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

25 April 2024
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

DocTalks x MoMA

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

8 October 2024


Lightning Talks

24 September 2024

25 April 2024

Modern Indian Architecture and the emergence of a Post-Independence discourse:
The case of Design (1957-1988)

Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Respondent: Frederike Lausch, ETH 

A Bauhaus Network Wall, Gallery 3, Bauhaus Museum Dessau.
Design Cover, January 1958, vol. 2, No. 1. Cover Design credits: Chowdhury/Grewal. Photograph by Pappal Suneja (2019) .

The Indian journal Design (1957-1988) began during political transitions with a growing consciousness of finding a new cultural identity. It covered debates on architecture, interior, landscape, furniture, textile, and industrial design. India tried to build a relationship between traditional & modern architecture and as a new democratic nation had the urge to showcase as well as to develop its new identity. A richly crafted discourse followed, which serves as an interesting example of an evolution of Indian modernity. Design developed these discourses as a much-needed reference that eventually shaped mid-20th-century Indian architecture and design. From its inception in 1957, Design differed from anything India had experienced in the field of architecture. It triggered an imaginative interpretation of tradition as for several millennia, different civilizations in India had left vivid testimony of the originality, vitality, and uniqueness of their artistic achievements. It was now up to the masses in post-independent India to keep that ‘tradition of creativity’ alive. In the past, India had created stupas, sculptures, architectural masterpieces, and entire cities, as well as written superb treatises on the concepts of aesthetics and beauty, and it was felt that the time had come to match and surpass these benchmarks.
As a part of my doctoral studies, I am investigating this historical case of critical communication in architecture and production of the built environment in India during the postcolonial decades. The project discusses the process in which history, theory, and critique are reflected in architecture concerning the institutions and actors that coincided at a point in time (1957–1988) within this journal. Design also reflects a convoluted alliance of culturally and historically manifested social linkages by influential architectural proponents and theorists as editorial members from across the world. The analysis of this cross-cultural networking of the experts involved allows the development of a deeper understanding of modern ‘Indian Architecture’.

30 April 2024

Collective Mentality and Architectural Space:
The Narrative of Cannon and Square in the Development of the ‘Cannon Square’ in Qajar Iran

Shahid Beheshti University

Respondent: Damla Göre, ETH Zurich

A drawing of Cannon Square in Qajar Tehran by Franz Colombari, an Italian officer and painter who served in the Iranian army during 1833-48 (image from: Lynne Thornton, Images de Perse: le voyage du Colonel F. Colombari à la cour du Chah de Perse de 1833 à 1848).

An open space surrounded by cannons and cannoneers, without a public building around it, may look like a military field, but it is far from a thriving public space. In Qajar Iran, however, such a space was one of the city’s most important public spaces. The Cannon Square in Naserid Tehran, the famous square of the capital, was just such a square. How was such a spatial quality possible in this form and function, dedicated to the artilleries? How could daily life in the city thrive in a place dominated by artillerymen and characterized by the repressive power of the government? How did these two seemingly contradictory qualities, the martial and the public atmosphere, harmonize in the square?

In search of an answer to these questions, this investigation leads back to the Safavid era and Shah Square as one of the first public places where cannons were set up. It also made its way to Iran's western neighbors, who produced and supplied cannons as a new European invention. Additionally, it looks at a few other Qajar city cannon squares and traces the formation of Cannon Square as a model in this period. These studies demonstrate how Iranians' dramatic experience with cannons such as during the Battle of Chaldiran, the challenge of providing the Iranian army with cannons, and the long-term interaction between artillery and city life all contributed to a gradual transformation of the meaning of cannons in Iranian society. These developments gave cannons new roles in daily life and, consequently, created the conditions for the peaceful coexistence and harmony mentioned in Tehran's Cannon Square, the center of the Naserid capital city. The narrative of cannon and square connects the architectural history and the history of mentalities, illuminating the links between collective mentality and architectural space.


An Aesthetics of Transgression
– The Picturesque in British Bengal around 1780

University of Stuttgart

Respondent: Sonali G. Dhanpal, Princeton University

William Hodges, Natives Drawing Water from a Pond (1781).
Oil on Canvas, Private Collection.

