CONF: The Medium and the Message (Birmingham, 1-2 July 2016)

The Medium and the Message: Re-evaluating Form and Meaning in European Architecture c. 1400-1950
Birmingham, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, July 1 – 2, 2016
Location: The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, The University of
Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B152TS
About the Conference: All buildings – whether polite, vernacular or somewhere in between – were initially informed by some kind of presiding idea or set of ideas. Some of these ideas presumed an audience (and are therefore part of the building’s rhetoric and essential to its intended ‘meaning’), while others did not (in being part, for example, of a production process, or allied with social and cultural contexts, and no more than that). All such ideas should concern the architectural historian, but the most engaging and historically resonant may well belong to the first category and also be
ones that can be inferred and recovered from the buildings themselves. The architectural historian may also profit from a keener understanding
of how the ideas initially underpinning a building may, in time, have become modified, or even eclipsed by associations of very different
The conference will investigate the ways in which ideas are conveyed by the physical and visual medium of architectural form. It will include
case studies which will move us beyond explanations of architecture that borrow too liberally from literature and theory, and will thereby
deepen our understanding both of the medium of architecture and of the construction and operation of architectural ‘meaning’. Moreover, by
establishing or re-exploring the intellectual foundations sustaining the designs of certain key buildings, and by examining the ways in
which they informed the physical realities of the buildings themselves, we hope to reinvigorate and enrich our understanding of significant
moments in European architectural history.
Friday 1 July
10-00    Registration
10.30      Anthony GERAGHTY/David HEMSOLL: Introduction & welcome
Sigrid DE JONG (Leiden):  Keynote – Sensing Architecture’s Sense
Session 1
11-30     Paul DAVIES (Reading): Design and Meaning in Brunelleschi’s Foundling Hospital
11-50    Il KIM (Auburn, Alabama): Nicolaus Cusanus’s St Nikolaus Hospital (1458) in Bernkastel-Kues (Germany): Metaphysics in Number and
Angle Embedded in Architecture
12-10     Angeliki POLLALI (American College of Greece, Athens):
Architectural Motifs in Quattrocento Practice: Intricate Interrelationships Between Function and Antique Meaning
Session 2
2-00    Olivia HORSFALL TURNER (Victoria and Albert Museum): Meaning in Materials in Seventeenth-Century English Architecture
2-20    James JAGO (York): ‘This Adjacent House’: The Representation of Saint Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster, as the House of Commons in the
Seventeenth Century
2-40    Kristina HAGEN (Heidelberg):  Form and Meaning of Monastic Manor Houses in South-Western Germany and Switzerland c. 1600-1720
Session 3
4-00    Richard HEWLINGS (Historic England): Chiswick House: Appearance and Meaning
4-20    Peter LINDFIELD (Stirling): An Ancient House for a Modern Abbott: the Case of Lee Priory, Kent (‘a Child of Strawberry Hill’)
4-40     Ciarán Rua O’NEILL (York): A Punishment on Posterity: John Soane and the Caryatid
Saturday 2 July
10.30      Anthony GERAGHTY/David HEMSOLL: Introduction & welcome
Christine STEVENSON (Courtauld Institute): Keynote – Whose Medium? Whose Message? – the Charms of Architectural Equivocation
Session 1
11-30     Mark WILSON JONES (Bath): Copying as a Means of Communicating Through Architecture
11-50    Timo HAGEN (Heidelberg): Theophil Hansen’s Byzantine Revival Chapels and Their Successors: Architectural ‘Otherness’ in Differing
12-10    Nathaniel WALKER (Charleston): An Eden Under Glass: Scientific Devotion at the Oxford Museum
Session 2
2-00    Neil Jackson (Liverpool): Impolite Architecture: The ‘Message’ of the Nineteenth-Century Speculative House
2-20    Lori SMITHEY (Ann Arbor): Sacré-Cœur Basilica: Monument of Decadence
2-40     Lucy WANG (Northwestern): The Woolworth Building: Examining the ‘Cathedral of Commerce’ and the Commerce of Cathedrals c. 1913-1930
Session 3
4-00    Harald STÜHLINGER (Zürich): Messages in Urban Space: the architecture of Red Vienna
4-20    Fabrizio BALLABIO (Architectural Association): Matter and Motif in an Early Work of Mies van der Rohe
The conference will conclude with a drinks reception held in the foyer of the Barber Institute.
Tickets for the conference cost £10 and are purchased via an ‘online shop’:
Student applicants: Ten grants each of £30 are being offered by the Society of Architectural Historians Great Britain to registered
students based outside Birmingham, to cover the £10 conference fee and to help defray costs; these will be awarded strictly on a ‘first come
first served’ basis, and, to apply, you should contact David Hemsoll ( before 8 June heading your message ‘student
request for conference support’.

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