Beyond ‘by’: Towards an inclusive architectural history? (London, 3 June 2017)

Beyond ‘by’: Toward an inclusive architectural history?
The SAHGB Annual Symposium 2017 will be held in London on June 3rd, 2017, the weekend before SAH Glasgow. Two deaths and two conferences prompt this symposium. The deaths were those of two of the greatest English architectural historians of the twentieth century, Howard Colvin in 2007 and Ronald Brunskill in 2015; the conferences were both in 2011, one the SAHGB Symposium, ‘Architecture after Colvin’, the other the Liverpool University ‘New Light on Vernacular Architecture’. At ‘Architecture after Colvin’, Professor Andrew Saint looked at the problem of ‘by’ and argued persuasively that concentration on attributions of buildings to particular architects could be a hindrance to architectural history. For some years the old idea of the polite threshold, dividing the architect-designed sheep from the vernacular goats, has been falling out of favour, although we still have an SAHGB and a VAG, an SAH and a VAF. The New Light conference showed the breadth of international scholarship on modern vernaculars. But has ‘by’ been the main thing continuing to divide polite and vernacular? If it is rejected as the primary way of making sense of the built environment, where does this leave traditional architectural history? This Symposium invites papers which may look at those and the following questions, either in general terms or through studies specific in time, place or building type:
• Is there still any value in a division (theoretical or methodological) between ‘polite’ and ‘vernacular’? Can the methodology and practice of one ‘side’ be used equally well by the other?
• Is the real divide between on the one hand the study of a building or area over the long term, and on the other the study purely of an initial design? • Should we follow Saint in moving on from ‘by’, or is it still a valuable approach even with quotidian buildings?
• Is the way forward the notion of how a building has been inhabited and lived in (like the archaeological concept of artefact biography), or should we be looking at space (within buildings or around and between them)?
• Is there any reason to study a building differently from any other manifestation of material culture?
• How can we adopt a narrative and way of working which applies not just to Britain, Europe and the United States, but also to Asia and the Global South?
Proposals of no more than 300 words for papers of twenty minutes should be sent to the organiser, Jonathan Kewley, at by 15th November 2016, and notices of acceptance or rejection will be sent out as soon as possible after that. Papers should present original research containing material not already presented apart from to a small local audience. Speakers will be asked to submit draft papers by 30th April 2017. It is the expectation of the Society that speakers will be able to obtain independent financial support for their travel and accommodation. It is intended to publish suitable papers.

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