With major military victories during the Seven Years’ War, the British East India Company was able to consolidate its presence in India and subsequently transformed its network of fortified trading posts into full-fledged territorial rule throughout the second half of the 18th century. Among the British public, this process was far from uncontroversial. Literary critic Sara Suleri highlights that colonization posed a threat to the identities of both colonizer and colonized and was linked to strong fears of transgression. One of her prime sources for scrutinizing the British public’s feeling of “terror” in the face of colonial expansion is the impeachment of Warren Hastings, Governor-General of Bengal from 1772–1785, which was led by Edmund Burke. Suleri shows how, rhetorically linking India to his concept of the Sublime, Burke aimed at constructing an imperative of a strict separation between Britain and Bengal predicated on a religious concept of sovereignty. I will argue that the ambivalent feelings about Empire among the British concurred with the specific tension between contemplation and intervention which characterizes the Picturesque. Within the context of colonial encounter, its symbolic placing of the beholder within the image space, its conflation of painting and architecture, garden and landscape, the Beautiful and the Sublime assumed a transgressive character. When during Hasting’s tenure artists like William Hodges, William and Thomas Daniell or Johan Zoffany first introduced the Picturesque into Bengal, they were very cautious in depicting the British presence. Their representations of colonial reality were nonetheless perceived as problematic and subsequent artists working in the same tradition tended to eliminate its traces entirely while a more nuanced depiction of the emerging Raj was left to other aesthetic frameworks. Before this backdrop, the images that I will discuss can be regarded as negotiating the cultural meaning, the possibilities and limitations of the Picturesque within the space of colonial encounter. The research presented is part of my ongoing PhD project which examines global dimensions of European architectural theory in the 18th century.

7 May 2024

The Grotesque, the Ugly, and the Bizarre:
Fletcherism and Ornamentation Theory in Non-Western Architecture

University of Cincinnati

Respondent: Dominik Müller, ETH

Varun, Mohan, Carving on Pillars on Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque, 2012,
(Wikimedia Commons).

Sir Banister Fletcher’s A History of Architecture has played a monumental role in the formative understanding of historiography of generations of architects across several nations. The fourth edition of Fletcher’s book, published in 1901, categorized world architecture into two styles: historical style of the west and the non-historical style of the non-west. This categorization was based on Hegel, who claimed the East formed a preparatory stage for the rise of the modern, Western world, since the kind of environment needed for intellectual capability existed only in the West. Based on Hegel’s philosophy, Fletcher criticizes ornamental aspects of non-Western architecture, which he claims as the key difference between Eastern and Western architecture. However, is this a fair criticism? This study aims to answer this by identifying the limitations of Fletcher’s ornamentation theory in non-Western architecture through the theory of Orientalism, traditionalist philosophy of non-western art, and modern cosmopolitanism. By providing a metaphysical view of art and architecture of the non-west, as well as a cosmopolitan worldview to counter the binary notions of East and West, this study shows that a deeper knowledge of a particular culture is necessary to understand its ornamentation theory.


Early Narratives and Enduring Impacts:
Persian Architecture in the World Architectural Histories

University of Arts Tehran

Respondent: Alper Metin, La Sapienza University of Rome

A page featuring the Rock-cut Achaemenid Tombs at Naqsh-i Rustam, Persepolis, from J.B. Fischer von Erlach's Entwurff einer historischen Architectur (Vienna, 1721), book I, plate XVI, drawing upon plates LXVII and LXVIII from Jean Chardin’s Voyages en Perse (Amsterdam, 1711).

The genesis of Iranian architectural historiography is conventionally attributed to publications from the 1920s onward. However, a deeper exploration of scholarly literature uncovers an earlier tradition that contemplated Persian architecture. This precursor, the history of world architecture, had engaged with the subject almost a century earlier.
Despite the extensive legacy of these histories, their earliest instances are now largely marginalized in contemporary studies, compromised by inaccuracies and outdated perspectives that erode their credibility. Moreover, biases, thematic limitations, and the neglect of diverse cultures and regions have drawn substantial post-colonial critique, prompting significant revisions in methodologies, thematic scope, and theoretical approaches. Yet, such critiques tend to adopt a broad scope, often based on generalized cases. A focused examination, particularly through the lens of specific regions like Iran, offers deeper insights and a more nuanced understanding.

