ACSA invites paper submissions under the following 18 thematic session topics plus an additional open category. Authors may submit only one paper per session topic. The same paper may not be submitted to multiple topics.
Product / Process: Balancing the Deliverables in Academic Design/Build Topic Chair: Chad Schwartz, Kansas State University
In his essay “After Words,” esteemed architect and professor Jorge Silvetti reminds us that “[i]n architecture, something always has to be designed, detailed, spec’ed, bid, built, and paid for, something that is concrete and finite…A product is necessary…”¹ What is true in traditional architectural practice is also certainly true in the professional practice of design/build – the client’s expectations are that the architect, in concert with (or as) the contractor, will produce at the end of an established timeframe a physical entity that can be inhabited. When the practice of design/build migrates into the academic environment of the university however, as it has over the past fifty years, the physical entity can no longer lay claim to being the only primary focus of the design and construction process. In the design studio, a student’s most substantial gains are not achieved through the presentation of a final product, but in the process, in the struggle, and in the journey to envision and create that product. In “Some Notes on the Phenomenology of Making: The Search for the Motivated,” Robert Morris writes, “I believe there are ‘forms’ to be found within the activity of making as much as within the end products. These are forms of behavior, aimed at testing the limits and possibilities involved in that particular interaction between one’s actions and the materials of the environment.”²
It is in the process of testing and investigating, while both succeeding and failing, that learning occurs. In most design studios it can be argued that after the students have concluded the semester and moved on, there is little value to them in the courses’ final products. Instead, it is the development of the working process, centered on experience, which can be transferred to the next studio or into the professional world. In addition, an academic design/build course is required, as all courses are, to deliver to each student in the class a set of learning objectives derived from a variety of both internal and external sources. While the simultaneous delivery of educational content to the students and a product to the client can often be achieved harmoniously in this forum, this is not always the case. This session seeks proposals that examine the ethical underpinnings of academic design/build’s intersection of the student and the professional, of pedagogy and practice. How do we balance the need to provide a high-quality product to the client with the development of a working environment that is able to deliver to each student in the class both a substantial experience and a set of critical learning objectives? How are choices made when these needs conflict? With so much riding on successful outcomes for both current and future participants, which stakeholder becomes the priority?
1) Jorge Silvetti, “After Words,” Assemblage 27 (August 1995): 78.
2) Robert Morris, “Some Notes on the Phenomenology of Making: The Search for the Motivated,” in The Craft Reader, ed. Glenn Adamson (Oxford: Berg, 2010), 541. Originally published in Artforum 8/8 (April 1970).
Ecological Ethics (and the Role of the Architect) Topic Chairs: Michael A. McClure, University of Louisiana – Lafayette & Ursula Emery McClure, Louisiana State University
“…in making war with nature, there was risk of loss in winning” – John McPhee
Some of the most pressing ‘ethical challenges of architecture in a world in flux’ might be those surrounding the role of the built environment in climate change. Architects have historically been primarily involved in the design and construction for human occupation. Our presumption has been that humans are the primary occupants. The field of environmental ethics has allowed us to extend the scope of our ethical considerations to non-human inhabitants and systems. Sometimes, we might offer the most effective solution to humanity when the primary occupant or operation of our design is not human. With this expanded understanding, we have been able to operate more effectively in our ‘world in flux’
‘Climate change is one of the major challenges of our time. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale’ United Nations Global Issues Overview, (http://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/global-issues-overview/)
An ecological ethic is one that considers the inter relationship of all organisms to their environment. If “in practicing architecture, an architect’s primary duty is to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare” (Rule 1, NCARB Rules of Conduct) then what are the ethical boundaries of design when the human public is not the primary user? What is the architect’s responsibility when the most effective solution to a human social cultural issue is to engage a broader inclusive ecology? What is the architect’s responsibility to natural systems and ecologies as ‘clients’? How does the architect (human) engage and serve a client (non-human) that has no voice or means to communicate needs? Is it unethical for an architect to have a non-human client, in other words, is it best left to others, ecologists, wildlife management, scientists, civil engineers, etc.?
“…The environment is therefore not a system in which to dissolve architecture. On the contrary, it is the most important material from which to develop the project.” Vittorio Gregotti
This session invites papers and projects that discuss and help us expand the role of ecological ethics in architecture on our pedagogies, histories, practices, and designs.
Politics and Ethics
Ethics, Development and Donald Trump Topic Chair: Thomas Fisher, University of Minnesota
Ethics has rarely received as much attention in the press and as much discussion among the public as it has with the 2016 election and the activities of the new administration. This has happened, in part, because Donald Trump, as both a developer and now as the U.S. president, has triggered many ethical conflicts ranging from his not paying the designers and contractors of his development projects to his retaining ownership of his organization, which stands to profit from his being in the White House.
Trump’s example highlights the ethical dilemmas that surround architectural practice, having to do with virtues such as fairness, courage, and honesty. His rise to power raises ethical questions surrounding the social contract, relating to the responsibilities of the state to citizens and vice versa. And his policies beg questions about utilitarian ethics, often focusing on the good of a few rather than on the greatest number of people.
What does Trump’s presidency bode for architecture and cities, for housing and urban development? What does his development practices suggest for how we teach ethics in architectural education? And what can the architectural community do to address the ethical challenges that Trump’s organization and his administration continue to generate?
Behind all such questions lies an overarching one: how political should architecture be? Should architecture remain politically neutral, focusing on the technical aspects of design and buildings, or should architecture, by virtue of its social, economic, and environmental affects, embody and engage political – and ethical – dilemmas.
