An Inter-Institutional Platform
for PhDs, PostDocs and ECRs in
Architectural History and Theory,

Landscape and the City

The talks take place on Tuesdays at 4 PM CET, 10 AM EST
unless indicated otherwise
(this program is constantly updated; please check regularly this page).

Regular Talks

30 April 2024
7 May 2024
14 May 2024
21 May 2024
11 June 2024
25 June 2024
1 October 2024
22 October 2024
15 October 2024

12 November 2024

DocTalks x MoMA

9 April 2024
28 May 2024
4 June 2024
18 June 2024

8 October 2024


Lightning Talks

24 September 2024

27 June 2024, THURSDAY
DocTalks x MoMA
Session 6
(Please note this session is scheduled at an earlier time than our regular time and on a Thursday)

Stage 1: The search for shared materials ecologies to build Arts Collectives in Malaysia

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Respondent: Natalie Donat-Cattin, ETH Zurich

COEX@Kilang Besi, audience is sat atop chengal timber reclaimed
from a different malay vernacular houses

Malaysian arts collectives sit in between a globalized call to enter the international art world and attending to the public on the ground (Becker 2008). Often engaging in community arts practice, collectives tend to their neighbours by offering shared civic spaces, a limited resource in many urban contexts. Typically housed in underused as-found spaces, a design process begins by looking for affordable materials, crafts people, and collective building for their community arts practice. This paper begins by interrogating how do we build arts collectives with civic space function using shared material resources. By being generous with time and space, the arts collectives are a testament to exploring relational modes of shared materials and lands, also known as tanah. A theoretical framework developed by Jatiwangi Art Factory, tanah refers to the shared soil and lands around us, but also building with and in relationship social relations. Art collectives have been sharing whispers, gossip and developing forms of tanah where there is a material lack.

By developing a series of maps and interviews, this paper elucidates the first stage of any architectural project for an arts collective. To begin interrogating the sets of relationships between artisanal crafts people, material resources and a flexible timeframe, a relational material practice is necessary (Latour and Yaneva 2017). Tracing the human and non-human actors, this paper presents how tanah is practiced. By identifying how materials like hard timber are salvaged, given time to be crafted and treated by local artisans, before landing on site to prepare for construction, tanah elucidates a material ecology. By supplementing typical material procurement practices with placed-based networks of relations, arts collectives reinvigorate everyday commons of material cultures and develop a new stage 1 for many architectural projects.

DocTalks x MoMA
Session 2

Miracles in Europe’s Orchard

Royal College of Art

Respondent: tba

Restoration of a polychrome carving of the ‘Virgin of the Sea’, 1984.
Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute.

Exactly thirteen years after the Spanish Catholic Monarchs conquered the city of Al-Mariyyāt, a swirl of otherworldly lights appeared off its shores at the break of dawn. A premonition struck the coastal guards. Drawn towards the light, they were met by the divine figure of the Virgin Mary. From that moment, the city’s inhabitants have sought the protection of the Most Holy Virgin of the Sea against plagues, earthquakes, droughts, and other disasters afflicting this area of the Mediterranean.

This presentation travels between the Marian apparition of 1502 and the so-called ‘plastic miracle’ that took place in 20th-century Almería, when a vast geo-engineering experiment following Francoist internal colonisation plans transformed Europe’s only desert into its leading exporter of vegetables. Fuelled by the intensive exploitation of natural resources and precarised migrant labour, Almería’s operational landscapes are a well-established case study of the excesses of supply chain capitalism and its global infrastructures. Analyses of this agripole depict it either in a perpetually present tense as a blooming desert devoid of history, or as the culmination of a historical sequence of extractive cycles and territorial transformations. However, the region’s pasts—spanning land inscriptions and extractions, internal and international colonial enterprises, fascist massacres and radioactive pollution—also infiltrate this global agro-industrial enclave in eerily convoluted ways. Occurring across vastly different temporalities and degrees of visibility, these intrusions elude customary narrative and imaging strategies. To spell these spectral contaminations, this presentation charts not a sequence of events but a field of resonances, moving backwards and forwards while tracing two attendant trajectories: a surface-led inquiry of Almería’s fields as distributed sentient assemblages, and a depthward exploration of the subterranean consistencies haunting these landscapes today.