Iranian architectural historiography, like any domain of historical inquiry, is a continually evolving and developing field. However, it remains intrinsically connected to its foundational influences—those early moments that shaped its core themes, methodologies, and narratives. This presentation recognizes the significance of the initial world architectural histories as a critical juncture, aiming to bridge contemporary debates with their historical underpinnings, thereby deepening our understanding of the field’s present dynamics.

The presentation will explore the portrayal of Persian architecture in the foundational publications from the mid-eighteenth century to the 1920s. It aims to trace the origins of currently prominent themes, periodization, and specifically the stylistic narratives in Iranian architectural studies back to these early works. By demonstrating that the theoretical frameworks and narratives established by the genre’s pioneers continue to influence modern research and education, this critical analysis of over 25 seminal texts seeks to reveal their enduring impact on shaping Iranian architectural historiography.

14 May 2024

PAN-demonium. No way out:
Domesticity and Domestication

La Sapienza University of Rome

Respondent: tba

Following the "fall" into the pandemic world (2020-2022), the rediscovery of the removed God Pan (Hillman, 1972), brings to light the modes of relationship and design strategies that his figure embodies. The contribution aims to reflect on the contemporary evolutionary stage of the home by identifying strategies and methods adopted by some architectural projects that reflect on the home and domestic space, spatially translating characters and conditions of living "in tension" (Vidler,1994).
Anthony Vidler’s thesis at the end of The Architectural Uncanny. Essays in the Modern Unhomely, is used as the main investigative hypothesis on the changes brought about by architectural design: “paranoid space is then transformed into panic space, where all limits are blurred into a dense, almost palpable substance that has replaced, almost imperceptibly, traditional architecture” (1994,225).

The replacement of the word “paranoiac” with the word “panic” reopens the debate on the meanings of these terms, and how panic has taken over by establishing itself as a “spatial condition”, defining typologies (or better models) and strategies for inhabiting space. The proposal, starting from the etymology, will go through the use of literature and psychology manuals that refer to “panic” and the (goat)-God Pan (Merivale 1969; Hillman 1972; Borgeaud 1979; Barthes 1977), trying to identify an updated definition of “panic” and transposing the updated meaning into the field of architectural design through the identification of “panic space”, using domestic space and domesticity as a specific focus.

The domestic space (the house itself) identifies a key model to which a possible theory of “panic space” can be applied precisely because, as Hillman points out, it is in the home that one experiences one’s private self: “[...] the relationship with Pan, and therefore with the imaginal field we call ‘myth’ and ‘Greece’, begins in the relationship that the individual has with the manifestations of Pan within his own private experience” (Hillman, 1972, 19).


Housing the Single:
Typological Experimentation, Policies,
and Cultural Models in
Italian Housing Projects and
Domestic Interiors, 1930s-1950s

Politecnico di Torino

Respondent: tba

‘Independent Room for Bachelor’. In Pietro Leoni, La Costruzione Del Mobile Moderno, 2
(Milano: U. Hoepli, 1948). 

This research delves into the largely overlooked history of housing projects for single people in Italy from the 1930s to the 1950s, a period marked by significant societal shifts and architectural experimentations. It critically examines the evolution of housing models and discourses for single people amidst the backdrop of rapid industrialization and changing household dynamics, challenging the predominant focus on nuclear family housing in existing scholarship.
In the early 20th century, the state of being single garnered attention within architectural debates, manifesting in diverse housing solutions like dormitories, boarding houses, and minimal dwellings. These models, popularized across Europe, epitomized modernity and progress. However, Italy presented a unique case where fascist ideology promoted the nuclear family and traditional gender roles, subtly integrating single-person dwellings within broader housing discourse. This research highlights examples from the Milan Triennale and various publications, illustrating Italy's distinctive approach to single people housing.
By employing a dual analytical framework, on the one hand, on research on secondary and existing sources and, on the other, on a novel perspective on some archival materials, this study juxtaposes the Italian experience against international trends, revealing a rich dialogue between local and global perspectives on housing for single people. It scrutinizes both housing projects and domestic interiors disseminated through architectural media, exhibitions, and legal frameworks to uncover the complex interplay of cultural, social, and regulatory factors shaping these non-normative living spaces.

This investigation contributes to a re-evaluation of Italian residential architecture's landscape, emphasizing the significance of single-person dwellings within the broader narrative of housing histories. By situating Italy's unique contributions within an international context, the research offers fresh insights into the design and cultural implications of single-person homes, underscoring their role in reflecting and influencing shifts in societal norms and living patterns.

