This two-day conference will explore old, new and future interconnections between Design History and Architectural History. It will address the disciplines' shared historiography, theory, forms of analysis and objects of critical enquiry, and draw attention to how recent developments in the one can have significant implications for the other. It will attend to areas of difference in order to ultimately identify new areas for discussion and set future agendas for research between the disciplines.
The distinction between design history and architectural history is to some extent an artificial one, given the many ties between designed objects and designed spaces, as well as between those who design and make the former and those who design and make the latter, but it follows certain disciplinary and professional developments. These are manifest, for instance, in the separate existence of the Design History Society and the European Architectural History Network, two of the sponsors of this conference.
In one art historical tradition – Kunstwissenschaft, or the critical history of art – the objects of design and architecture (as well as fine art objects), which are now usually separated out as requiring specialist study, were considered of equal significance and requiring equal attention. It was this tradition that provided some of the founding figures for both present-day design history and present-day architectural history – Semper, Riegl, Panofsky, Pevsner, among them. (Even later figures like Reyner Banham might be understood as displaced products of this tradition). And the separation of expertise was also largely alien to the connoisseurial and antiquarian traditions.
We can understand the turning away from these traditions of interdisciplinarity as an inevitable effect of emergent disciplinary identities, as much as of worked-out theories. But there are untapped residues and new developments that may prove fertile ground for collaboration. What are we learning about materialities, about globalising perspectives, or about new forms of writing, for instance, that may benefit both disciplines? Furthermore, does the very separation of design and architectural history distort or falsely dichotomise their objects? Can their co-existence be worked into current rubrics for interdisciplinarity, or do older co-disciplines disqualify themselves?
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The conference is jointly supported by the Design History Society, the European Architectural History Network, and the Architecture Space and Society Centre (Birkbeck). Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.