December 31, 2021

Architecture and Real Estate: Historical Perspectives

International Conference. ETH Zurich, 10-11 June 2022

Today, we still think of urban transformation as a process led by planners and architects. And while it is undeniable that these two professions have made a major contribution to the global process of urbanization in the modern era, it is difficult to claim that our cities are the results of their efforts alone. Many other actors have been (and still are) involved in their continuous making and re- making. Arguably the most significant of these actors are real estate developers. Think of Georgian London, post-war Rome, or contemporary Delhi: all cities whose extraordinary growth was not led by grand plans or architectural visions, but by the logic of the real estate development and construction industries.
The relative unimportance of authorship in the general economy of real estate development partially explains the lack of literature devoted to the latter in our discipline. Instead, it is imperative that we, as architectural historians, start considering real estate development as a key site for architectural and urban production. The conference Architecture and Real Estate: Historical Perspectives proposes to discuss the processes and products of real estate development by foregrounding them as objects of architectural and urban history.

  • Organizers seek contributions from a broad range of historical and geographical contexts to foster a cross- disciplinary conversation between specialists in the histories of architecture, urban development, economics, politics, culture and technology. Potential contributions may explore:
  • The role of lesser-known voices and stakeholders, such as investors, developers and builders, and their specific role in the production of buildings.
  • The organization and management of labor in the development process, from the office to the construction site, and back to the office.
  • Economic and political interests emerging from the commodification of land and buildings (for example, between public and private sectors).
  • Methodological problems relating to the historiography of real estate, such as archival sources, disciplinary identification and research strategies.
  • Technologies utilized for designing, building and maintaining commercial architecture (e.g. prefabrication).
  • The impact of real estate processes on urban form (e.g. housing typologies).
  • Professional relations between the architectural and real estate realms.

To submit a proposal to the conference, please send an abstract of no more than 300 words, including name and affiliation, to architectureandrealestate22@gmail.com before 31 December 2021. More information is available on https://architectureandrealestate.arch.ethz.ch/.

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