21 May 2024

“Who were the ‘experts’ here anyway?”: Care, Architecture, and Terminal Illness in Oxford, 1978-1995

McGill University School of Architecture

Respondent: tba

This paper presents a significant case study in the history of care architecture. It illustrates how the work of care, mothering, and architectural production can be inextricably linked—albeit often invisibly. It builds on the scholarship of Annmarie Adams and Cynthia Hammond, who have each argued that certain groups of women, historically credited only with domestic, medical, or caring skills, also had significant spatial knowledge and influence. The paper emerges from a chapter of my current dissertation work on the role of architecture in the development of then-subversive care philosophies.
Helen House (Oxford, UK, 1982), was the first paediatric hospice in the world. Designed by architect John Bicknell of Bicknell and Hamilton (London, UK) and accommodating eight children at a time, the house was named for Helen Worswick: a child who, at two years old, was found to have a brain tumour.
In this paper, I tell the story of Helen House from the perspective of its architecture, specifically tracing the contributions of Helen’s mother Jacqueline, Helen House founder Sister Frances Dominica Ritchie, and Helen herself.
First, like Adams and Hammond before me, I demonstrate that the story of Helen House and paediatric hospice care is yet another where non-architect, women carers were deeply involved in creating architecture. Second, I suggest that even down to the name, Helen House leveraged domesticity and mothers’ expertise to create a more palliative architecture for children with life-limiting illness—reinforcing the long-running image of the domestic sphere as a woman’s, more specifically a mother’s, domain. Finally, I argue that the creation, design, and building of Helen House served as a testing ground for the new philosophy, allowing it to grow and come into its own spatially, functionally, and theoretically.


Malaria Division of Venezuela

Cornell University

Respondent: tba

While visiting the hamlets that seemed to emerge from the rural landscape, a group of men from the Malaria Division of Venezuela became concerned about the unhealthy conditions of the houses they surveyed. The “rancho”—a common dwelling—was, for these experts, particularly troubling.
Made up of thatch roofs, rammed mud walls, and compacted earth floors, the rancho was a site of both social and physical corruption. The proposed solution was to eliminate such dwellings, bringing not only a change in health status but also a change in people’s way of living. By replacing the rancho with a modern dwelling made up of cement blocks and concrete slabs, the experts suggested, the rural man could be saved from his diseased environment but, more significantly, from himself. Enunciated by doctors, not architects, these architectural recommendations and demonstrations of sanitary expertise became a staple of a meliorist approach to both the environment and bodies that malaria eradication campaigns in the Americas promoted between the 1930s to the 1960s.
This paper traces the entanglement between architecture, landscape, and medicine, attending to the role that sanitary experts played in transforming medical knowledge into a spatial practice. Architecture, in this story, was the technology that the medical and sanitary technocrats used to incorporate agrarian regions and their people into activities tied to resource extraction.
The paper asks: How was it possible to equate the amelioration of the environment with the betterment of bodies necessary to carry out the works of modernization? And what social, spatial, and racial meanings did sanitation work carry? By looking at Venezuela's eradication campaign, this paper writes the history of a Venezuelan technical elite into larger histories of medical and racial formations that help reframe a history of the built environment that was increasingly shaped by these experts' approach to sanitation.

28 May 2024
DocTalks x MoMA
Session 3

Taming the Desert: The Great Man-Made River Project and Libya’s Extractive Colonialities

RCA London

Respondent: tba

20 Dinars/LD 20, 2002, map of the Great Man-Made River project and watermark illustrating resistance fighter Omar El Mukhtar. Banknote printer De La Rue, UK. The Lybian Dinar, preceded by the Libyan Pound, the Algerian Franc, the Italian Lira, and the Ottoman Kuruş, was introduced shortly after the Gaddafi 1969 coup.

