Cross-Cultural Thinking in Architecture

2nd Symposium

The University of Adelaide, Australia

21-23 January 1999

Please submit a 500-word abstract together with one-page CV by mail, fax or e-mail to adress below by Friday 12 June, 1998. Abstracts will be assessed internally by the Organising Committee, however, full papers will be subject to a blind refereeing process. Please note that acceptance of abstracts will not guarantee acceptance of papers. Only papers that are recommended by the referees for inclusion will be accepted. The deadline for the submission of full papers will be 30 October 1998.

Conference Theme:
In today's global context, the conventional understanding of architecture as a subject to be studied exclusively in terms of built form and related questions of style is becoming conceptually constraining. The increasing intensity of cross-cultural interactions is raising a demand for broader and more culture-sensitive modes of architectural thinking. Despite a growing recognition in architecture and other fields of the importance of understanding cultural diversity--its formal and its cognitive bases--the foundations of contemporary architectural studies remain firmly seated in the European scholarly tradition. A cross-cultural framework of analysis that addresses the problems of Eurocentrism is not yet available. The study of different architectural traditions is often performed by listing and comparing different architectural features. This common approach generally presumes certain categories of comparison derived unilaterally from the Anglo-European tradition. The application of these categories in the study of non-western architectures significantly constrains and distorts understanding, obfuscating and concealing potentially valuable insights that remain latent in those other traditions for want of appropriate conceptual tools to reveal them.

The second Symposium of the Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture--Self, Place and Imagination: Cross-Cultural Thinking in Architecture--attempts to draw attention to this complex problem. Through interdisciplinary and cross-cultural dialogue, it aims to open up new modes for thinking about the relationships between different peoples and their environments by investigating the concepts of "self" and "place" in different cultures. Differences in this regard will be explored in both the "real world" of actual socio-spatial relations and in the "imaginary worlds" of literary creation; two distinct but critically discursive domains of cultural referencing with regard to architecture. The main objective is to investigate modes of thinking which could lead to a break with the conventional understanding of architecture, and to explore non-Eurocentric approaches that avoid the assumption of universal categories. One approach which will be examined in the Symposium involves the shifting of focus from universal categories to key terms internal to particular cultural discourses. As the key terms in different traditions do not often map onto each other neatly with respect to semantic content, exhibiting different meanings from time to time, this approach allows each tradition to play out its own discursive possibilities. Among other avenues, the traditional narratives and contemporary literature of different cultures--specifically the role of the literary imagination in employing culturally particular terms to describe and "construct" architectural places and settings--offer potentially felicitous discourse in which such key terms may be discerned.

The Symposium will focus on the multiple and changing concepts of "self" and "place" that arise in cross-cultural encounters, exploring the ways in which understanding of these concepts may at once broaden and enrich the architectural and landscape imagination. This exploration could be conducted from a range of perspectives--philosophical, methodological, literary, professional--with regard to different cultural belief systems and practices. By thinking "between cultures," the Symposium hopes to open up new modes for thinking about the relationships between people and their environments in the increasingly plural "cultural landscapes" of contemporary societies.

IMPLICATIONS FOR ARCHITECTURAL EDUCATION Papers are invited to deal with the notions of "Self" and "Place" within the above specific conceptual frame. We are particularly interested in papers which examine the implications of the cross-cultural approach for the teaching of architectural history and theories and the teaching of architectural design.

Invited Speakers:
Michel Conan, Dumbarton Oaks Michel Conan is Director of Studies in Landscape Architecture at Harvard University's Dumbarton Oaks Research Center in Washington DC. In his early work in the French Ministry of Public Works, Prof. Conan played a significant role in the development of urban sociology. Among his recent publications are Dictionnaire historique de l'art des jardins (1997) and L'invention des lieux (1997).
Hasan-Uddin Khan, MIT Hasan-Uddin Khan is Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was the co-editor of the architectural journal Mimar. His current research focuses on 20th century architecture in the Middle East and art and architecture as a reflection of different cultures. Among his recent publications are Contemporary Asian Architects (Cologne: 1995), The Mosque and the Modern World, co-author (London & New York: 1997), and International Style 1925-1965 (to appear in 1998).
Liane Lefaivre, Delft Liane Lefaivre has published extensively on architectural culture and criticism. With Alex Tzonis she is responsible for introducing the concept of critical regionalism to recent architectural discourse. Her recent award winning book, Leon Battista AlbertiUs Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (MIT Press,1997), is a cognitive historical study of that fantastically inventive Renaissance fiction about architecture, eros and self-expression.
Ahmad Shboul, University of Sydney Ahmad Shboul is Associate Professor of Arab, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Sydney University. He is currently Director of a research project on Socio-cultural Change and Continuity in Damascus and Syria in the Early Islamic Period (7th-10th century CE). His recent publications include Christians and Muslims in Syria and upper Mesopotamia in the Early Arab Islamic Period (Sydney, 1996); Islamic Radicalism in the Modern Arab World, (Canberra,1995); Change and Continuity in Early Islamic Damascus, (ARAM Periodical 6, Leuven, 1994).
Adrian Snodgrass, Sydney Adrian Snodgrass is Chair of the Advisory Board of CAMEA. He was the founding editor of Architectural Theory Review and a senior lecturer at Sydney University. He has published extensively on sacred Hindu and Buddhist architecture, the hermeneutics of design and cross-cultural issues in architecture. Among his publications are The Symbolism of the Stupa (SEAP, 1985, 1988), Architecture, Time and Eternity: Temporal Symbolism of Traditional Buildings (PK Goel for Aditya Prakashan, 1990).
Alexander Tzonis, Delft University of Technology Alexander Tzonis is Chair of Architectural Theory and Design Methods at the Delft University of Technology and is Director of DKS (Design Knowledge Systems), a multi-disciplinary research group concerned with comparative-cultural research in Architectural Cognition. He is General Editor of the Garland Architectural Archives which has published the complete archives of Le Corbusier, Kahn, Mies van der Rohe, Gropius, Schindler, Sauvage and Aalto. His several books with Liane Lefaivre include Architecture: The Poetics of Order (M.I.T. Press, 1986, published in five languages), and Architecture in Europe since 1968, Between Memory and Invention (Thames & Hudson, 1992).


Dr Samer Akkach
Director, Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture
The University of Adelaide, SA
Australia 5005
Fax: +61-8-8303 4377            
Tel: +61-8-8303 5832

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