Call for Papers: Ethics and Politics of Material in Architecture. Florence, 11-12 July 2019

Interdisciplinary Workshop at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut

Not only formal aspects such as style and ornament, but also the materials themselves should be regarded as carriers of meaning in architecture. Raw materials are processed into construction materials that play more than merely a practical or constructive role, and can be demonstrative of power or unity, for example. The way in which materials are able to acquire symbolic, ideological, and political dimensions (which in each case is linked with specific ontological implications) is an integral part of material cultures, and is a recurring theme in the history of building.

Today – although based on different theoretical premises – there is increasing talk again of the ‘agency’ of materials. Against the background of current debates around the “material turn” and “new materialism”, in which “matter” is thought to elude an objectifying, technologizing grasp, architecture is beginning to readdress the question of an “ethics of the material” as well as of the role of the subject and the cultural dimension of this discourse, and hence not least of the political dimension of architectural design.

This workshop initiated by the research group ‘Ethics & Architecture’ sets out to discuss, to critically reflect on, and to interrogate the relations between material and architecture. Among other things, this involves the investigation of why the material aspects of our culture are presently the object of such great interest. What traditions is this preceded by, and how, historically, have these been ‘materialized’ in concepts and objects? What expansions, negations, modifications, or contaminations has the knowledge of a material – and the significance attributed to this – undergone? What are the contexts and circumstances that determine the breaks and continuities in our material consciousness?

The workshop looks for contributions that approach this problem area through the reference to concrete material instances (wood, clay, concrete, glass, marble, granite, plastic, etc.) from different epochs and cultures. In addition to the questions mentioned above, important topics of discussion are the possible economic and ecological implications. The aim of the workshop is to provide art and architectural theorists and historians, philosophers and anthropologists, etc. with a platform for a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary dialogue.

Please send a brief proposal (max. 400 words) and a short CV to the following email address by 15 February 2019:

The selection of contributions will be made by 15 March 2019. The Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut can cover the travel and accommodation costs incurred by the participants in conformity with the guidelines of the Federal law on travel expenses.



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