This session will explore these and related topics. It will seek papers and projects that address the various ways that faculty have dealt with political and ethical controversies, have handled disagreements over what to do with those problems, and have explored political and ethical questions as part of coursework.
Architecture of the other 99%? – Power, Economy, and the Dilemma of History Topic Chair: Ole W. Fischer, University of Utah
Architects have always served the interests of the ruling classes. – Architecture is the most public of all the arts, a manifestation of the collective.
The history of architecture speaks volumes about this dialectic: on the one hand architecture is a practice that is driven by the need for access to vast amounts of capital, labor, material and other resources, and hence, has always been in close relationship to the dominant social powers and their interests for representation and cultural hegemony. On the other hand, the relationship between architects and power varies between servitude and emancipation, between cynical realism and ideals of public stewardship, critique or even counter-culture. This dialectic is especially urgent for a growing human population of the 21st century faced with the legacy of modernity, which had once promised participation for all with regards to power, economy, culture, and the city.
Nevertheless, the discourse of architecture tends to side with the elite: no matter if one opens books for teaching architectural history, looks at professional awards, architectural exhibitions, trade magazines, and the public media coverage, or if one analyzes the precedent studies in design studios and offices. Architects, educators and students refer mostly to the canonic pieces of the past or to the exclusive and extravagant projects of a globalized media economy of today. And if in the 1960s and 70s Tafuri imagined a critical role of history and theory distinguished from a necessarily collaborative practice, even this section of academia offers little resistance today: despite the curricular changes over the last decades that questioned “the canon” and introduced a global perspective, the main narratives continue to focus on the palaces of the kings (rarely queens), the churches and temples, the representative structures of the state and of large corporations, or the villae of the most affluent.
By translocating the provocative motto of the occupy movement into the field of architecture, this session asks for reflections about the charged relationship between architecture, power, and economy. What are the strategies and tactics to evade the repetition of the socio-economic status quo? How can architecture become empowering and liberating for diverse constituencies, especially the ones so far deprived of design services? What is the role of architectural history, which seems more often than not to narrate a “winners’ story”? What about histories of alternative practices and critical modes of spatial agency?
This session welcomes presentations that address the difficult relationship between architecture and power theoretically (problems of historiography) and empirically (case studies of alternative spatial practices) in order to scrutinize the hegemonic economic regimes at work. Both approaches shall contribute to the question of how to imagine, design and reflect upon an architecture of the other 99%.
Instrumentality to and of Architecture
On the Advantages and Disadvantages of Instrumentality for Architecture Topic Chairs: Gary Huafan He & Skender Luarasi, Yale University
We seek contributions that deal with the question of instrumentality in architecture. There is no architecture without instruments, and there is no architecture which is not in some way instrumental. The consideration of instrumentality includes, but is in no way limited to the following modalities: the architectural technics (analog and digital technologies), the architectural object (building and cities), and the architectural subject (the agent(s) involved in architectural production).
From the very beginning of their education architectural students are trained to use certain design instruments: sketching, orthographic and projective drawing, model making, and digital modeling and fabrication. However, historically there has always been an ambivalent relationship and critical distance between technics and its emphasis in architectural production. It is well known that “only ten days or so after distributing the Modulor tape measures to his assistants, Le Corbusier forbade their use.” On at least one occasion he stated: “Le Modulor, je m’en fiche (I don’t give a damn about the Modulor.”) Do traces of such ambivalence still exist in the contemporary architect’s relationship to technics? Should such ambivalence exist? And if yes, how should it exist given today’s historically unprecedented advances in digital speed?
In his seminal “Toward a Critique of Architectural Ideology” in 1968 Manfredo Tafuri sketched two possibilities for architectural form: it could either become an “instrument of social equilibrium” or a “science of sensations.” This ‘pessimistic’ reading grants architecture only two roads – to turn inward toward a tragic ‘autonomy’, or become an unresisting instrument of capital. Though much has changed since Tafuri’s critical essay, it is worth asking again today in what ways architecture indeed acts as an instrument in our society? How does such instrument function in a global milieu and in our experiences of it? How does the change in the modes of (architectural) production – more specifically the aesthetics or politics of software as distinct from that of standardization and factory machines – challenge (or update) Tafuri’s either/or hegemony?
These two questions (or modalities) lead to a third: what is the instrumentality of the architect? What powers still remain with the architect to critically affect the world given the speed of architectural production enabled by new technologies and the shift in scale of design projects from that of singular buildings to entire cities? What new abilities does the architect gain from new instruments, and to what degree might such abilities become themselves instrumentalized by others?
We seek papers that critically investigate the power as well as pitfalls of instrumentality. The questions posited above aim to encourage critical reflections on our own technological, economic and social milieu today. How does an unbridled digitalization of technique and increasing globalization of economy bear on our own discipline – architecture – and how might it be contributing to an ecology of instrumentalization, which has thus far been accepted uncritically, or simply overlooked. The contributions could be historiographical, theoretical, or design oriented.
