CfP: Education through Architecture and Work on the Self? (Florence, 9-10 June 2017)

Education through Architecture and Work on the Self?
Interdisciplinary Workshop at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut
Florence, Italy, June 9 – 10, 2017
Deadline: Feb 28, 2017
Does architecture sensitize people not only aesthetically, but also ethically? And connected with that: Should the architect fulfill the wishes of his client and the expectations of society, or should he not rather educate them, even against their will? The history of
architecture and its theories is after all rich in examples in which the educational and ethical dimension of buildings and programmes is
significant. The spectrum of reflections on the inter-relation between architecture, ‘ethos’ and ‘paideia’ stretches from the rhetoric of
etho-aesthetic harmony and proportion during the Renaissance, to the monuments of the baroque doctrine of affects, to the reform of
architecture and man in the spirit of the Enlightenment or the ‘architecture parlante’, down to the total artwork (‘Gesamtkunstwerk’)
of the ‘Jugendstil’ at the turn of the century, and the demand for the “uniformity and self-containment of form” as counterpart of the
“growing neurosis of our age” (Peter Behrens, Kunst und Technik, 1910). A frequent corollary of such reflections, the ideal of a “new man”, who
ought to be stimulated through art in general and architecture in particular and lead to a new human experience, indeed a new life, also
at the moral level, was a fundamental premise of Russian Constructivism, of the De Stijl movement, and of the Bauhaus itself, as
inculcated by Fritz Wichert in his essay on the educational role of the new architecture (Die neue Baukunst als Erzieher, 1928). That this
ideal concealed within itself negative sides, which could rapidly morph into totalitarianism, is shown by Stalinist, Rationalist/Fascist and
Nazi architectural theory. After World War II, the re-animated dictate of form of classical modernism led to a postmodern architecture
predicated on the promotion of plurality, complexity and contradiction. This kind of postmodernism, and its “random” character, provoked in
turn the reaction of a “critical architecture”. And what about our own time? What educational, ethical and political intentions are pursued by
architects today, and on what theoretical foundations are they based?
The first annual question of the five-year ‘bauhaus project’ that will culminate in the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus in 2019 was
the following: ”can design change society?” (Arch+ No. 222, 2015). This question about the transformative power of artistic design, which is in
the last analysis a question of its ethical and political potential, is one we wish to limit to architecture alone. We also wish to pose the
question: How far is work in architecture in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s sense a work on oneself (“working in philosophy – he said – is really
more a working on oneself”), and “on one’s way of seeing things”? At the same time another question is posed which needs to be critically
examined: namely, the question how far this individual ethical position is only meaningful, if it never forgets that the individual with his
thought and action constitutes or “figures” society (Norbert Elias).
These connections enable us among other things to reflect on the following questions: With what formal and typological vocabulary were
thought processes historically posed, structured and newly configured, and how today? How are physical movements, sensory perceptions and
experiences, affections and (ethical) emotions generated, channelled, modified or transformed? From what image of man, what conceptions
(beauty, symmetry, eurhythmy, proportion, rhythm, the sublime, the painterly, the aura, the atmospheric, etc.), and from what theories of
perception (doctrine of affects, theory of intuitions, sensory physiology, psychophysics, gestalt psychology, etc., right down to the
more recent approaches to brain, emotional and consumer research), did architects and architectural theorists start out in order to elucidate
the complex relation of architecture, ‘ethos’ and ‘paideia’? The aim of the workshop is to promote a shared dialogue between historical case
studies and current positions on the educational and ethical role of architecture, and to bring together art historians, architectural
historians, philosophers, psychologists and others in a joint forum to discuss them.
Please send a brief résumé (max. 400 words) and a short CV to the organizers Hana Gründler ( and Berthold Hub
( by 28 February 2017. The selection of contributions will be made by 15 March 2017.
The Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut will cover the travel and accommodation costs incurred by the participants
in conformity with the guidelines of the Federal law on traveling expenses.
Further information:

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