SYMPOSIUM : Australasia and the Global Turn in Architectural History

Global History of Architecture

Wednesday 27 Apr
2022 9am – 12:30pm
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ZOOM Meeting & Japanese Room, Level Four Glyn Davis Building (133), Masson Road, University of Melbourne, Parkville 3010

Convened by Macarena de la Vega de León and Paul Walker, this event will be held in person at the Melbourne School of Design, and on Zoom. Link will be made available after registration.

The writing of architectural history shifted with the turn of the twenty-first century. Theoretical and methodological reassessments, as well as the study of postcolonial theories in architecture, challenged the previously accepted disciplinary canon and made the development of a global history of architecture urgent. More than twenty years later, there has been resulting literature, disciplinary reassessments, and continuous debate around the meaning of global in the history of architecture. One of the latest additions to the field, the new edition of Sir Banister Fletcher’s rebranded as Global History of Architecture (2019), is proof of the continuous scholarly interest in reframing the global.

Although historians of architecture in the region have contributed their expertise in the Global South to some of the resulting publications, there is still a limited presence of an Australasian perspective. In general, the field continues to present challenges in combining these geographies and cultures, in defining the notion of region, in the periodization of narratives and in capturing transnational connections. The aim of this event is twofold: on the one hand, to celebrate the publication of Sir Banister Fletcher’s Global History of Architecture highlighting the Australasian contributions to the volume; on the other, to open a wider discussion on the global issues of gender, race and migration in architecture that continue to have a limited presence in global narratives. To critically review the most recent literature on the global is necessary to inform next steps.

Session 1_ Wednesday 27 April, 9am-10.45am

  • Murray Fraser, “A Provisional, Collectivised Global History.”
  • Vimalin Rujivacharakul, “Buildings of the Oceans: Ephemerality and Monumentality in Architectural History.”
  • Deidre Brown, “Decolonising and Indigenising Architectural History.”
  • Amanda Achmadi and Paul Walker, “Writing architecture across colonial borders: ‘Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific, 1780-1914.’”
  • Philip Goad, “Time for Global Reassessment: Architectural Histories of Southeast Asia, Australasia and Oceania.”

Session 2_ Wednesday 27 April, 11am.-12.30pm

  • Mark Jarzombek, “Beyond History?”
  • Vikram Prakash, “Eventualities: The Agency of Architectural Historiography in Decolonization.”
  • Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, “Race and the Historiography of American Architecture.”
  • Mirjana Lozanovska, “Theory + History = Historiography.”
  • Karen Burns and Lori Brown, “Women, Global History, and the Nation State.”

Session 1_ Australasia in Global Architectural Histories

A Provisional, Collectivised Global History   | Murray Fraser, University College London

Writing a global architectural history is fraught with problems – intellectual, ethical and practical. It is complex and difficult, yet one needn’t shy away because of that. In complementing more detailed studies in architectural history, global accounts are essential for two main reasons. Firstly, architecture since its outset has been created through the geographical flows of cultural influences, and these flows cannot be adequately framed or understood without some conception of the entirety, however imperfect. Secondly, as cultural geographers like Doreen Massey argue, the global and the local are intermeshed in differing ways/intensities in every place on earth, so one cannot avoid global influences in any aspect of architectural history.

This talk reflects on Banister Fletcher’s 21st edition, a palimpsest that scrapes all away to write, afresh, from a broader, more decentred perspective. Space is emphasized, examining specific countries/regions in broad chronological periods not as fixed places, but as markers that can help to trace cultural/geographical flows. Increasingly globalised architectural history has the effect of reducing the amount of discussion about any one specific country/region, yet this is necessary to enable flows to be traced.

Criticisms of the latest Banister Fletcher urge alternative approaches but miss the major change, which involves the collectivised writing of global architectural history. Some 88 experts contributed under their own names, with the ability/responsibility to write what they chose. Comparable is the Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World, with which the new Banister Fletcher – another part of Bloomsbury Architectural Library – is closely dovetailed. Gaps and fissures however remain; there can never be complete coverage. The latest Banister Fletcher is envisaged as provisional. Subsequent scholars will push the content and balance further. The talk will thus discuss initiatives stemming from the 21st edition which seek to distribute and collectivise the writing of global architectural history even more.