The City and the River:
Origin and Evolution of Lisbon’s Riverfront

Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Urbanas
da Universidade Nova de Lisboa
ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa

Respondent: tba

Praça do Comércio (Terreiro do Paço), Lisboa, Portugal.Horácio Novais Studio, [S.d.].
Gulbenkian Art Library.

In Lisbon, over the centuries, man has conquered the waters of the Tagus. Today, after the various landfills, the riverfront of the city is a consolidated strip of land, topped by walls that, against the “undulation” of the Tagus, define an expanded area that welcomes an intense port activity.
It was in this strip by the river that an important part of Lisbon's history took place, since the Roman and Muslim occupations, and also particularly during the period of the Discoveries, the post-earthquake Pombaline reconstruction and the industrial boom of the 19th century. Some of these historical moments are reflected in the numerous plans, charts and maps available in this study, from the Plan of the City of Lisbon: 1650, by João Nunes Tinoco, to the Port of Lisbon Improvement Plan, from 1946. In these plans, but also in handwritten letters, period reports, engravings and old photographs - largely unpublished documents -, which this research work proposes to map this territory, making original drawings that allow a new look at its growth processes and consolidation.
Thus, this study reconciles all these elements, constituting a complete analysis that focuses on the evolution of Lisbon's riverfront and that allows discovering numerous aspects until here unknown, helping to answer the question that arises today: in the face of the scenario that the current port is going through, how can Lisbon recover its ancient relationship with the river?

24 September 2024
Lightning Talks

Respondent: tba

Global Tools
An Inverse Ergonomics Experiment

Royal College of Art

Elastic garments constrain the body. Casabella 411 (March 1976),
Courtesy Franco Raggi Archive, Milan
Source: Valerio Borgomuovo, Silvia Franceschini (2019) “Global Tools. 1773-1975.
Education Coincides with Life.” Rome: NERO editions.

In January 1973, at the editorial offices of Casabella magazine in Milan, Ettore Sottsass, Alessandro Mendini, Andrea Branzi, Riccardo Dalisi, and members of Archizoom, 9999, Superstudio, UFO, held a gathering at which they founded Global Tools. The group aimed to create “a school but non-school “ focusing on arts and crafts, independent of an institution.  Coming from an anti-disciplinary attempt to establish a platform for the free exchange of different ideas and experiences, this was a place suited to stimulating individual creativity and the development of human potential. During its two-year life, the group experimented with various tools, processes, and instant learning.

This presentation will attempt to unfold the fragmented history of Global Tools’ life and shed light on its influence and protagonists as an action of learning. It will focus on the interactive aspect of the Global Tools workshops and the embodied experience that the group was aiming for as a tool for understanding and transforming experience into design. Using the lens of the body, the presentation will highlight the processes and learning methods that the group was using and place the group in the general wave of radical education of the 1970s. Bodies during this period built ephemeral structures, discovered the countryside, left the typical classroom to travel, partied, protested for better education, demanded gender equality, and questioned the institutions.
By highlighting the framework and ideas established by the group, this historical testimony seeks to raise the question of what we can learn and be influenced by while reintroducing the body as a tool in today’s architecture education.


The Zad of Notre-Dame-Des-Landes
Between Spatial Situations
And Affective Conditions

La Sapienza University of Rome

"Timeline of the struggle and mapping of the Zad of Notre-dame-des-Landes - State of occupied places, January 2024. Drawing by Alberta Piselli"

Ecological protests marksthe contemporary era and transform the landscape: north of the metropolis of Nantes, the Zad of Notre-dame-des-Landesis an example.The complexhistory of the struggle and the different levels of the territory (from a sociological, ecological, agricultural point of view) are widely discussed in French literature, in publications bybothscholars and activists. However, the transformative action of protest with respect to the affective dimension of places remains less investigated.Geographers Matthew Gandy and Ben Andersonintroduce the"Affective Atmospheres". Derek P. McCormack explainsthe concept of “Spectral Geographies of Material Remains”, defining them as a “distributed field of circulating affective materials”.  Starting from these premises, this article aims to discuss some spatial situations of the struggle, in parallel with some affective conditions. Direct visits to the territory today are aimed at capturing the atmospheric dimension of the landscape of protest.

