Call for Papers: Narratives of Disease, Discomfort, Development, and Disaster: Reconsidering (sub)Tropical Architecture and Urbanism. Brisbane, 5-8 December 2019

A stream of iNTA2019, Urban Tropicality: Urban Challenges in the Tropical Zone, convened by Dr Deborah van der Plaat (The University of Queensland), Dr Vandana Baweja (University of Florida) and Professor Tom Avermaete (ETH Zurich).

Hurricanes Irma and Maria (2017) have demonstrated the urgent need for architecture in the tropics to be resilient to tropical cyclones, storms, sea surges and floods. Yet, in architectural historiography, tropical architecture has been viewed as a colonial construct acting in response to disease and discomfort – factors that needed to be conquered, overcome, and tackled. For example: in Triumph in the Tropics: An Historical Sketch of Queensland (1959), the Australian medical practitioner Raphael Cilento (1893–1985) linked the advancement of tropical Australia to the conquest of disease and attainment of comfort by the European settler, both realized through domestic design and urban planning. Despite a long history and frequent occurrence of flood, tropical storms, and cyclones – causal attributes long identified in colonial discourses as limiting the development potential of tropical regions—floods and hurricanes have begun to dominate tropical architectural discourses only recently. The correlation between anthropogenic climate change and the increasing intensity of hurricanes and sea level rise has led to the dominance of the trope of disaster in contemporary tropical architectural discourses. In addition, as it became apparent that buildings, as one of the key consumers of fossil fuels contribute significantly to climate change; the relationship between architecture and climate has gone through a paradigmatic shift—from one in which climate was a determinant of architectural metrics, to one in which architecture is seen as an active agent in the transformation of global climatic systems. As a consequence, tropical architecture, which began as discourse founded on the relationship between architecture and climate to ensure the well-being of the human body in a localised context, is now seen as a discourse where the production and operation of architecture have global planetary impact.

The idea of tropical and subtropical architecture and urbanism initially developed through a particular connection between discourses on disease, spatial practices and optimum architectural typologies, which were believed to circumvent the spread of tropical diseases and to maintain the comfort of the white settler. After the Second World War, the focus shifted from the European settlement of the colonial tropics to the self-development and governance of the world’s tropical regions; a phenomenon necessitated and propelled by post-war decolonization and global regimes of development aid. Accompanying this change was a shift away from the physiological comfort of the colonial settler to a new focus on indigenous cultures, vernacular building traditions, use of local materials, and increasing appreciation for the psychological value of cultural conventions, including superstition and taboo.

The aim of this stream is to examine how “triumph” in the tropics was imagined across multiple geographies, by various subjects, through diverse discourses, and at different times and to critically investigate the roles architecture and urban planning played in this process. How are particular attributes of the (sub) tropics – climatic, environmental, social, ideological, spatial, and developmental – constructed through the discipline of architectural history? What role has architecture played in the imagination of tropicality through acclimatization, hygiene, comfort, development, and resilience; and how was this represented? How has architecture’s role in the imagination of the tropics shifted over time as political regimes transformed from colonization-settlement to decolonization-development debates? Is there a core set of ideas or values that constitute the imagination of the built environment in the tropics? How do these compare to indigenous understandings?  What is the relation between the imaginaries of tropical architectures and cities by colonizers and colonized, or by transnational development experts and the receivers of this aid?

This stream particularly welcome papers that offer historical case studies of tropical and subtropical architecture and urbanism examined through one of four lenses: disease, discomfort, development or disaster. Case studies or papers may consider (but are not restricted to) the topics fully described here.

The stream will consist of panels of three to four papers of twenty minutes each, with four to five panels per day. Authors will be invited to publish their papers as an edited book to be published in 2020. Authors who submit papers and are accepted are expected to attend and present at the conference.

Submit abstracts of no more than 300 words in length by email as Word documents to: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=inta2019. Please name the email subject ABSTRACT-SURNAME and use this name for your submission file as well. Please nominate which stream you would like your paper to be considered under.

Abstract submission deadline: 26 April 2019.

 

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