On 10 September 2023, Storm Daniel brought torrential precipitation to the Balkans, Greece and Turkey to finally reach the Libyan coast of Derna. The accumulated body of water, resulting from a surface runoff of the Derna Valley, exceeded the capacity of the Bu Mansour and Derna Dams. On 11 September, the dams collapsed. To date, estimations count a loss of 20,000 lives or a staggering 20% of Derna’s entire population. Environmental disasters highlight a pressing need not only to restore sustainable resource management given the effects of climate change but also to understand the historiography of extractive infrastructures. Spatiotemporally, this event extends beyond the collapse of the Bu Mansour and Derna Dams. It is the accumulation of past matter, past mismanagement and past injustices extending into the present.
This research argues that the Derna and Bu Mansour Dams need to be understood within the colonial continuity of the Libyan territory and a broader nation-building scheme in the attempt to tame the desert; hence, the Great Man-Made River project (GMMR) as one of the most critical infrastructure ever undertaken by the Libyan government.
The Libyan desert hid the largest fossil water aquifer, the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System, until its discovery in 1953 during a race for oil in the region. This discovery and the water extractive activities following it must be situated in their spatiotemporality and anthropogenic fabric.
After a protracted colonial period under fascist Italy (1911–1943), followed by British and French military occupation (1943–1951), the United Kingdom of Libya declared independence in 1951. Western oil companies – predominantly American, British and Italian – began strengthening their ties to the monarchy and aiding the establishment of a Libyan elite.
Amid the climate of a new world order of the Cold War and the rise of the Non-Aligned Movement in the early 1960s, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi overthrew the monarchy and undertook massive territorial development based on a long-awaited process of decolonisation in the hope of a flourishing independent Libyan economy.
The GMMR project and its gargantuan attempt to tame the desert rapidly revealed a past returning at a gallop. This was not only an irony of the past but an architecture of extraction transposed onto the location of colonial atrocities, making space for extractive artillery.
After years of planning, the construction of the GMMR started in 1984. The infrastructure often appears spectacularly engineered and utterly detached from Libya’s sociopolitical and environmental fabric, putting the accent on the technocratic capitalist extractive aspects of the project. Tracing the continuity of the colonial imperialist legacy and attempting to decolonise the archives and nationalist narratives is at the core of a new understanding of contemporary extractivism and environmental and cultural despoliation of the desert and the habitat of humans and non-humans alike.


Conservation Nationalism

Yale University

Respondent: Isabelle A. Tan, Yale University

Elephants demolish homes in villages on the fringes of Kaziranga National Park.
The Atlantic. 2017

In 2015, the World Wildlife Fund declared the One-Horned Rhinoceros “Asia’s biggest success story”; in the conservation of an endangered species. The same year, the Guwahati High Court, in India’s northeastern state of Assam, delivered a judgment to violently evict people, mainly Bengali Muslims, inhabiting the fringes of the Kaziranga National Park—home to the largest one-horned Rhino population and the only Indian Rhinoceros Sanctuary.
Animal conservation is an indispensable environmental concern. However, it has mixed with Hindu Nationalist meanings under the rising ethnonationalism. The Rhino has been inflated as a cultural and political symbol to expand the boundaries of the national park, equip park rangers with guns, and establish a profitable ecotourism economy.
My presentation attends to how ‘wilderness’ and ‘nature’ are constructed as nationalist symbols and how ‘nature’ is contoured for patriotic influence. I argue that these require spatial formulas that map, demarcate, emborder, bulldoze, evict, and delete populations that do not meet the ideologically summoned idea of the nation. Therefore, my presentation, entitled “Conservation Nationalism,” showcases how spatial and environmental practices converge to orchestrate dispossession.
This project unfolds how the law and logic of environmental protection employ spatial knowledge and technologies like GIS mapping and satellite imagery to make legislated denials of rights possible. The presentation will demonstrate how tectonics of pixel resolution of Google Earth satellite images, collection of geo-referenced data, plot or property sizes, and informal construction of dwellings constituted evidence for denial of rights. It interprets how infographic technologies have become increasingly employed in governance and judiciary processes.
Borrowing from spatial and architectural thinking, the presentation will illustrate how technologies of spatial representation are employed as evidence for eviction around the national park to represent ‘on-ground truth. Through “Conservation Nationalism,” the paper locates how ideas of the nation and national identity get domiciled in environmental icons like the Rhino, architectural icons like the bulldozer, and technological determinism in governance practices to organize dispossession.

4 June 2024
DocTalks x MoMA
Session 4

Rice Weeders’ Landscapes:
Female Work, Songs, and Protests in Northern Italy between the
20th and 21st Centuries

Architectural Association

Respondent: tba

Angelo Morbelli, In risaia (1901). In the rice field. Oil on canvas, Private collection.