La route de Chicanes–the D281 road–provides a spatialised chronology of the struggle, some images revealing the feeling of collective euphoriaduring the first occupations. An inventory of symbol-objects crowds the imagery of this street: wheels, pallets, car trolleys, etc.

Not differently, the same recycled materials describe the precarious condition of the ephemeral architectures that inhabit the Zad. They are physical devices designed to domesticate space: cabins that restore an affective condition of “claustrophilia”. Occupation is horizontal, just as the attitude of those who inhabit the Zad is one of wandering.

Moreover, the place suffers from the proximity of the metropolis of Nantes, it dreams of self-sufficiency but is porous and testifies to a conflictual relationship with the authorities. Inhabiting the Zad, in the past, meantliving in fear, resisting the pressure of the sound of sirens and drones, of evictions that exposed bodies to harsh conditions.

To cross the territories today meansto give voice to the spectres of the struggle, to make the past of a protest landscape resonate in the environment of the occupiers,to reveal the atmospheric depth of the landscape of protest of the Zad of Notre-dame-des-Landes.

1 October 2024

Dynamic Environments:
Contemplating Interpretations of Systems Dynamics,
from U.S. to Japan and Beyond


The Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Respondent: tba

As the concern for the degradation of the natural environment began to intensify during the late 1960’s-70-s -- a method to study its deterioration was visualized via the World Dynamics model.
Developed in 1971 by Professor Jay Wright Forrester (1918- 2016) and his team at MIT, the World Dynamics model was used to study the correlations between population, capital investment in agriculture, the economy, pollution, and the natural resources of the world. The model was based on systems dynamics, which Forrester founded in 1956. Systems dynamics was a relatively new method in which systems theory was applied to a variety of problems via an extensive use of diagrams and computation.
Presented at “The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm” World Dynamics was later challenged at the 1973 conference “Report from Tokyo” for maintaining the pattern and substance of existing power of the developed resource-rich nation states. Following the. 1973 conference, systems dynamics was later adapted by architect Kisho Kurokawa’s demographic studies of Japan and some of his urban/architectural work internationally in particular his study of San Salvo and Vasto, within the province of Chieti Italy.
A combination of literary and visual analysis will be employed to explore how the use of systems dynamics migrated from a westernized global stage into the Japanese perspective at the 1973 “Report from Tokyo” to the eventual application by Kurokawa, in Japan and Europe. Thus, revealing systems dynamics ideological nuances and striking similarities when analyzing its use in different contexts.
The focus on the application of systems dynamics in various cultural contexts explores how it was used as an object of authority where its multiple adaptations were projecting similar desires to preserve stable forms of power-- while simultaneously disrupting steady representations of natural environment, urbanism, and architecture. As such, new ways to gain influence to make such disruptions will be contemplated.


The Emergence of Photogrammetry in Monument Documentation and
Land Surveying, 1850s-1920s

