CfP: What if? What next? Speculations on History’s Futures. Perth, 27-30 September 2020

Call for Papers: What if? What next? Speculations on History’s Futures. Perth, 27-30 September 2020

37th Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand
Hosted by the Department of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design, School of Design, the University of Western Australia, convened by Kate Hislop
Challenges to the transmission of historical knowledge in architectural education today highlight a potential shift in expertise that may ultimately impact upon the production of architecture, as well as broader understanding of the built environment, which warrants interrogating. At the same time, increasing appetite for the preservation and repurposing of built fabric feeds a growing heritage sector (and associated tourism industry) that offers opportunity for architectural history’s contribution insofar as its basis in inquiry informs knowledge, interpretation and evaluation of buildings and places. The 2020 SAHANZ Conference calls for broad consideration of the prospects for architectural history in relation to the endurance and/or transformation of architecture as a discipline and profession.
Under the banner of ‘history’s futures’ the conference encourages speculation upon impending modes of application of critical scholarship and historical knowledge: what might be the nature, purpose or outcomes of historical inquiry? What might be the intersections with or influences upon architectural production? Upon the reception of architecture? Or what kinds of projections about the future can be discovered in the past? Questions around pedagogy, transmission, content and method all bring focus upon architectural history’s role to investigate and locate architecture within the contexts, frameworks and processes informing its production and use.
Across the breadth of cultural, environmental and material concerns the conference invites examination of the intersections of architectural history with heritage scholarship and practice. Complex relationships exist between history and heritage, and also memory and narrative, with regard to notions of identity and authenticity as they are bound up with the past, present and future. This is nowhere more evident than in the context of global phenomena such as Brexit, or by contrast in the powerful Uluru Statement from the Heart. David Lowenthal’s declaration that history may be usurped by memory and nostalgia because of the personal dimension and immediacy that they bring to matters of the past highlights an opportunity for architectural history. Buildings, landscapes and the artefacts associated with them provide tangible material historical record through which stories are found and told. Moreover, history has benefitted from the myriad more ways of accessing, understanding and disseminating knowledge of past times, places, artefacts and cultures.
The conference poses the counterfactual ‘what if’ questions about how architectural histories – of the past or in future – might sound or look if recast from marginal points of view (indigenous, migrant, gender, class and so on); or if editorial choices responded to different criteria (what to include and what to leave out). Conjecturing ‘what if’ through a hypothetical recasting or negating of an event enables appraisal of its relative historical and future importance. In turn, we ask, might the ‘what if’ or ‘what next’ questions equip architectural history with additional evaluative tools to support its (future) disciplinary inquiry?
The conference invites original papers by individual or joint authors and/or Round Table sessions considering or expanding upon topics such as:
+ Modes of architectural history
Ecologies of history: histories of ecology
Architectural history through technology and material culture
Architectural history in the digital, virtual and gaming age/space
+ Routes to the Past
Critical, cultural or commercial: intersections between architectural history and heritage
Authentic? History, heritage and matters of veracity and experience
Legacy: presenting the value of the past through constructed and cultural landscapes
Pedagogy, policy and practice: education, governance and the institutions of history and/or heritage
+ Countering the canon/s
Living cultures: recovering Indigenous narratives in architectural history
Activism and agency in architectural history: migrancy, gender diversity, class
Advocacy through heritage: promoting built environment quality, conservation and sustainability
+ The counterfactual
What if? What next? So what? Exploring the historical consequences of choices
Feedback loops: architectural history’s impact on architecture
+ Papers addressing topics outside of the theme may be submitted to an Open Session.
The conference theme will be explored across a range of formats: interactive thematic Round Tables will enable development of cross-institutional, multidisciplinary partnerships, collaborations and linkages; parallel Paper presentations will be streamed thematically, and the papers published in full in the Proceedings after the conference; Poster sessions will provide a means of making presentations visible and offer informal opportunities for presenters to engage with small groups, supporting a ‘work-in-progress’ forum.
Accompanying the conference will be supplementary part- and full-day tours to urban and regional sites around Perth, highlighting important opportunities and applications relating to history’s futures and its intersections with architectural and/or heritage practice. Examples include visits to historic/heritage/repurposing projects in Perth and surrounds, to towns such as New Norcia and Katanning, and Rottnest Island. Heritage architects/consultants may be invited to co-chair Round Tables, make presentations and conduct tours.
Proposals for Round Table sessions – due 18 December 2019
The conference invites proposals for Chairs (or co-chairs) of Round Table discussions responding to the Conference provocation and who will facilitate discussion by panellists and audience members. Proposals should include details of the Chair/s, a title, and 300 word abstract. Names and affiliations of panellists should be provided if applicable.
Abstracts for papers – due 28 February 2020
Abstracts may address conference themes, or be included in an open session. Submissions should include the author name/s, a title and an abstract of no more than 300 words.
Proposals for poster sessions – due 28 February 2020
Poster presentations will form an exhibition of responses to the Conference themes and provide a format for interactive small group discussion, scheduled within the Conference program. Submissions should include the author name/s, a title and an abstract of no more than 300 words.
Abstracts, Poster and Round Table proposals will be blind reviewed by at least two members of the Conference Academic Committee. Full papers (4500 words including Notes) will be blind peer reviewed and those accepted for presentation at the conference will be published in the Proceedings that will become available through the SAHANZ website after the conference.
For further information about the conference please email: and visit

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