Obligation to Others, Decentering Pedagogy
Educating for Hubris or Humility? Topic Chair: Kevin Mitchell, American University of Sharjah
Canon I of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct state that members should, “[…] respect and help conserve their natural and cultural heritage while striving to improve the environment and the quality of life within it” and “[…] uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.” Few would likely oppose these ambitions, but many may be at a loss when trying to translate the obligations into concrete action. When architects practice in contexts that are not “theirs” the tensions inherent in the obligations become apparent, as do the implicit assumptions that all practice remains local. Stating that architects should help conserve “their” cultural heritage is limiting if the cultural context is not the architect’s own, and the compulsion to “uphold” human rights is a rather slippery formulation, especially without an explicit reference to documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The introduction to Canon I encourages architects to, “[…] exercise learned and uncompromised professional judgment”, and certainly judgment is necessary for architects to establish a position relative to the obligations to conserve cultural heritage and uphold human rights when practicing in a context that is not “theirs”. One could argue that the development of professional judgment that can adeptly negotiate difference is dependent upon the “decentering” that Nadelhoffer et al. speak of in “Some Varieties of Humility Worth Wanting”: “[…] being humble is not a function of being out of touch with one’s accomplishments and self-worth, but rather of being “decentered” when it comes to the self, with one’s focus being shifted away from oneself and towards one’s duties and obligations to others. On this view, the key characteristics of the humble person are simultaneously low self-focus and high other-focus.” (T. Nadelhoffer et al. “Some Varieties of Humility Worth Wanting”, Journal for Moral Philosophy (2016) p. 12.)
While some conceptions of ethics reject humility as a virtue, humility is central to ethical systems that emphasize the role of character. As Nadelhoffer et al. note, an emphasis on humility can serve to maintain a focus on one’s duties and obligations to others. This session seeks contributions that explore approaches to architectural education which aim to overcome the hubris often ascribed to architects in order to instill the humility that can serve to “decenter” students and foster critical engagement with contexts or cultures that are not theirs.
The Next Digital Turn: Identifying Inequalities Topic Chairs: Nicholas Senske & Shelby Elizabeth Doyle, Iowa State University
“These (computational) developments are either extolled as ‘exciting’, ‘new’ and ‘full of new freedoms and possibilities’ (by those most blissfully unconcerned that what is being so celebrated is but an extension of all that is oldest and most repressive in our political and corporeal history), or these are seen a posing an unavoidable or even welcome challenge to an already weakened or near-obsolete domain of cultural practice, namely the slow, grave, viscous world of matter.” – Sanford Kwinter, The Computational Fallacy, Thresholds
If we accept Mario Carpo’s dating of the digital turn as the year 1992 then there are barely twenty-five years of ‘digital’ and ‘computational’ pedagogy and practice upon which to reflect. The effects of these developments are still being negotiated and understood but, for the most part, this has been a movement cast as uplifting and empowering. But is the digital turn missing a critical ethical narrative? Particularly in architecture, access to technology and knowledge about technology continue to be unevenly distributed, which can result in the perpetuation and intensification of existing inequalities in the discipline and in the built environment. The representation of those who create technology (as opposed to those who consume it) is recognized as a critical issue in STEM fields. It is also an issue within architecture, although the scholarship in this area is limited. Technology can help produce equality, but only if access to, and participation, in technology are first measured, discussed, and theorized.
Architecture’s disciplinary struggle for the ideal of equity – class, race, gender – is intrinsically tied to contemporary social, political, and economic milieus. The promise of technology as a medium is that it can allow an individual to be empowered in ways that are not pre-ordained by an institution – the state, the university, the discipline – and as such creates space for a multiplicity of voices to resonate within architectural discourse. This session asks: what actions, and by which actors, are necessary to redefine, redistribute, and rethink technological ethics in architecture, and in pursuit of a more just built environment?
Defining technological exclusions in architecture, providing theoretical rigor and context, and proposing methods for redistributing technological equity in pedagogy and practice are the goals of this session. This session does not endeavor to produce solutions, rather it aims to create and position the discourse necessary to ask precise questions about computational ethics and inequalities. The next digital turn, defined by inclusiveness and equity, begins here.
A Discipline Adrift? Teaching Architectural Ethics in Today’s World Topic Chairs: Paul W. Long & Chris L. Cosper, Ferris State University
Following the 2016 presidential election, Robert Ivy, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Executive Vice President and CEO, released a statement on behalf of the AIA and its membership pledging to work with the President Elect on his infrastructure goals for the country. This statement led to a swift and negative response from AIA members, and within a week, the AIA retracted its statement and apologized.
The controversy over this statement followed a similarly contentious 2015 statement addressing the ethics of designing spaces intended for killing; torture; or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The organization of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility had petitioned the AIA for more than two years, calling on the organization to enact a strict code of ethics to prohibit AIA members from designing buildings that violate human rights. The AIA responded in January 2015, saying it would take no action to address the participation of architects on projects intended to degrade, torture, or kill people. Instead, the AIA argued that its Code of Ethics already included the statement, “Members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.”
Each of these statements raise questions concerning the nature of an architect’s ethical responsibility to the profession and society, but while these debates were held publically, they were limited to the ethics of practicing professionals and failed to address the ethical responsibility of the academy.
Pre-dating both statements, revisions to the NAAB Conditions for Accreditation from the previous (2009) version to the current (2014) version saw a notable change in the scope of ethical considerations required within accredited architecture degree programs. In the 2009 version, Student Performance Criteria (SPC) broadly considered an architect’s personal and professional ethical responsibility, and specifically covered “social, cultural, and political issues.” In addition to sound professional judgment, students were expected to demonstrate an understanding of their “community and social responsibility.”
In contrast, in the 2014 Conditions for Accreditation, the consideration of ethics is reduced to the context of the “exercise of professional judgment in architectural design and practice.” This narrows the realm of ethics in a way that may not be appropriate for the broader mission of the academy.