Columbia University

Respondent: tba

This paper, the first chapter of my dissertation, explores the emergence of plane table photogrammetry in the 1850s-1890s, a foundational development leading to 20th-century stereophotogrammetry and the contemporary ubiquitous use of digital photogrammetric methods in the monument documentation. It focuses on Albrecht Meydenbauer (1834-1921), the pioneer in the field who coined the term “photogrammetrie” in 1867. Meydenbauer’s revolutionary use of plane table photogrammetry and his development of related apparatuses significantly departed from traditional monument documentation methods, laying the groundwork for this technology’s evolution and use in monument documentation.
Meydenbauer’s leadership at the Royal Prussian Photogrammetry Institute (Königlich Preußische Meßbildanstalt) was instrumental in advancing photogrammetry in monument documentation, overseeing the survey of over 1,200 monuments across Germany and Europe and creating an archive of 20,000 photo plates. The paper examines Meydenbauer’s contribution within the broader context of 19th-century nation-building, monument politics, and land surveying. It also discusses other figures such as Aimé Laussedat (1819-1907), focusing on their techniques, particularly those applied in land natural environment surveying. The research not only delves into the socio-technical evolution of photogrammetric machinery and techniques, but emphasizes its impact on and reciprocation with monument documentation and land surveying. It reveals the interdependent and reciprocal relationships among these disciplines, demonstrating how development in one area propelled technological innovations in the others, all within a broader historical context. Central to this analysis is a recognition of the interconnected processes of key individuals, institutions, and other agents of change. The paper highlights the co-evolution of photogrammetric technologies, monument documentation, and land surveying and how these developments collectively formed a symbiotic network that reshaped each field.

8 October 2024
DocTalks x MoMA
Session 6

On the border: A story of river commons

Luleå University of Technology

Respondent: tba

Synchronic Collage of Fishing Landscape in Kukkola, Sweden. Collage by S.Tornieri.

The impact of contemporary megasystems and heavy resource extractions on extreme and marginalized territories can indeed have significant social, economic, and environmental consequences, often disproportionately affecting small communities. Are we losing those stories? Are we losing an essential way of life?

Throughout history, small village communities in the Arctic have developed several strategies to ensure their survival. Along the Torne River, on the border between Sweden and Finland, some fishing communities have produced specific architectures, landscapes, and social strategies to support their communities and survive for centuries. In the villages of Kukkola and Korpikylä, communities developed a distinct fishing system, which became known as dipnetting. Characterized by a single person fishing from the shore or off of specially constructed piers, dipnetting is a traditional, resource-sparse technique. Environmentally-friendly techniques have developed on the spot and remained unchanged for long, as described since the 20th century by the Finnish ethnologist T. Sirelius (Sirelius, 1906) who documented the fishing activity and the construction of several wooden piers at specific points of the riverbanks called Krenkku. This temporary structure is human-buildable and demountable, made from local wood and constructed every fishing season by the old builders. During the fishing season, the locals organize activities related to fishing such as building wooden piers, maintaining and repairing traditional village buildings, organizing fishing rounds and organizing the sharing events each evening during the whitefish season. During the whitefish season, from June to mid-September, the shift between fishermen during the day is organized by an informal meeting that occurs every day at 6PM near the river. During this event, considered a daily ceremony, the catch from the past 24 hours is shared between farmers. The community is still present today but depopulation, aging, climate change, and the expansion of the extraction industry are threatening these villages.


Yam Economies and Settler Improvement across Whadjuk Noongar Country

Estonian Academy of Arts

Respondent: tba

Part of the west coast of Australia, surveyed by the officers of H.M.S. Beagle [cartographic material] : with Captn. J. Lort Stokes' route into the interior Decr. 1841 / J. Arrowsmith
Today, stretching over 160 kilometres of Whadjuk Noongar Country in South-Western Australia, is the self-proclaimed longest city in the world, Perth. Single family homes and British pastoral parks are jutted up and down an ever-expanding peripheral urbanisation, where highly biodiverse and endemic ‘wild nature’ is ‘improved’ on through subdivision, clearing, fencing, and the construction of profit-oriented low density housing. This article draws on a specific history of colonisation and suburbanisation premised on land improvement, that has fundamentally reshaped relationships between society and land, first in Britain and then as these ideas travelled to Whadjuk Noongar Country. By tracing a history of first-nation warran (yam) economies buried within colonial and capitalist structures, the article aims to provide a lens through which to contest the inadequacies of prevailing orders and values towards land, to serve as a starting point in delivering truly inclusive and collective futures.

