First annual Conference of Automotive Historians Australia
Melbourne Australia
1– 3 September 2016

Hosted by:
RMIT Design Archives
RMIT School of Architecture and Design
Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture – Monash University

Professor Harriet Edquist, RMIT University
Dr Mark Richardson, Monash University
Simon Lockrey, RMIT University

Details about the Conference including the Call for Papers, are now available at and in attached flier.

AHA_Conference (Download Flyer)


First annual conference of HISTORIANS AUSTRALIA INC

In 2004 British sociologist Mike Featherstone noted that while there have been increasing academic engagement with the ‘mobility turn’, automobility the ‘modes of autonomous, self-directed movement’ afforded by the motorcar, had been neglected as a subject of enquiry. Since then, automobility studies have gained some traction in the academy, particularly within social sciences and cultural studies. However, while the parameters of automobility are set wide, and cross a number of different disciplines, the practices of design within this context have rarely been the focus of study. In Australia, which has been a centre of vehicle production for 120 years and is one of the few countries in the world that has the capacity to design and manufacture vehicles from the ground up, there has been little scholarly research in these areas.

The major Australian car companies – Toyota, Ford and General Motors Holden – will cease manufacturing and exit the country by 2017 following Mitsubishi’s closure in 2008. The implications of this dramatic shift in terms of job losses, weakened industrial capacity and also the potential loss of significant cultural heritage sites and assets, are becoming the subject of increased concern and debate. Furthermore, as automotive design rapidly changes under the forces of new propulsion, data and energy technologies (autonomous, electric, solar cars); as increased urbanisation means fewer young people want to own vehicles, with bike- and car-sharing on the increase; as cities look to alterna- tives to private car travel; as road congestion increases and oil supplies decrease, it is clear that the dominance of the twentieth-century conception of the vehicle is waning.

It is timely therefore to reflect on the Australian condition, to consider the broad themes of automobility through a particularly local and national lenses, both in terms of the past and the potential for the future. It is hoped that the implications for design in what John Urry has called ‘the car system’ will be addressed. That papers will examine the contributions and legacies of Australian vehicle designers, of those who have designed the road systems that these machines demand, and also of architects who have designed the factories, salesrooms, garages and service stations that build and maintain vehicles, and the motels, drive-in cinemas and suburban shopping malls that mass ownership of private vehicles have brought into being.

Papers need not be confined to these topics however, but can address any area related to automobility including:

cultures of automobility;

automotive design in Australia, past present and future;

vehicles and the development of new architectural types: factories, showrooms, petrol stations, motels, drive-in cinemas, garages
(private and commercial);

automobiles and urban planning and development;

highway and freeway development and their trans formation over time (sound barriers and art projects);

the design of road safety
(from seat belts to TV campaigns);

mobile homes;

practices of driving;

vehicles and the environment;

cars in Australian popular media, cinema, games and literature;

motoring and national identity; the car and cultural identity; cars and gender identity; motoring and tourism; motorsports;

vehicle makes and marques; the car and industrialisation; the car and the economy;
the psychology of automobility; the car and land use;

the car and law;

the car and art/the arts.

autonomous vehicles

Advanced automotive technologies and business models

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