1957, an unusual silence prevailed in the Mantua rice fields.1 Modine no longer sang along with the birds. Since 1952, when herbicides largely replaced manual labour by making rice cultivation more efficient, these groups of seasonal female agricultural workers became less valuable and were deemed unnecessary. Such a breakthrough was undoubtedly an outstanding achievement in the modern agricultural-chemical industry, as it relieved them of such exhausting labour. Before this, they worked for more than eight hours daily without resting, bent over the ground with their eyes fixed on it and their feet in the water. They were responsible, once or twice a year during spring and summer, for removing weeds and useless plants from rice fields. This process was essential for preparing the fields for sowing or planting young rice plants.

However, this investigation questions whether their role and contribution has been underestimated and forgotten too rapidly and whether a different story2 can be told by considering the matter of care, as raised within the ecological discourse of contemporary female thinkers.3

The songs that punctuated their monotonous labour echoed this matter. They were passed down from mother to daughter, narrating their lost loves, nostalgia for their native country, rural life gestures, and work fatigue. In addition to cheering them up, these songs consolidated their bonds of solidarity, and contributed to shaping their political voices in the first feminist and worker demands in Italy starting in 1883. Hence, this research aims to read back their stories, their soil-care practices, and their material culture. It does so by unlocking the links between their status as female workers, their environment, and their ability to assert their rights. This can become an important legacy for contemporary ecological thought.

1. One of Mondine's most popular songs was “Se otto ore vi sembrano poche. Andate voi a lavorare.” (“If you find that eight hours are not enough, then you can try going to work.”  Translated by the author). 
2. Ursula k. Le Guin, The carrier bag theory of fiction, (London: Ignota, 2019).
3. María de la Bellacasa, Matters of Care, Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds, (Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2017).


[Title TBD]

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Respondent: tba

Place-based scenario planning is a form of long-term strategic planning specific to the design disciplines, including architecture and landscape architecture. This method of scenario planning, a tool that evolved out of military intelligence and oil and gas corporations in the 1980s, is used to create multiple representations of plausible climate futures to inform decision-makers in the present. Place-based scenario planning addresses the climate communication crisis by visualizing how communities are already changing and will continue to change, and the adaptation strategies that communities might choose with limited resources. The place-based methodology develops scenarios from multiple, interdisciplinary sources, including historic maps, photographs, probabilistic data, and written observations. The scenarios are visualized through various forms of design representation including renderings and diagrams. Design storytelling is used to create short, open-ended stories that allow people to insert themselves into these plausible futures. Adaptation precedents from other places are shown alongside these futures. These precedents show the potential costs and implications of adaptation measures that have been built elsewhere.

This presentation demonstrates the place-based scenario planning methodology at Long Beach, a seasonal community of 149 oceanfront cottages in Rockport, Massachusetts. The cottages were built over a sandy spit beach dune system in the early 1900s. The structures are owned by private owners, while the land underneath the cottages belongs to the Town of Rockport. Today, in the climate emergency, the question of what to do at Long Beach (retreat, defend, or restore) is a super wicked problem. Addressing the complexity of the entangled ecological, social, and economic problems at Long Beach requires stakeholders to make a decision in the present, long before the potential worst consequences of the problem (a Category 5 hurricane, financial litigation against the Town, loss of life) manifest.

11 June 2024

The Working Man’s Grand Tour

University of New Mexico and 
The Bartlett School of Architecture

Respondent: tba

This dissertation studies and draws holiday camp impresario Billy Butlin’s designs between 1931 and 1968 to reveal their enduring impacts on class, culture, and race. Initially with British military support, Butlin designed unremarkable buildings with remarkable interiors simulating foreign environments that became themed Imperial playgrounds and helped establish ethnonationalism in England. With modest budgets and no architectural training, he blended exoticized images and technologies of ‘elsewhere’ with an Anglocentric aesthetic, creating enclosed commercial worlds that trained the holiday-goer in white sociality and empire, and demonstrated that culture is no longer rooted in place.
Butlin’s paramountcy over leisure and design is irrefutable, yet no existing studies explore how his buildings fomented myths around global intercultural relations. Through archival research, site visits, and drawing, this thesis illustrates the spatial mechanisms of simulation and politicized tourism by tracing the genealogies and contexts of his camps’ architectural apparatuses. It highlights how architecture plays into the politics of nostalgia, flattening cultures and distorting diasporic identities to accentuate alterity and national pride. These subjects are of the utmost importance as Trumpism, Xiism, Zionism, Modiism, Putinism, and Brextism usher in new waves of ethnic succession, geopolitical tensions, and violence under the guise of reviving lost golden ages.


