kind of architectural knowledge becomes manifest in a concrete dispute?
b) Matters of contention generate their own social spaces. They are the sites where a contending community—and therewith the precondition for the political—emerges. How do disputing actors appropriate architecture? What modifications do contested things undergo during the conflictual relation? How do values become comprehensible and negotiable during a conflict? How do processes of selection function and how are verdicts reached? How do architectural objects become instruments that trigger or resolve conflicts?
c) Architectural matters of contention not only promote bellicose polemics but also social knowledge, which is implemented in processes of negotiation and arbitration. How does architecture function as a repository of or evidence of past conflicts? How can knowledge gained from past conflicts be used to create strategies to prevent future conflicts? Does it make sense to think the culture of architecture as a culture of contention?
We welcome submissions of case studies, historical and theoretical reflections dealing with particular projects, built architectures and specific disputes. The working languages at the conference will be German and English. Please send an abstract (max. 500 words) and a short CV before September 20, 2014 to: candide@theorie.arch.rwth-aachen.de

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