These changes, taken in the context of current political discourse and aforementioned AIA statements, raise questions regarding the ethical responsibility of the profession and responsibility of the academy to foster a broad understanding of ethics within architectural degree candidates.
This session seeks to stimulate a wide ranging discussion regarding architecture’s community, social, and professional responsibility. It more specifically asks what responsibility do educators have to promote a broad understanding of ethics. Does the AIA’s and NAAB’s narrowing of ethical considerations indicate that the discipline is morally adrift? And what, if anything, has architectural education given up by accepting a narrower definition of ethics?
This session invites essays, case studies, and projects that explore the role of ethics across an architectural curriculum and/or within a design pedagogy.
History and Theory as Methods of Ethical Engagement? Topic Chairs: Anna Gloria Goodman, Portland State University & Sharone Tomer, Virginia Tech
This panel will discuss how architectural history/theory coursework responds to ethical questions. In recent decades, questions of ethical engagement in architectural practice have been situated within architectural education primarily in two realms. First, professional practice coursework asks students to “do no harm” and to use legal tools to protect themselves and their clients from conflicts of interest, liability and risk. Second, design-build and community-focused studio courses allow students to engage with public clients and disadvantaged communities. In the first instance, ethical frameworks are applied to existing models of professional practice. In the latter, faculty ask students to experiment with project types and clients currently excluded from access to professional services. While both spheres of ethical education have their own potential and limits, in this session, we are interested in a realm of architectural education in which ethical questions have received relatively little (recent) attention: history/theory coursework.
In 1999, Sibel Bozdogan wrote of the problematic nature of Eurocentric architectural coursework.¹ She asked two crucial questions: “How does one make architectural history less Eurocentric and more cross-cultural?” and “How does one talk about the politics of architecture without reducing architecture to politics?” The more recent work of groups like the Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative (GAHTC) has begun to pose responses to Bozdogan’s questions. The GAHTC have pioneered methodologies and models for transnational histories that depart from east/west, first/third-world divisions. They offer resources and teaching materials for scholars hoping to trade the dominant frameworks of religion and nation-state for stories that emphasize cultural exchange and hybridization. However, efforts such as the GAHTC seek to do more than expand the architectural canon to include previously marginalized histories and geographies. It is a pedagogical project of rethinking the categories and structures through which architectural history is indexed. It uses a globalized perspective to rethink both the content and the delivery of architectural history and, in so doing, its takes aim at the profession’s understanding of itself. We are interested in how revised approaches to architectural history and theory provoke and embed ethical questions within architectural pedagogy.
To this end, we invite papers that explore how history/theory coursework addresses questions of race, inequality and systemic exclusion. More specifically, how exactly do these courses equip students to make ethical decisions in practice? Interested authors may consider the following questions: What are the consequences of questioning what is and is not considered ‘architecture’? What range of subjects and sites, in the realm of architectural history and theory, are worthy of study? Does ethical engagement in history/theory simply imply inclusion or is a more radical transformation in framing required? How do we understand and situate history/ theory relative to other realms of architectural knowledge production? Can there be direct relationships between history/theory coursework and activist agendas? If so, how are these articulated relative to departmental, institutional and accreditation requirements? Finally, are architectural history/theory courses their own political project or strategic devices for uncovering ethical questions?
1) Sibel Bozdogan, “Architectural History in Professional Education: Reflections on Postcolonial Challenges to the Modern Survey,” JAE Vol. 52, No. 4, p. 207-215)
The Ethics of Neo-Orientalist Architectural Production Topic Chair: Faysal Tabbarah, American University of Sharjah
Late 20th Century Western globalization is experiencing a rapid transformation. The vaulting into mainstream of a discourse around what a Post-Western condition means for geo-politics, socio-economics and nation-states has entered unchartered territory. In this Post-Everything condition, there seems to be one burning question: What next?
While these shifts signal geo-political and socio-economic changes, relevant architectural discourse is mostly absent in the West and elsewhere. In the non-Western world, it continues its centuries-old culturally violent status quo, characterized by either the reproduction of ill-fitting Western architectural practices that fail to acknowledge context or, to borrow from Gyan Prakash, propagate an essentialist pastiche. To overcome the problems arising from these attitudes, it is productive to look at contemporary architectural production in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) precisely because of the relationship between globalization and the economic shifts that propagated its rapid development.
Contemporary architectural production in MENA seems to propagate the two modes of production described above. This has increased with advances in technology, especially in digital design software and construction. These practices result in a wave of Neo-Orientalism that has re-emerged over the last thirty years. Edward Said, who coined the term Orientalism, described it as a pervasive European practice in the 18th and 19th centuries that aimed at othering and essentializing the Orient as a primitive object of control. The economic downturn of 2008 saw the export of Western practitioners across MENA, Asia, and South America. Coupling this influx with existing non-Western architectural modes of production that replaced a period of pioneering work during the mid-20th Century has resulted in the emergence of Neo-Orientalist architectural production. Examples of Neo-Orientalism in architecture include the reproductions of Umayyad minarets, domes, and the prevalence of Islamic patterns deployed on the facades of tall buildings, facilitated by the democratization of computational tools; images of desert dune formations have become the go-to inspiration on innumerable mood boards for nearly all contemporary curved structures in the Middle East.