Landscapes of Migration.
The ‘men for coal’ agreement, mining settlements, and ecology among the Italian workers of Limburg, Belgium

ETH Zurich LUS

Respondent: tba

18 June 2024
DocTalks x MoMA 
Session 5

Unfolding Spaces: Avant-Garde Environments, Experimental Choreography, and Politics of Space in Milana Broš and Dubravko Detoni's 'La voix du silence' at the 1973 Music Biennale Zagreb

Ohio State University

Respondent: tba

Music Biennale Zagreb 1977, "Carrousel," Vinko Globokar.

This paper investigates the intersection of the politics of space, experimental music, and improvisational choreography in Milana Broš and Dubravko Detoni's "La voix du silence," a site-specific performance created for the 1973 Music Biennale Zagreb. The paper examines "La voix du silence" as a specific environment of the avant-garde in Yugoslavia that activated public spaces through experiments in art, contributing to the development of the public sphere. As there are no archival recordings of it, the work is being reconstructed from fragments, peripheries, and memories, highlighting the relevance of choreographic traces as witnesses of spatial and political histories. "La voix du silence" was staged in 1973 as part of the experimental happening titled "Carrousel II," which brought together a large number of music ensembles, along with its first part, "Carrousel I." In 1977, the Biennale programmed a similar project titled "Carrousel," a large-scale composition by Vinko Globokar, and in 1979, "Urbofest," a program of site-specific happenings in experimental music across the city of Zagreb, curated by Nikša Gligo. By considering the relationship between public space and the avant-garde, this paper explores how the thinking space mobilized through experimental music and experiments in choreography expanded the possibilities of public spaces and their complex social encounters. Tracing the work's contribution to the archives of experimental choreography and contemporary music in Yugoslavia, this paper examines "La voix du silence" as an example of avant-garde experiments that have the potential to inquire into current social and political issues, particularly those related to public spaces and their archival, architectural, and social ecologies.


Stage 1: The Search for Shared Materials Ecologies to Build Arts Collectives in Malaysia

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Respondent: tba

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.

25 June 2024

From the Fascist Cult of Youth to Neoliberal Privatisation. The Multilayered Identities
Of the Fara Holiday Camp for Children
In Chiavari (Genoa)

Universidad de Valladolid, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

Respondent: tba

This work analyses the process of metamorphosis experienced by the Gustavo Fara holiday camp (colonia Fara) in the Italian municipality of Chiavari (Genoa) from the 1930s until today.
The Modernism-inspired architecture –a listed building– was devoted to the Fascist cult of youth (1936–1940) and then to a territorial military hospital (1940–1943). After the German Organisation Todt occupation (1943–1945), the former colonia was transformed into the “Refugee Collection Centre no. 72” (1946–1955) to house approximately a thousand families of Italian exiles from Istria, Rijeka, and Dalmatia. Then, the building was renovated to become an international hotel (Faro Residence Centre; 1965–1972).
After six years of abandonment, the property was transferred to the Liguria Region: the area was partially reused as a primary school and became home to the Pro-Scogli nautical club (1978–1999). Eventually, the City Council’s rent-seeking approach refurbished the colonia Fara into the (private) luxury hotel “Torre Fara” (2016–2022), a tumultuous affair that experienced various appraisals and estimates of the property’s value, debate with heritage and environmental associations, court appeals, and calls for tenders.
Over 90 years, this architectural heritage has witnessed numerous historical layers that have not been made equally visible as the first (summer camp) and last (luxury hotel) functions. For this reason, the research delves into the multicultural and multilingual histories tied to various political spheres that have taken place over time in this piece of architectural heritage to critically interpret its evolution. The colonia Fara is the result of plural histories that have changed its skin, passing through multiple phases with as much as social, symbolic, and identity implications. Despite being seen as a Fascist difficult heritage in the post-1945, it had performed many public functions, but the privatisation led to the loss of many characters of the past.

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.

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