Murray Fraser is Professor of Architecture and Global Culture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, and Chair of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. In 2008 his book Architecture and the ‘Special Relationship’ won the RIBA Research Award and CICA Bruno Zevi Book Prize. With Catherine Gregg he edited the 21st Edition of Sir Banister Fletcher’s Global History of Architecture (2020), awarded the SAHGB’s Colvin Prize. He received the 2018 RIBA Annie Spink Award for Excellence in Education.

Buildings of the Oceans: Ephemerality and Monumentality in Architectural History  | Vimalin Rujivacharakul, University of Delaware

Why do Australasian topics seldom take center stage in a global architectural history survey? The culprits arguably range from the narrowness of the preestablished architectural timeline to the convention in architectural education which favors buildings on the northern hemisphere’s landmasses. And yet, even when focusing on the globe’s southern half, it is not easy to readily develop a historical account either. Islands in the Pacific have been home to uncountable architectural examples, but most do not last physically, while traces of their influences and causalities are often too frail to suggest a sustaining, extensive historical narrative. At the same time, the region’s architectural monumentality, defined by its most mundane material sense, is typically seen as developed in abundance following European colonization. Between architecture of the indigenous and buildings of imperialism, defining the course of the Australasian architectural history in a global discourse is surely a daring challenge. This paper explores the above conundrum as experienced by architectural historians between the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century. Whether those authors omitted Australasian subjects or succeeded in incorporating them in their books, each decision made for each book reflects a broader context, either sociopolitically or in relation to architectural education. By connecting together those actions and results, this paper seeks to map transformation and persistence in architectural history writing, with Australasia functioning as the central lens through which historiographical complexity unfolds.

Vimalin Rujivacharakul (Ph.D., UC. Berkeley) is Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Delaware and concurrently the 2021-2024 Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture, Tsinghua University. She is trained in architectural history, intellectual history, and cultural anthropology. Her works include Architecturalized Asia (CHOICE Award); Liang Sicheng and the Temple of Buddha’s Light (China Classic List, Ministry of Education, China), and Collecting China which led to the Mellon workshop for the National Museum of Asian Art that she co-led in 2017

Decolonising and Indigenising Architectural History  | Deidre Brown, University of Auckland

‘How does an Indigenous architectural historian engage in global architectural history?’ This is a question I asked myself after agreeing to edit and write part of the Southeast Asia, Australasia and Oceania 1400-1780 section of Sir Banister Fletcher’s Global History of Architecture. I am well-practiced in this type of work of late, writing sections for the revised edition of the Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World (forthcoming; I also contributed to the original 1997 edition), and new global histories including Habitat: vernacular architecture of a changing planet (2017), The Handbook of Contemporary Indigenous Architecture (2018), Vernacular Architecture: atlas for living throughout the world (2019) and The Bloomsbury Global Encyclopedia of Women in Architecture (forthcoming). Global architectural histories abound, addressing the problems of older architectural histories that were exclusionary, misogynistic, Eurocentric, paternalistic and sometimes patronising. Yet they also grapple with organising that which resists categorisation: diversity. How an editor or subeditor defines regions, periodisation and method, and balances consistency and comprehensiveness against homogenisation and word limits (risking marginalising an architectural tradition even further), makes writing a global history difficult. This talk considers whether it is possible to decolonise architectural history by this means. Or is the future of architectural history, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, founded on Indigenous architectural histories: written by, with and (usually) for Indigenous people; situated within local world views temporalities, making practices and spaces; and potentially linked through means other than encyclopedic volumes?

Professor Deidre Brown (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu tribes) is a Māori architectural historian in the School of Architecture and Planning, University of Auckland Waipapa Taumata Rau. She has written several books, including Māori Architecture (2009) and the multi-authored Art in Oceania: A new history (2012), and (with Ngarino Ellis) a comprehensive history of Māori art and architecture to be published in 2023. In 2020, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi.