These practices, coupled with the importing of Western curriculums, a dearth of historiography, and underfunded archiving threaten to erase decades of work by pioneering post-colonial architects. Thus, this session resists asking “what next?” but seeks to take a critical look at contemporary architectural production in the non-Western world vis-à-vis advances in technology to uncover an ethical way forward.
This session asks how do we ethically deploy Western digital design technologies and construction methodologies into non-Western contexts? What are possible ethical models of architectural education in non-Western societies? Is the propagation of Neo-Orientalist architectural production unethical, or must it be accepted as a byproduct of globalization? What new models of architectural production can arise from post-colonial societies resisting this wave of Neo-Orientalism? And because Neo-Orientalist architectural production is not unique to MENA, what similar struggles exist among other post-colonial architectural production?
This session invites projects, theoretical inquiries, teaching pedagogies, case-studies, historiographies and other forms of architectural production that seek to overcome essentialist attitudes and uncover ethical methodologies within the context of technology, vernacular material culture, and Neo-colonialism.
Public Interest Design
A Question of Leadership: The Citizen Architect and Public Interest Design Topic Chair: Kevin J. Singh, Louisiana Tech University
Samuel Mockbee defined the Citizen Architect as someone who focuses on the quality of life for all citizens. In his words: “The practice of architecture not only requires the active individual participation in the profession, but it also requires active civic engagement. The architect’s primary emotional connection should always be with place, and not just the superficial qualities of place, but the ethical responsibility of shaping the environment, of breaking up social complacency and energizing one’s community.” He sought to teach students values, that when practiced, would challenge the architecture profession with a deeper democratic purpose of inclusion.
The AIA defines the Citizen Architect as a practitioner that serves in public office or the civic realm. This architect serves the general public and the profession by advocating and supporting initiatives that enhance the quality of life in the communities they serve. In addition, the AIA made Public Interest Practices in architecture a priority by awarding the 2011 Latrobe Prize to further develop this research and provide a path for future practices.
In recent years, Public Interest Design practices have offered architecture graduates new ways to serve the public and place them in positions of initial decision to improve communities. This work is on the periphery of practice, but is migrating to the center of discourse in schools and leading firms. Public Interest Design harnesses the potential and energy of these graduates with the collaborative spirit of practitioners in allied fields who advocate for social, economic, and environmental design that addresses the collective public. The emergence of Public Interest Designers in relationship with the profession (including Citizen Architects) raises many questions for educators, emerging professionals, and practitioners:
What are architecture schools currently doing to address social, economic, and environmental issues and prepare the future leaders of the profession?
What methods and praxis are used to explore Public Interest Design in relationship with community needs?
What new skills are needed to practice in the future, and how must the education of architecture students change to address these?
What is the expanding role of the future architect? How do Citizen Architects align?
How do we democratize design and serve all publics?
This session invites papers that focus on programs, practices, and projects that address these questions and expound upon current Public Interest Design/Citizen Architect pedagogical approaches in architecture schools and practices today and their speculative future impacts. Processes and methods, the integration of external research/data, and the impact of allied and discordant fields are of primary interest.
States of Disrepair / Acts of Repair Topic Chair: Sabir Khan, Georgia Institute of Technology
All our objects, buildings, and things share the same fate: they lose their sheen as soon as they go out into the world. Yet the design disciplines and professions tend to privilege the new — the product in the showroom, the building before people move in — idealizing the building or product as the designer intended it to be, uncompromised by the elements and the inevitable wear and tear from use and misuse.
What if we, as designers and as citizens, paid attention to how our objects and buildings fare in the world in and over time: how they weather, age, deteriorate, break down, and fall apart; how we keep them going by maintaining, servicing, adapting, and repairing them?
What would we learn from the many acts and operations — large and small, by-the-book and ad hoc — of repair and of maintenance: from work-arounds, quick-fixes, and improvisations to concerted efforts to preserve, restore, and reuse? What could we learn from the labor — the protocols, skills, ingenuity, persistence, and hard work — involved in repair and maintenance?
Could this looking and learning inform the way we design our buildings and our environments? Could an ethos of repair and repairing contribute to the way we conceptualize and practice architecture? Could, for example, “designing for repairability” or investigating patina as idea and as material condition, help us acknowledge and address the contingency and entropy of what we design and specify?
A concern for repair and maintenance is evident in diverse disciplines, practices, and situations — from roadside repair shops, online collectives, and performance art, to “design for remanufacturing”, closed loop supply chains, and the struggle for “right to repair” legislation. Within mainstream architectural discourse and practice however, they remain marginal. Preservation, restoration, reconstruction, adaptive reuse — once central to morally-charged disciplinary debates — are now specialty topics or their own disciplines. Everyday building repair and maintenance is the remit of facilities management crews: both class and vocation render it invisible to university-trained architects and professional architectural discourse.
This session invites papers that look at how repair figures (or has figured) within architectural discourse and practice as well as papers that speculate upon how practices and concepts outside the discipline (from DIY home repair and remodeling to “failure modes and effects analysis” and a feminist “ethics of care”) could inform architectural thinking and practice.
In order to sponsor a rich exploration of this topic, the session welcomes a broad range of methods and approaches. For example: case studies of exemplary projects as well as vernacular and craft practices; close readings of design specifications for materials and assemblies; theoretical or historiographical analysis of approaches to repair and disrepair (Viollet-le-Duc, Morris, Ruskin, Brand, Leatherbarrow, Otero-Pailos, among others); comparative accounts of how different disciplines (anthropology, archeology), allied professionals (architectural engineers, building surveyors), or building trades approach repair; speculative design pedagogies that problematize breakdown, maintenance, and repair . . .