15 October 2024

Prishtina Shunning Critique:
An Encounter with Radical Architecture Movement

University of Cincinnati

Respondent: tba

The winning proposal for the Palace of Youth and Sports “Boro and Ramizi”, Prishtina, Kosovo. Source: Arhitektura, 1972

While several publications have been published on visionary architectural projects that were developed in Western, and Eastern Europe and in the United States, not enough attention has been devoted to Radical Architecture in the Non-Aligned Country of Yugoslavia, more specifically in Prishtina, Kosovo of that time. In fact, the formal similarities that existed between Western and Eastern visionary architectural proposals, can be treated as evidence of the Iron Curtain’s permeability on the level of artistic/architectural creation. Taking a project led by a woman architect, Ljerka Lulić, as a case study, I will endeavor to display a tendency toward a radical philosophy in Kosovo’s artistic and architectural practice in the 1970s. The project of interest is the winning proposal of the competition organized by the Republic of Yugoslavia, for the Palace of Youth and Sports in Prishtina (Fig.1.). In Kosovo, few were the projects and artists who used architectural vocabulary in their works to develop another discourse that offers an alternative vision of the reality of their times, thereby drawing attention to the social problems of the socialist state. However, the case of “Boro and Ramizi” clearly reflects the opposite, presenting the first attempt of the country to transcend the modern mentality.
The winning proposal for the Palace of Youth and Sports certainly conceives the idea to ascertain that Kosovo was viz-a-viz with the events that took place on the global stage. Studying the culturally and historically rich microcosm of Yugoslavia, including the Utopian thought of the 1960s and 1970s, provides a significant insight into the theory of the Radical Movement, and contributes to the Kosovar architectural thinking. Above all, such research positions the Kosovar society as a whole, towards a philosophy that has been present in the country but has never truly flourished.


Enmeshing the Rubble Mounds in
East and West Berlin's Housing Estates

ETH Zurich, LUS

Respondent: tba

In East and West Berlin, the towers of two mass housing estates meet their towering counterparts in the landscape. Two mounds stand out from the flat glacial plateau. Since German reunification, both estates have become places of arrival for refugee groups and newcomers, who identify these mounds as the main sites of leisure and encounter: views, fresh air, and dense vegetation.
Under the topsoil, the mounds conceal the material history of wartime destruction, territorial struggle, and erasure of place. Before the estates' construction in the 1960s and 70s, the land housed post-war agrarian households in self-constructed sheds, where refugees from seized territories and erased apartment buildings began rebuilding their lives. Both East and West demolished the existing structures to counter the dire housing shortage with mass housing schemes.
The rubble was heaped up nearby into hills, covered with topsoil, and transformed into local parks for the new residents. Since then, the rubble hills have undergone significant change, continuous reappropriation, and negotiation. Assuming a central role as green spaces in these neighborhoods, both governments consistently attempted to control the mounds through management and restrictions. Still, whenever governance was absent, the rubble (Latin: rudus) grew into rich ruderal ecologies on soft soil and gentle slopes that continued to attract poplars, trees of heaven, badgers, foxes, and humans.
Looking at the underexplored landscapes of East and West Berlin's housing estates through the two mounds reveals the land's historical record to mediate the interrelated complexity of population growth, migration, and their future potential to answer climatic changes through resilient, ruderal ecologies. This talk will follow questions of material history, revealing the institutional control exercised by subjugating and managing the land and the resistance of inhabitant alliances against this governing control.

