Session at the 108th College Art Association of America Annual Conference
Jason Eugene Nguyen, Getty Research Institute and Elizabeth J. Petcu, University of Edinburgh
Architecture is enduringly conceived as an additive, building-oriented phenomenon. Nevertheless, the prelude to construction—as well as architecture’s emergence and aftermath—nearly always involve elements of destruction. The razing of built and natural landscapes, planned obsolescence, cycles of dismantling, iconoclasm, spoliation, and other forms of un-making condition architectural cultures across time and geographies. Destruction, in other words, undergirds architecture’s creative processes. This session seeks papers that investigate ways of un-making in architecture across any period or region. It asks how acts of destruction, whether deliberate, accidental, or caused by natural forces, produce architectural knowledge and inform the built environment in theory and practice. Although recent scholarship has privileged the making process, the acts of “un-making” that inform most architectural projects work in profound but often overlooked ways. These includes the demolition of monuments and heritage sites, the flattening of settlements ensuing human displacement, the obliteration of natural and built landscapes due to environmental disaster, and the dismantling of buildings for renewal and restoration. Processes of architectural un-making also operate in architectural theory, as in Piranesi’s sublime depictions of ruination, or, more recently, Forensic Architecture’s analyses of urban and environmental devastation. How have acts, events, and theories of destruction altered our conceptions of architecture? What productive consequences have emerged from the rubble of architecture’s un-making? And how has the physical and theoretical disassembling of architecture prompted shifts in artistic thought and practice? We welcome histories of architecture that confront the materials, conditions, environments, things, and ideas that building practice and architectural theory un-make.