Neither Form Nor Place: The Case for Space Topic Chair: Thomas Forget, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Post-critical practitioners and educators strive to engage the lived-reality of the built environment, typically foregrounding performance and technology over form and ideology. This panel confronts a potential (and preventable) consequence of that aspiration: a deficit of spatial thinking applied to matters of organization and connectivity. The post-critical agenda privileges interdisciplinary engagement over disciplinary autonomy, and protagonists of the agenda tend to disparage “composition” as a tool of ideological formalism, often failing to reclaim modes of spatial composition with great potential for ethical and social engagement. Because the relationship between form and space is both causal and dialectical – because form and space, in a sense, create and limit each other – space may become a casualty of the turn against form.
The discourse on “place” further complicates the role of spatial composition in contemporary practice, as it contends that places belong to a privileged subset of spaces, and thereby implies that space in itself is lacking. In some instances, the distinction between place and space is merely semantic, as the design of place involves the calibration of spatial parameters; however, placemaking is more commonly aligned with the aestheticization of phenomenology and the instrumentalization of social science data, neither of which foregrounds spatial organization as a tool of engaged design.
The field of geography posits space as a socially produced environment that transcends built form, even as it acknowledges that space is inextricably regulated by form. According to Edward Soja, for example, an inherent “socio-spatial dialectic” orchestrates interactions between material and cultural systems. Looking beyond how our built environments look and perform, and beyond the methods that generate and fabricate them, geographers strive to uncover the ghosts in the machines – the spatial systems that catalyze and mediate, among other cultural forces, social justice and ethical awareness and behavior.
To discern how spatial thinking in that vein is compatible with the scale of architecture is perfectly suited to the post-critical agenda. As contemporary practitioners expand the traditional boundaries of design agency, there arises an opportunity to reconsider the form-space dialectic in a manner that lessens the import of form and upholds the value of composition as an organization strategy, as opposed to an aesthetic ideology. Composition understood as such becomes a political act, with the potential to grant designers newfound influence over the implementation and mediation of the power structures that regulate the built environment. According to Soja, a “spatial turn” is underway in a broad range of disciplines. This panel asks: how may the post-critical turn be understood as a parallel phenomenon that empowers the design professions, through their unique historical encounters with the form-space dialectic, to assume a more significant role in the production of the built environment?
The panel welcomes papers that address historical, theoretical, and/or practical perspectives on the role of ethically-informed spatial thinking in design education and practice. Especially welcome are papers that confront the scale of architectural design and/or blur the boundaries between the scales of architecture, urban design, and planning.
Beginning Design Pedagogy
The First Hundred Days Topic Chair: Heather Flood, Woodbury University
“This was the Hundred Days; and in this period Franklin Roosevelt sent fifteen messages to Congress, guided fifteen major laws to enactment, delivered ten speeches, held press conferences and cabinet meetings twice a week, conducted talks with foreign heads of state, sponsored an international conference, made all the major decisions in domestic and foreign policy, and never displayed fright or panic and rarely even bad temper. His mastery astonished many who thought they had long since taken his measure.” – Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Coming of the New Deal 1933-35
The first hundred days of Roosevelt’s presidency transformed the political landscape of the nation and the personal character of the president. The foundations of the New Deal were established and the urgency of the mission mandated vigorous action in leadership. The first hundred days are often the most productive days of a president’s time in office. Likewise, the first hundred days are potentially the most productive days of a student’s time in school. Uncertainty, not yet shaken-off through experience, breeds a willingness to think new thoughts. And optimism, not yet soured by defeat, breeds a willingness to try new things. The first semester of architecture school (14 weeks x 7 days = 98 days) has the capacity to transform the intellectual landscape and technical abilities of students at a rate that far exceeds all subsequent semesters.
For faculty, the uncontested atmosphere of the first hundred days is an ethical dilemma. At a time when the influence of the instructor is great and the power to dictate terms unquestioned, the knowledge imparted must be carefully considered. This session seeks papers that explore the ethical dimension of foundation courses. In particular, this panel asks: Is the ‘foundation’ of architectural education technical or conceptual? What is the role of critical thinking for a disciplinary novice? What constitutes the foundation of architectural education outside of the studio context? Can the rare circumstances of foundation studies generate a new model for architectural education that can be applied to advanced studies? The objective of this session is to uncover models of teaching that engage the opportunities and challenges of beginning education with ethical precision. Historic and contemporary examples are welcome.
Ethics of Practice
By Any Means Necessary Topic Chair: Britt Eversole, Syracuse University & Mireille Roddier, University of Michigan
Architectural ethics arises from a questionable presumption—that the obligations of the architect to the patron and, to a far lesser extent, the general public guide his or her decisions and actions. On the one hand, the instrumentalizing of means-end rationality under the client-based model of architectural ethics, which focuses on means rather than ends, absolves architects of ties to their clients: clients’ ends, actions, ethics, business ventures, policies, history, war crimes have little bearing on the architect’s ethics and practice. In this model, the architect has but one choice when faced with objectionable ends: to refuse to practice. On the other hand, by emphasizing means rather than ends, architectural ethics reify the present, no matter how objectionable it might be, as a condition to be accepted, negotiated and navigated. Moreover, they de facto obviate a myriad of activist actions that, even if they are effective, are clearly “unprofessional.” At the end of the day, architectural ethics tend to be far more focused on the insulation, maintenance and protection of the profession than on the consequences of architectural actions. In a culture of economic and racial inequity, environmental crises, community violence, religious exclusion and the erosion of civil rights, the problem of a pluralist, populist present isn’t a crisis of means—it’s a crisis of ends.
