This theme focuses on the theoretical sources used within the practice of architects, urban planners, landscape architects and, more generally, those who design space in contemporary life. Within the plurality of conceptual approaches,1 we examine the aspects which have been adopted from previously formulated theories and doctrines. This topic also questions the interrelation between the creator’s journey and their context, in order to pinpoint the nature of their field of reference. Where do project processes form within theoretical expressions? From which disciplinary sources do creators draw from in order to find their discourse and their practice?

The long tradition of books and treaties2 was strongly developed during the Renaissance era. This was a time when gardens became fully integrated within the arts, utopian conceptions were proposed and where we rediscovered the Treaty of Vitruvius.3 It is from this time up until the 19th century that we can trace the history of theoretical approaches to architecture, the city, and landscape on the long term,4 which were founded predominantly on the concept of model.5 Over the course of the 20th century, however, forms of expression and transmission were revived, particularly during the 1960s6 when new concepts were brought to the fore. Things like history, ecology, and environment,7 as well as the experience of everyday life8 became the backbone for the development of new projects. Born during this time period were comprehensive theories based on the diversity of contemporary beliefs – whether or not they were in contrast with the modern movement or in line with singular trends.

Through time, theoretical undertakings convey the will to formulate a discourse which communicates hypotheses and results (whether proven or not) through history or in practice. In addition, theory defines itself as a field of thought operationalized in a way which surpasses that of poetics and individual doctrines. The theoretical field thus seeks to create methods and concepts which allow for the analysis of existing situations, as well as the development of approaches to the transformation of space.

Theory is greatly influenced by history and geography, from which each approach draws their references, as well as the ideologies that characterize the contexts in which they emerge. Thus, in the face of presentism9 and the challenges of the 21st century, how will concepts be evolved by contemporary actors? Which fields and disciplines nourish the theoretical process? Finally, what are the lines of continuity that characterize the corpus and theoretical devices which were adopted throughout the last fifty years, if not more? Understanding these constants could offer key insights to the analysis of contemporary production, situating them within a longer perspective of thought.

In order to outline potential responses – and without claiming to be exhaustive – this special issue proposes to shed light on the diversity, and perhaps the articulation of adopted theories present in architecture, urbanism and landscape starting from three principal approaches:

FORMAT AND METHODS OF TRANSMISSION: Here, we seek to understand the construction and transmission of theoretical frameworks. How does the theorist position themselves? What is the form of the theory, in some instances outside of the written tradition (experience based, conference, exhibition, teaching) ? According to which methods is it elaborated upon and put into place? To what extent does practice become a “recyclable” 10 theoretical way of thinking? For example, one could even investigate the notion of referencing and methodology and their use within a specific theoretical discourse.

USES, EVOLUTION, AND DETOURS: Moreover, the use and evolution of a theoretical legacy can be mobilized. In this case, the longevity and the reception of a theoretical device are at the centre of our questioning - as are transfers and loans from other disciplinary and scientific fields.

As such, we can examine the evolution of theoretical teaching in schools and at universities, as well as the diffusion and reception of specific methods by theoretical and practical actors. What place do tools for comparison and analogy have? The weight of certain filiations and certain counter-models could emerge: for example, certain architects trained before 1968 in France construct their positioning as a reaction to a form of thought that they reject.

CONTEXT OF FORMULATION, FIELD OF OPERATION: Finally, theoretical terminology and positioning do not teach us about the work nor the vision of a singular actor, but rather bring to light a much larger cultural context. The theory emerges at the crossroads between practice and context. We can, therefore, question the porosity between the history of ideas, socio-cultural evolution, and the evolution of architecture in cities and landscapes.

  • To what extent are mobilized theoretical devices dependent on a singular context or on the history of their creator? How do they come to be interpreted in distinct contexts?
  • Subjects for proposed articles can position themselves more precisely inside of these lines of questioning, or propose a more transversal analysis by engaging with the unpublished material.
  • The goal of this thematic issue is to bring together contributions that shed light on the multiplicity of uses and theoretical formulations that exist in scales of architecture, urbanism, and landscapes.
  • This edition will thus contribute to enriching our understanding of projects in practice and in characterizing the theoretical and doctrinal pluralism of the last decades. It will also allow for a better understanding of the processes of spatial transformation in cultural contexts that are both diverse and interdependent.


Proposals for articles will be sent by e-mail before 15 September 2018  to the Cahiers de la recherche architecturale, urbaine et paysagère’editorial office [email protected]
For more information, contact Aude Clavel on 06 10 55 11 36

The articles must not exceed 30 000 characters, including spaces.

Languages accepted: French, English.

Articles must be accompanied by :

  • 1 bio-bibliographical record between 5 to 10 lines (name and first name of the author (s), professional status and/or titles, possible institutional link, research themes, latest publications, e-mail address).
  • 2 abstracts in French and English.
  • 5 keywords in French and English.
  • 1. Jacques Lucan, Précisions sur un état présent de l’architecture, Lausanne, presses polytechniques romandes, 2015.
  • 2. Numerous works have been dedicated to the question of literature and architecture see Pierre Chabard et Marilena Kourniati, Raisons d’écrire : livres d’architectes, 1945-1999, Paris, Éd. de la Villette, 2013. See also Jean-Philippe Garric, Émilie d’Orgeix et Estelle Thibault, Le Livre et l’architecte, actes du colloque, Paris, 31 janvier-2 février 2008, Wavre, Mardaga, 2011. André Tavares, The Anatomy of the Architectural Book, Zurich, Lars Müller Publishers, 2016. Beatriz Colomina, Clip, Stamp, Fold : The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines, Barcelone, Actar, 2006.
  • 3. Georg Germann, Vitruve et le vitruviannisme, introduction à l’histoire de la théorie architecturale, Lausanne, presses polytechniques romandes, 2016 (éd. Originale 1987).
  • 4. Hanno-Walter Kruft, Geschichte der Architekturtheorie von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, München, C. H. Beck, 1985. Michel Baridon, Les jardins : paysagistes – jardiniers – poètes, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1998.
  • 5. Françoise Choay, La règle et le modèle, Paris Seuil, 1980.
  • 6. Dominique Rouillard, Superarchitecture, Paris, Éd. de la Villette, 2004.
  • 7. Ian L. McHarg Design with Nature, 1969 tr fr.Max Falque, Cahiers de l’IAURIF, 1980.
  • 8. Goffman Erving, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, New York, Doubleday Anchor Books, 1959, tr. fr. La Présentation de soi, Paris, Éditions de Minuit, 1973. Henri Lefebvre, Critique de la vie quotidienne II. Fondements d’une sociologie de la quotidienneté, Paris, L’Arche, 1961,
  • 9. François Hartog, Régimes d’ historicité: présentisme et expérience du temps, Paris, Éd. du Seuil, 2003.
  • 10. Paola Vigano, Les territoires de l’urbanisme, Le projet comme producteur de connaissance, Genève, Métis Presses, 2014.