[URBANTH-L]CFP: Urban Artefacts: Types, Practices, Circulations

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Mon Jan 15 19:01:15 EST 2007

From: Michael Guggenheim migug at bluewin.ch

Call for an interdisciplinary Seminar at the Institute of Geography, 
University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland 14-15 June 2007

Urban Artefacts: Types, Practices, Circulations

Anthony D. King (Prof. Em. State University of New York, Binghampton) Linda 
Schneekloth (Prof., School of Architecture and Planning, University of 

The workshop convenes a small group of 20-30 scholars and around 10 papers 
concentrating on one or several of the themes below from all relevant 
disciplines such as anthropology, architectural history and theory, 
geography, history, science studies and sociology. Costs for travels and 
accommodation may be covered by the organizers depending on replies from 
funding agencies. Abstracts (2'500 signs max.) are to be sent to 
Secretariat.Geographie at unine.ch until March the 1st 2007.

For further information on the seminar, contact:
Michael Guggenheim: migug at bluewin.ch
Ola Söderström: ola.soderstrom at unine.ch

Globalization not only changes the values of people around the world, it 
also changes the very face of the cities we live in. Cities are composed of 
a tremendous amounts of what we call spatial artefacts, i.e. houses, but 
also furniture of public spaces, traffic infrastructure, gardens and parks. 
These spatial artefacts vary in form and function from place to place, they 
come in local, national and regional variants. These local variations are 
due to different architectural traditions but even more so, different local 
practices. People have to play baseball, before a baseball-stadium is 
invented and finally built. In architectural theory, such templates are 
known as building types, which we broaden for the purpose of the seminar, to 
spatial artefact-types. When such types travel and are inserted into other 
spatial contexts, they come (partially at least) with these practices 

In a new environment the introduction of new spatial artefacts can lead to a 
vast array of changes. First of all, the new artefact often does not come in 
its full form, rather it is often built from previous and existing 
structures, through change of use of buildings or through the ad-hoc 
assemblage of other existing structures. Because practices travel faster 
than built structures. Think for instance of mosques created in office 
buildings in the core of Swiss cities.

Second the introduction of new spatial artefacts happens not through an 
introduction of a pure type in a new context, rather, the type itself is 
likely to adapt to its new context and even to lead to new types. As it is 
the case with the Chinese villa, which is a "creole" version of the Italian 
villa type.

Third, the new type is likely to introduce irritation in its new contexts. 
Local actors may object to "foreign" spatial artefacts, as shown by European 
protests against skyscrapers considered as American building types.

To interpret these first observations a wide range of theoretical problems 
and disciplinary views is at stake. The discussion may centre around the 
concept of type. When and under which circumstances are practices condensed 
in a type so that they are recognized by architectural theorists but also by 
a lay public? How and under which circumstances do national and regional 
architectural practitioners take up foreign types? Are there observable 
patterns when foreign types become controversial in discourses of 
architects, planners and preservationists?

Second, one may analyse the relationship between spatial artefacts and 
practices, both at the level of "production" and "consumption". In other 
words, who/which are the human and non-human actors allowing these 
circulations: designers, architects, architecture and design magazines, 
transnational businessmen, tourists, movies? How are practices inscribed in 
these artefacts, and how can we account for this inscription? Finally, how 
is the "immigration" of these artefacts regulated, by zoning and building 
Third, the travelling itineraries of spatial artefacts may be of interest in 
themselves. Are there established geographical and social routes of spatial 
artefacts? Are there observable patterns where new artefacts are inserted in 
cities and by whom? Can we identify backbones and "black holes" in these 
networks? Under what processes are these routes reconfigured?

The purpose of this seminar is to exchange ideas, results and methodologies, 
and notably to create an encounter between scholars interested in STS 
perspectives on the built environment (notably Actor Network Theory or 
Social Shaping of Technologies approaches ) and others using different 
tool-boxes (stemming from spatial anthropology, cultural geography, 
architectural history or urban sociology).

The conference is also the first event of the European Network 
"Socio-Technical Studies of Architecture and Urbanism". 

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