This session seeks papers that question the instrumental reasoning operative in architectural ethics. Rather than chart an ethics of disobedience—which would largely concern only minimizing the professional risk to the provocateur—we seek research papers that explore historical and contemporary examples of architectural activism that overturn means-end rationality by focusing on the consequences of actions rather than the actions themselves. Were the Situationists ethical in their pranks, stunts, vandalisms and plagiarisms? Were the Provos ethical when they subverted Amsterdam’s infrastructure? Was Raoul Wallenberg ethical when he violated domestic and international laws to forge identity papers for Jews to escape the Nazis? Were Columbia’s students ethical when they occupied campus buildings to stop the University’s opportunistic expansion into minority neighborhoods? Were architectural students ethical when they crashed the 1969 New England AIA Convention to protest the profession’s fuzzy ethics and to object to SOM’s projects in South Africa? Were Konrad Wachsmann and Antonin Raymond ethical when they designed German and Japanese houses to be built in the American desert in order to test the effectiveness of Allied bombs? Were the faculty of Yale ethical when they commissioned and forcibly gifted Claes Oldenberg’s Lipstick Ascending to the University? Or was the French Constitution of 1793 not ultimately most ethical in stating that, “When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for the people and for each portion of the people the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties?”
Migration and Advocacy
The Spatial Impact of Migration Topic Chair: Kaja Kuehl, Columbia University
This session discusses the imperative for architectural education to reach across disciplinary boundaries and develop tools for advocacy, policy and humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations using the example of migrants.
“WE WON’T BUILD YOUR WALL” is a phrase posted in large letters in architecture schools across the country these days. But then, what do we build? How can we use our skills as designers to promote integration and diversity? How can we encourage a new generation of architects to see the controversy as a positive call to action? This session calls for examples of the spatial impact migration has on our built environment.
Can design be a tool for advocacy?
How can it inform policy decision?
How can it project a future of inclusiveness, diversity and respect for communities?
How do we collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to impact the most vulnerable populations?
In his 2003 introduction to Drifting: Architecture and Migrancy Stephen Cairns explores the juxtaposition of the two terms: architecture/migrancy. Architecture is a term associated with “groundedness of buildings, the constitution of place, and the delimination of territories”, whereas migration is associated with “uprootedness, mobility and transience of individuals and groups of people”. As much as we associate migration and migrants with mobility and transience, this session explores migration as a place-making tool and the powerful force this mobility exerts on cities in shaping their physical and social networks. It also seeks to discuss how architecture itself can be used as a tool for advocacy and policy-making to influence that process. Authors are encouraged to submit papers and projects that emphasize these two aspects using the following points of departure:
Architecture by migrants sees migrants as the agents: The creators of adaptations and transformations of the urban realm that combine some odd imagery of home clashing with the typical architecture of the destination city such as altered suburban bungalows for instance or converted warehouses into temples and prayer rooms. What is the role of design and design education in this everyday urbanism? What are examples of cultural sensitivity and awareness of certain spatial practices that manifest themselves in the design for the arrival city? How do we encourage understanding of public policy and power structures into our architecture curriculum?
Architecture for migrants takes on a critical role as a growing number of people across the globe are displaced from their homes due to conflicts or natural disaster. At the end of 2016 UNHCR estimated over 60 million forcibly displaced persons. Migrations of this sort are unplanned and unplannable by nature. In planning and designing for this population that left their home unwillingly, the dichotomy between the transient nature of migration and the permanence of place and architecture comes into full play. As the average time a refugee lives in a camp increases to more than 17 years, how can designers contribute solutions to the dilemma of temporary permanence? How can we collaborate with students and faculty of policy and governance produce more meaningful design beyond a better tent?
Disciplinary Hybrids: Landscape as Architecture. Architecture as Landscape. And the Problem is… Topic Chair: Dragana Zoric & Evan Tribus, Pratt Institute
If the Modern movement considered architecture as an object, with landscape as an accessory, and the Supermodern movement considered architecture as a field effectively co-opting landscape logics, the current mode of practice promising the most robust and productive operative technique – proposes a disciplinary hybrid.
In this reinvented state, Architecture and Landscape cease to be mutually exclusive disciplines, no longer even in dialogue with one another, but replaced by a singular, coincident, simultaneous mutation of both. Landscape, as a physical and cultural body, is no longer in dialogue with architecture, but synonymous with it; it is not an accessory to architecture but conflated with it. Landscape AS Architecture; Architecture AS Landscape.
Thus, as we increasingly leverage Architecture’s expertise in organizational logics, formal robustness, and spatial complexity with Landscape’s expertise in the organization of dynamic systems, fluctuation, temporality, and change, the following questions arise:
Will the historical dialectics of natural and man-made, technological and pastoral, and exterior and interior, be “smoothed” over such that a new paradigm, urban or otherwise – takes hold? Or will these long-standing oppositions grow stronger, their principles exacerbated?
What are the ethical responsibilities as related to “site” and “ecology”?
Does the situation described allow for new political bodies and stakeholders to arise? What are their ethical requirements and needs?
How are codified rules (eg, jurisdictional, legal, geometrical), which are discreet within each discipline, affected by hybridization? Are those in turn hybridized? Does one set govern over another? Or are a new set of codified rules required?