Writing architecture across colonial borders: ‘Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific, 1780-1914’  | Paul Walker and Amanda Achmadi

Writing about the architecture and urbanism of a huge area of the globe with very different cultures and histories was a daunting prospect. This was our task in writing for the 21st edition of Banister Fletcher. How could it be coherent? How could two authors overcome the disparate foci of their previous work, Australia/NZ and Indonesia? Did the places we were writing about have anything in common that could be defined in a singular narrative? The outcomes were not quite ‘even’, Australia being massively over-represented when population is considered. But in this uneven process, we discovered commonality, something through which the architectural conditions of these otherwise disparate places participated in processes that were not merely local, if not yet ‘global’. This lay in the invention in both Southeast Asia and Australia of building types that – while they were unique to those places – were also in both cases contingent on these places being imperial possessions. These were buildings designed to facilitate the commercial agriculture that tied Australia to the British economy and Indonesia to the Dutch. And as we considered this further, we realised that commerce linked the colonial territories that were the topic of our chapter not only to their respective metropoles, but also to each other: writing across colonial borders, we were following a pattern of intercolonial trade that has barely been acknowledged and whose supporting infrastructures and architectures have not been researched.

Prof. Paul Walker is a professor of architecture at the University of Melbourne. His research interests include museum architecture in colonial and post-colonial contexts, and the architectural history of Australia and New Zealand.

Dr. Amanda Achmadi is a senior lecturer in architectural design (Asian architecture and urbanism) at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning. She holds a bachelor degree in architecture and a doctoral degree in architecture and Asian studies. Her research works explore the interrelated history of architecture, urban forms, and identity politics in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia and broader Southeast Asia.

Time for Global Reassessment: Architectural Histories of Southeast Asia, Australasia and Oceania  | Philip Goad, University of Melbourne

Global histories of architecture, by default, derive their structures largely through time and geography. Continents are condensed, oceans disappear, cities are dissolved, and individual buildings are asked to stand in for infinitely more complex stories of patronage, production and labour. This paper reflects on the recent experience of contributing to the 21st edition of Sir Banister Fletcher’s Global History of Architecture (2020) and asks the question, what next? It asks what might be at stake in considering together (as occurred in the said volume) the twentieth century architectures of Southeast Asia, Australasia and Oceania. Today, global understandings of these regions and their histories continue to remain partial, mired in national focus, periodization, tropes of style and type, and often blind to the shared histories and voices of indigenous occupation, decolonization, migration and the sway of geo-political shifts. Might, by placing these regions together, different accounts be unearthed and written, ones that acknowledge and highlight transnational flows, conflicting accounts of empire and decolonization, climate and environment, technology, labour and race, contested landscapes of extraction and dispossession, and the rise of distinctive late 20th century urban formations and informal settlement? And in so doing, might then these new histories – some written, others yet to be so – refigure or at the very least, encourage the reassessment of what a global history of architecture might mean?

Philip Goad is Chair of Architecture, Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor, and Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Architectural History, Urban and Cultural Heritage (ACAHUCH) at the University of Melbourne. He is co-author of Architecture and the Modern Hospital: Nosokomeion to Hygeia (2019) and Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond: Transforming Education through Art, Design and Architecture (2019) and co- editor with Julie Willis of The Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture (2012) and with Hannah Lewi of Australia Modern: architecture, design and landscape 1925-1975 (2019).

Session 2_ Limitations of Global Architectural Histories

Eventualities: The Agency of Architectural Historiography in Decolonization  | Vikramaditya Prakash, University of Washington

If global modernism is enjoined to the decolonial task of undoing Eurocentrism in the writing of modernist histories, its agency, which is to say the theoretical and conceptual framing of its agency has to be moored in a ‘space’ and a language that, without resorting to nativisms, is not unilaterally traceable back to normative frames of the so-called ‘West’. The writing of such histories is not just the matter of producing more ‘inclusive’ narrative, but of reimagining the narrative itself. This is a piecemeal task that cannot as of yet work with a known vision of the future, but has to be done with the awareness of its own provisionality even as it advances new understandings. This “propose, erase and revise” way of working, this presentation will argue, can learn much from Abdul Maliq Simone’s concept of “eventualities”, which describes the agencies of scrappy urban inhabitations in the global south.

Vikramaditya Prakash is Professor and Associate Dean at the College of Built Environments, University of Washington, Seattle. He is host of the ArchitectureTalk podcast, and co-design lead at O(U)R: Office of (Un)certainty Research. Recent publications include One Continuous Line: Art, Architecture and Urbanism of Aditya Prakash (Mapin 2020) and the co-edited Rethinking Global Modernism: Architectural Historiography and the Postcolonial (Routledge 2021). The ACSA Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture named him as one of its Distinguished Professors in 2020.

