2023 MA Architectural History Symposium
Unsorted: Redefining the Canon of Architectural History
10:00am-6:00pm, Saturday 4 November 2023
Room 1.02, 22 Gordon Street, London, WC1H 0QB, United Kingdom
“Unsorted” forms part of the 2022-2023 MA Architectural History Symposium and Exhibition and is a reflection on transdisciplinary methodologies and perspectives within the practice of architectural history. The concept of ‘unsorted' represents the core dilemma and essence of work in architectural history and research. As scholars, we face an ever-critical, ever-excavating process of inquiry where definitive conclusions remain elusive. By highlighting the idea of the ‘unsorted,’ this symposium calls into question the norms, criteria, and power structures that have traditionally defined what counts as part of the architectural canon. It asks us to consider: What has been left out? Whose histories have been overlooked or excluded when we sort architecture into subjects, hierarchies, time periods, and canonical categories?
This event features MA AH students presenting their research. Their presentations are interspersed with talks and responses by distinguished speakers, Mark Swenarton, Jagjeet Lally, Abiba Coulibaly and Jos Boys. These speakers will meticulously examine the spatial, social, economic, historical, and environmental frameworks that have shaped the research conducted by this cohort.
The symposium is structured around three distinct panels: “Peripheral Voices,” “Governing through Architecture,” and “Decentring Normative Users of Architecture.” The papers highlight the diversity of narratives that emerge when we resist the urge to neatly classify and sort architectural production. From the voices muted by traditional canons to counter-narratives hidden in plain sight, the authors highlight the messy, contested realities of architecture past and present. They model the critical disposition that keeps architectural history dynamic and unsorted.
Prof Mark Swenarton
Professor Mark Swenarton is a historian and architectural critic specialising in the architecture and politics of housing. He co-founded the MA Architectural History programme at the Bartlett School of Architecture in 1981 and is now the Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of Liverpool.
Over the years, Swenarton’s research centres on the early 20th-century garden suburb and its adoption in post-World War I social housing schemes across Europe. His recent research delves into London Borough of Camden, examining high-density, low-rise housing projects from the 1960s and 1970s, epitomised by Neave Brown’s Alexandra Road. This research led to a reappraisal of Brown’s legacy and the establishment of the annual RIBA Neave Brown Award for Housing in 2019.
Panel 1 speaker
Dr Jagjeet Lally
Dr Jagjeet Lally is an Associate Professor of the History of Early Modern and Colonial India in UCL’s History Department. He is also the founding Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of South Asia and the Indian Ocean World, which is based in UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies. His first book, India and the Silk Roads, was a global history of caravan trade between north India and Central Asia in the late seventeenth to early twentieth centuries, but it also forms a centrepiece of his critical work on borderlands, frontiers, Zomia, and marginalised spaces, places, and peoples. Having worked with a number of museums and public institutions, one strand of his current work examines diasporic culture and difficult histories in contemporary Britain.
Panel 2 speaker
Abiba Coulibaly is a curator working in film, who draws from photography and architecture to explore the intersection of ethics and aesthetics, through the lens of critical geography. As an Anglo-Ivorian Londoner having obtained an MA in Urban History and Culture in Paris, she often draws on the parallels and overlaps of British and French (post)colonial cultural production. She is the founder of Brixton Community Cinema, a pay-what-you-can film exhibition project operating out of vacant spaces, recently awarded a design commission by the London Festival of Architecture. Abiba also curates for Magnum Photos Film Festival and Open City Documentary Festival, and was a participant in the 4th cohort of New Architecture Writers.
Panel 3 speaker
Dr Jos Boys
Dr Jos Boys has an interdisciplinary background encompassing feminist and community-based design, research, education, journalism, and photography. Originally trained in architecture, she is a globally recognised expert consultant in learning space design within Higher Education with a focus on equality issues. She is currently a visiting associate professor in the Knowledge Lab, IoE at UCL.
Jos has a deep-rooted interest in design activism. She was a founding member of Matrix feminist architecture practice in the 1980s, co-founded The Dis/Ordinary Architecture Project in 2006 and has written extensively about more equitable approaches to built environment theory and practice. DisOrdinary Architecture aims to bring the creativity of disabled artists together with architectural students, educators, and practitioners, forging innovative approaches to inclusive design and architectural education.
10:00 am - 12:30 pm
Introduction by Professor Barbara Penner and Eliot Haworth
Opening talk by Professor Mark Swenarton
Panel 1 - Peripheral Voices (11:00 am - 12:30 pm)
Talk by Dr Jagjeet Lally
Forgotten Voyages: Exploring Socio-Spatial Realities of 19th-century Lascars
The Ayahs' Home at Hackney: Race, Gender, and Empire 1855-1941
Deconstructing Diasporic Faith: An Exploration of London's Muslim Identity through Shahed Saleem's Ramadan Pavilion
The Proposed UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre: A study on Holocaust memorial architecture, the history of the UK’s memorial project, and a critique of its design and success
1:30 - 5:00 pm
Panel 2 - Governing Through Architecture (1:30 - 3:10 pm)
Talk by Abiba Coulibaly
The collapse on 65 rue d’Aubagne in Marseille: a case of state violence and housing injustice
Beyond the Alton Estate: What will determine the success of Post-war Council Housing Regeneration
Fragile Fortress, Stable Ruin and the Restriction of Women: An Exploration of Imaginary Space in the Locked-Room Mystery
Panel 3 - Decentring Normative Users of Architecture (3:30-5:00pm)
Talk by Dr Jos Boys (Design Activist, Co-Director of The Dis/Ordinary Architecture Project)
Disabling Environments: Absences in Architectural Conditions
Multisensory Experience: A Spatial Study of Indoor Climbing and Artificial Climbing Walls
Towards a Technology of Trees in Architecture—from ‘Epistemes’ to ‘Dispositifs’
Things Get In: A Study of Arthropod Life at the Couvent Sainte-Marie de la Tourette
Closing Note by Dr Robin Wilson
Free discussion and socialising in G12 and G11
Close at 6:00pm.