While recognizing the usefulness of the singular architectural object in a dispersed field, as well as the nature of a flexible membrane of that same field, is there a new topological mandate that is more layered? What are its boundaries, ethical et al?
Lastly, who is allowed to call him/herself the “expert”? The Architect or Landscape Architect? Whose ethics rule? And does it matter – do the ethics differ?
Drawing in the Post-Digital Era: From Exactitude to Extravagance Topic Chair: Pari Riahi, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Drawing has occupied the central stage of architectural thinking and making since the time of Renaissance. Mediating between the abstract and the physical, drawing has proved both essential and instrumental in many stages of an architectural project. In the past few decades the proliferation of digital media has destabilized the known means of drawing by pushing it towards new frontiers. Novel tools and techniques have made some of the conventional modes of operation more efficient, while equally subverting others in favor of new patterns of thought and action. Drawing’s metamorphosis presents a paradox: on the one hand it continues a tradition that has lasted over 500 years, and on the other hand it challenges the tenets of that tradition by the implementation of methods that, at times, are at odds with roles assigned to drawing.
This proposal is preoccupied with drawing’s transformations in the post-digital era. Historically, drawing has acted as an intermediary between thought and action by creating a space of its own within which the architect’s creativity unfolded. That unique space, which has been the domain of imagination, allowed architects to think of different modes of expression (i.e. different forms of drawings) suited to the many phases of a project’s development. Since the inception of the digital, that very space has become infinitely small and extremely large at once. While precision, accuracy and optimization push for an exactitude that equates drawing to blueprints of realizable artifacts and narrows the space of creativity; accident, deviation and excess distance drawing from reality and push it towards extravagant abstraction, removing it from the material and tangible world. The proposal is preoccupied with this paradoxical condition that is embedded in drawings of the post-digital era and calls for reflection and critical assessment of the status quo.
Since the digital has become an integral part of architecture, the following questions are to be asked: What are the potentials of drawing in the post- digital era? Understanding that the technological facet of digital drawing is one of its inseparable attributes, how do we, as historians, theoreticians, practitioners and educators come to terms with using these tools and techniques in order to engage with drawing as a creative process? How can we maintain the potency of drawing, and preserve its ethical imperatives, without succumbing to the role of consumers of technological procedures and methods? This theme proposal invites opinions from either side of the spectrum. It is equally interested in curricular and practical experiments, in processes and products that explore contemporary methods of drawing and their effects on the teaching and practice of architecture.
History/Theory: Leslie K. Van Duzer, University of British Columbia
Ethics: Michael Hughes, American University of Sharjah
Urbanism: Carie Penabad, University of Miami
Pedagogy: Mehrdad Hadighi, Pennsylvania State University
Technology: Justin Miller, Auburn University
ACSA will be offering several open sessions for papers that do not fit under Topic Sessions, but is consistent with the general theme of the conference, The Ethical Imperative. We encourage the submission of well-crafted papers on topics that explore a range of issues within architectural education and practice. The selected papers will be grouped according to overarching themes that emerge from the open call.
All authors submitting papers must be faculty or staff at an ACSA member schools; Individual Members; Student Members or become supporting ACSA members at the time of paper submission. If you are not a member, you can join below.
Authors may submit only one paper per session topic. The same paper may not be submitted to multiple topics. An author can present no more than two papers at the Annual Meeting. Papers must report on recently completed work, and papers cannot have been previously published or presented in public except to a regional audience.
Paper formatting requirements:
No longer than 4,000 words, excluding the abstract and endnotes.
No more than 5 images may be used in the paper. Images (low resolution) and captions should be embedded in the paper.
Omit all author names from the paper and any other identifying information to maintain an anonymous review process.
Must be written in English.
Abstract (250-word max) must be copy/paste into a text box separate from the full-paper file upload. Do not include the abstract in the paper file upload.
Papers may be uploaded in Word, RTF, or PDF formats.
The deadline for submitting a paper to a session for the Annual Meeting is September 20, 2017. Authors will submit papers through the ACSA online interface. Follow the steps below to being your submission. The web interface will then guide you through the steps to complete your submission.
Log in with your ACSA username and password.
Click on the Submit Now button.
All submissions will be reviewed carefully by at least three reviewers. The session topic chairs make official acceptance decisions. Selection is based on innovation, clarity, contribution to the discipline of architecture, and relevance to the session topic. All authors will be notified of the status of their paper and will receive comments from their reviewers. Click below to download the ACSA Paper Template – 106.
Accepted authors will be required to complete a copyright transfer form and agree to present the paper at the Annual Meeting before it is published in the Proceedings. It is ACSA policy that accepted authors must pay full conference registration for the Annual Meeting in order to be included in the conference presentation and Proceedings.
Each session will have a moderator, normally the topic chair(s). Session moderators will notify authors in advance of session guidelines as well as the general expectations for the session. Moderators reserve the right to withhold a paper from the program if the author has refused to comply with those guidelines. Failure to comply with the conference deadlines or with a moderator’s request for materials in advance may result in an author being dropped from the program, even though his or her name may appear in the program book. In the event of insufficient participation regarding a particular session topic, the conference co-chairs reserve the right to revise the conference schedule accordingly.
Founded in 1912 by 10 charter members, ACSA is an international association of architecture schools preparing future architects, designers, and change agents. Our full members include all of the accredited professional degree programs in the United States and Canada, as well as international schools and 2- and 4-year programs. Together ACSA schools represent some 7,000 faculty educating more than 40,000 students.
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