Beyond History? | Mark Jarzombek, MIT

We use the word global in global history as if we know what that means. The adjective ‘global’ is not only a quite recent one when added to the word history, but it is also quite ambiguous. In this it is unlike World History, that at its beginnings in Enlightenment philosophy had a clear-cut agenda and scale. That does not mean we should abandon the use of the word ‘global.’ To the contrary. We need a goal in order to at least move the conversation past Eurocentric ideologies. In this talk, I will target the word ‘history’ to remind us that even that word needs to be rethought, especially since global history is also a history that has to embrace oral cultures, cultures that by definition are not ‘history’ and that often get slotted into the domain of ‘anthropology.’ How do we address the problem as historians of the oral nature of past cultures and civilizations. Take the site known as the Great Zimbabwe. There is the building itself, some still incomplete archaeology and some ethnographic studies. But the elites of Zimbabwe like so many others did not write anything down creating huge imbalances with in how global history is – and even can be – written. Multiply this time many thousands so that it became a way to see ‘global’ in a new way. How to write ‘history’? is thus a question that is not just practical, but also philosophical as it opens up a space that cannot be dimensioned through conventional disciplinary realities. How do we write the unwritable?

Mark Jarzombek is professor of architectural history and theory at MIT. He works on a wide range of topics, including the ground-breaking textbook entitled A Global History of Architecture (Wiley Press, 2006) with co-author Vikramaditya Prakash. He is the sole author of Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective (Wiley Press, 2013), and is currently finishing a book for Routledge, entitled The Long First Millennium, Affluence, Architecture and the Making of Modern Society.

Race and the Historiography of American Architecture  | Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, Victoria University of Wellington

This paper will discuss the ‘Race and the Historiography of American Architecture’ project, co-organised with Charles Davis (University of Buffalo) and Kathryn Holliday (University of Texas, Arlington). The goal of the project is an anthology of essays examining the role of race in the construction of historical narratives of ‘American architecture’ during the long nineteenth century. Canonical surveys of American architecture have optimistically interpreted national architectural movements through the lens of an inclusive democratic liberalism that embraced and collected the material cultures of people of all colours, nationalities, and religious creeds. Yet the first century and a half of American history was characterized by stark debates about the racial and ethnic composition of the new nation state and its citizens. Claims to ‘Americanness,’ called into stark relief by the profound violence of the Civil War, were highly contested. Across architectural periods and movements, the appropriation and adaptation of historical forms and styles gave rise to nationalist and regionalist ideologies with diverse political aims. The purpose of this volume is to consider revisionist histories of American architecture that subvert the synthetic narrative of ‘a nation of immigrants’ or a ‘melting pot,’ recover competing debates, include those written out of canonical surveys, and bring canonical and vernacular histories together in a contrapuntal narrative. We hope this project will draw attention to the need to critically engage with questions of race and nationalism beyond the context of American architecture.

Joanna Merwood-Salisbury is Professor of Architecture at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her research on nineteenth-century architecture and urbanism in the United States has a particular emphasis on issues of race and labour. Her publications include Design for the Crowd: Patriotism and Protest in Union Square (University of Chicago Press, 2019), After Taste: Expanded Practice in Interior Design, co-edited with Kent Kleinman and Lois Weinthal(Princeton Architectural Press, 2012), and Chicago 1890: The Skyscraper and the Modern City (University of Chicago Press, 2009).