22 October 2024

Performing Cosmology:
Reimagining the Relationality
between Human and Nonhuman
from Music and Dance Schemas in
Dunhuang Mogao Cave Murals

Ohio State University

Respondent: tba

In the Buddhist murals of the Dunhuang Mogao Caves, there is a type of instrument suspended in the sky of the Pure Land, which produces celestial music spontaneously without the need for human performance. These instruments are adorned with colorful ribbons and float in the air, creating ethereal melodies. This form is referred to in Buddhist scriptures as “self-playing instruments(不鼓自鸣)”.The concept of “self-playing instruments” conveys the idea of expressing the echoes from the depths of the universe through the movement of objects. It emphasizes the spontaneity of nature and reflects a romantic artistic imagination and philosophical concepts that transcend human centrism. The “self-playing instruments” belong to the concept of “music and dance performer 伎乐” in the music and dance schemas in the murals which have long transcended the anthropocentric category. The concept of “伎乐” in Buddhism encompasses not only the creators of music and dance but also the nonhuman everyday performance itself, such as singing, instrumental music, dance, and various natural sounds (the sounds of trees and birds).
In the English-speaking world, research on dance schemas in Dunhuang murals is nearly blank. This study focuses on the analysis of dance schemas in the murals, aiming to fill this gap.
The research posits that dance schemas in Dunhuang murals goes beyond mere human movement forms and styles. I argue it is intricately connected with the sounds of trees and birds, lotus ponds, and Asparas, collectively forming a natural sound system within the mural scene.
Viewing dance images as part of this sound system transcends anthropocentrism in dance studies and provides insights into the in situ natural environment of Dunhuang cave. Therefore, the murals not only depict the utopian Pure Land environment but also seamlessly integrate it with the natural surroundings of the Dunhuang cave space. The dance schemas in the murals serve as a bridge between the idealized Buddhist world and the tangible natural landscapes, creatinga performative relationality between human and nature.

12 November 2024

What constitutes virtue in early modern architecture? On the historical perception of virtuous architecture in France and the Low Countries


Respondent: tba

Virtues are by definition offering a behavioural script to humans. However, in the 15th and 16th century inanimate buildings are also perceived through a moral lens and described in virtuous terms. This apparent contradiction between architecture and moral virtue will be the focus of my paper, identifying motives and strategies of describing a building as virtuous.
The virtue termed ‘magnificentia’ is often mentioned in relation to architecture. According to the Aristotelian definition of the virtue, architectural patronage is magnificent and virtuous as long as the expenditure remains within the bounds of the decorum regarding the owner, occasion and context. However,  this virtue is also often used to describe architecture itself. Frequently, owners seem to inspire authors to describe a building as virtuous. Rhetoricians seem eager to praise the house as a pars pro toto for the great deeds of the patron. Sometimes the building is even presented as an allegory of the patron, and therefore it also takes the properties of the donor.
In other instances, it is the presence of a morally exceptional human living or having visited the building that renders it magnificent and virtuous. In the descriptions of the building the building is framed so that it fits the status of the guest, but afterwards the building keeps those connotations, therefore the guest also gave the building its virtuous status.
However, there are also authors that associate certain building elements with certain virtues. Magnificentia is according to them in marble and in tall towers. In these texts the virtue moves partially from the realm of morality into the realm of aesthetics, creating an intricate web of meaning that retains elements of both.


Nostalgic Moral Panic and Virtue Signalling in 17th century English Houses


Respondent: tba

There has always been a dark side to the display of virtue. Its troubled history in architecture stretches from the plight of greenwashing back to the tower of Babel. Ostentation comes at a cost, even if those costs are offloaded to the least fortunate in society. Such were the argumentations of the nostalgic authors of Early Stuart England, who saw in the increasing magnificence of buildings, a neglect of the hospitable duties traditionally assigned to the land-owning classes.
Such polemics aimed to direct the virtue-seeking eyes away from the symmetry, scale, and decoration of a building, towards an alternative moral semiology. Open gates, smoking chimneys, luminous kitchens, and ‘a butterie door that turneth often on its hinges’ were all highlighted as signalling the virtue of hospitality. Almost ironically, such an argument against ostentation constituted an alternative mode of virtuous display, one which was being stripped of utility as the manorial economy continued to decline in the wake of nascent capitalism.
But what material traces are left of this moral conundrum? This doctalk holds the moral panic against the architectural evidence. Through analysing the signs of hospitality across numerous country houses, this talk aims to identify trends in typological change, and discusses whether such transformations are the cause or effect of moral panic around the decline of Hospitality.

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