If modernism in European architecture is associated with a socialist agenda and the implementation of the welfare state, shaped by architects in close proximity to politicians, the role and identity of postmodernism as a socio-political phenomenon appears far more uncertain. How does the heterogeneous flux of critiques and affirmations known as postmodernism in architecture relate to a broader political sphere and to new social ideals that emerge after the post-war years? How does architecture respond to the extensive transformations in politics and economics that many European countries undergo in the latter half of the 20th century, marked by the gradual dismantling of the welfare state and the subsequent ‘triumph’ of liberalism and global capitalism? By adopting ‘deregulations’ as a banner heading for these multi-scalar, geographically varied, yet interconnected processes – spanning from public management, jurisdiction to market conditions – the matter of architecture’s role vis-à-vis incremental social change rises to the fore, again. According to Frederick Jameson (1991), postmodernism – particularly in reference to architecture – amounts to the aesthetical and culturalexpression of “the logic of late-capitalism”. But viewed as a coexistent and parallel phenomenon, the relations between postmodernism – even when reduced to a stylish ’ism’ – and the so-called neoliberal shift suggest further and deeper connections. How can we rethink the flows of influence between politics, economics and aesthetics, and how do they manifest themselves through an architecture shaped by ‘deregulations’? That is to say, an architecture unhinged from the orthodox codex of functionalism and modernism, emerging through a culture of biddings, speculations, and negotiations.

With “The Architecture of Deregulations: Postmodernism, Politics and the Built Environment in Europe, 1975–1995”, we aim to launch an inquiry into the broad mechanisms as well as the micro-political and local nuances of how postmodernism in architecture plays out in the European context. What is the role of architecture – in terms of e.g. professional discourse, theoretical turns, new aesthetic ideals and organised (built) matter – in and through a broader framework of socio-political and economic transformation? Does architecture merely respond to or materialise changing conditions in matters like jurisdiction, industry, public management, planning procedures or housing politics, or does it also somehow contribute to, transmit and provoke the production of sensibilities that make these transformations possible? The hypothesis underpinning these questions is that postmodern architecture – much like functionalism/modernism that went before – holds a reciprocal relationship to society; that it, precisely as ‘style’, has the capacity to enforce, generate and perhaps even forebode that change of sensibilities known as the neo-liberal shift.

We understand neo-liberalism as a political ideology that centres on the resources of civil society (as opposed to the State), unbridled capitalistic development and the liberatory potential of the market. An umbrella term for processes of deregulation, commodification and privatisation, neo-liberalism rapidly, and utterly, affects the conditions for building and urban planning in former liberal Keynesian economies. By postmodernism in architecture, we intend a heterogeneous and frequently contradictory movement that tends to be held together by a common critique against modernism/functionalism. In this latter respect, we propose a shift of direction by focussing on what is actually celebrated, affirmed and built during the latter half of the 20th century – an era that has been termed “the end of an epoch” and that we tentatively bracket as occurring between the years 1975–1995. By contextualising architectural discourse, aesthetic ideals and executed projects within specific national frameworks and cultural situations, the overarching aim of the conference is to revisit the relation between architecture and ideology. We encourage proposals for papers that combine empirical studies with archival or discourse analysis, and/or that draw on new theoretical or conceptual tools to reflect on the implications of this relation, with an emphasis on postmodernism and the neo-liberal shift.

To apply, an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short author’s bio should be sent by e-mail to helena.mattsson at arch.kth.se and catharina.gabrielsson at arch.kth.se by 1st December 2015. Notifications of acceptance or rejection will be sent out by 5th January 2016.

Conference attendance is free of charge, but participants will kindly be asked to register in advance. Information about registration, keynote speakers, accepted abstracts and the final programme will be posted on this website. Proceedings from the conference will serve as a source for a planned peer-reviewed and edited academic publication.

Catharina Gabrielsson
Assistant Professor, School of Architecture
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm SWEDEN

Helena Mattsson
Associate Professor, School of Architecture
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm SWEDEN