Theory + History = Historiography  | Mirjana Lozanovska, Deakin University

How can one historiography be understood as distinct from another? In this paper I explore the limits to a historiography, albeit mindful of the claims made. It may be too obvious to critique a publication such as Banister Fletcher’s Global History of Architecture (2020) especially as it seems entitled to appropriate a very similar title A Global History of Architecture (Ching, Jarzombek, Prakash 2010), and too overstated to ask ‘Who needs Banister Fletcher in the 21st Century?’ Rather I would prefer to examine approaches that do not make such grand claims, and which often outline their limits, or let’s say ‘specificity’ at the forefront. In particular I would like to return to theoretical works and workings from the 1990s for two reasons, firstly to bring attention to this research – postcolonial, feminist, identity, migration – and argue it as foundational to a recent ‘global turn in architectural history,’ thereby historicise the claim; and secondly to orient a discussion on specificity rather than an approach about what is omitted from the grand claims. This return aims to highlight an evident though overlooked glacial influence of focussed and longitudinal research on the major ‘turns in the writing of architectural history.’ In this gesture ‘theory’ is foregrounded as a way of understanding historiography. Following the eloquence of the statement about those who ‘may have lacked signature, but not significance’ (Siddiqi 2019) one focus will be on ‘Other Connections’ an international network of architectural history scholars active in the 1990s. It took at least another decade for Indigeneity to be integral to Australian architectural histories (Memmott). Following a few ‘Other Connections’ trajectories – questions, experimentation, methodology and framings – may bring attention to scholars and scholarship, which along with similar trajectories elsewhere, perhaps pioneered historiographical shifts.

Associate Professor Mirjana Lozanovska is Director of the Architecture Vacancy Lab at Deakin University. Her work investigates the creative ways that architecture mediates human dignity and identity through multidisciplinary theories of space. Her books include Migrant Housing: Architecture, Dwelling, Migration (2019), Ethno-Architecture and the Politics of Migration (2016), and Iconic Industry (2017). Mirjana was co-editor of Fabrications 2018-2021; and is currently investigating the space of labour with focus on BHP Steelworks, Port Kembla (ARC discovery project).

Women, Global History, and the Nation State  | Karen Burns and Lori Brown, University of Melbourne and Syracuse University

A resurgent international women’s rights movement has emerged over the past decade. In architecture a publishing market now flourishes to promote women architects and feminism. Two models are prevalent in this space, but both present difficulties as templates for global accounts. On the one hand, we have the ‘Great Woman Architect’ narrative. It has an important place to play in providing role models to inspire and offset bias about the incommensurability of women’s skills with the architectural profession. Nevertheless, it risks creating a flattened global, historical space where the complexity and difference 0f women’s lives across the globe is subsumed beneath a triumphs and challenges narrative. It is premised on a gender equity model, and risks reinforcing the familiar myth of the lone genius as historical actor. And on the other hand, we have a feminism which insistently declares itself to be intersectional, yet both feminism and intersectionality are not globally accepted terms. ‘Feminism’ (singular) is made complex by the demands to decolonize feminism, a call undergirded by requests to cede and share power. At the UN 4th World Conference on Women in 1995, First Nations women ‘argued for the goal of “self-determination”’ rather than ‘gender equity’; their ‘empowerment’ ‘could not occur ‘outside the context of decolonization.’ (Grey, 2004; Watson, 2001)

This paper will use a large-scale global research project, The Bloomsbury Global Encyclopedia of Women in Architecture, 1960-2015 (forthcoming, Bloomsbury 2023) to discuss the limitations of architecture’s current feminist models and knowledge practices within a global frame. It aligns itself with Vikram Prakash’s call for a de-centered rather than an additive paradigm for global history (2022) and expands on this view to argue against the now normative declaration that a global history reflexively moves beyond the container of the nation state. It observes the important role of the nation state in legislating for and limiting women’s rights, and Indigenous claims to ‘ontological precedence and belonging’ before and outside the framework of the nation state. (Moreton-Robinson, 2015) A political rather than cultural history of women in architecture cannot afford to dispense with the nation state, one necessarily studied in tandem with Sovereignty and the supra-national spaces of women’s organizing.

Dr Karen Burns (MSD, University of Melbourne) where she is Pathway coordinator of the undergraduate History and Theory Program. She was a co-founder of the Parlour collective (2012-2019), is the co-author of the Introduction to Matrix, Making Space (Verso Feminist Classics, 2022), co-editor with Lori Brown of The Bloomsbury Global Encyclopedia of Women in Architecture, 1960-2015 (2023 forthcoming) and completing her book Making Women: gender, empire, and art goods in British homes 1841-1851.

Professor Lori Brown is Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Syracuse University School of Architecture. She is co-founder of ArchiteXX, author of Contested Spaces: Abortion Clinics, Women’s Shelters and Hospitals (2013) and Feminist Practices (2011), co-curator of Now What? Advocacy, Activism and Alliances in American Architecture since 1968 (current) and co-editor of The Bloomsbury Global Encyclopedia of Women in Architecture, 1960-2015.