October 28, 2018 - e-flux Architecture - History/Theory returns with six new contributions
e-flux Architecture
October 28, 2018
October 28, 2018

e-flux Architecture

Gustav Gull, reconstruction of the ETH main building hall, 1915, originally designed by Gottfried Semper, 1864. Image courtesy of the gta archives / ETH Zürich, Gottfried Semper holdings.

History/Theory returns with six new contributions
Featuring Samia Henni, Mark Jarzombek, Reinhold Martin, Spyros Papapetros, Meredith TenHoor, and Anthony Vidler.

www.e-flux.com/architecture/history-theory/

When the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) of ETH Zürich was first founded in 1967, it was one of several comparable initiatives in Germany, France, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They emerged at a time when calls for a critical revision of modernism and a corresponding re-formulation of the theoretical underpinnings of architecture were particularly shrill. It was also a time when, in a search to legitimate the practice of architecture and to transcend the pragmatic demands of functional, social or technical premises granted to the profession during post-war boom years, architectural practitioners dedicated themselves to historical inquiry and theoretical reflection, incorporating it into the very foundation of their design work. A utopian impulse of self-determination ran through the institutions, with architecture figuring as both means and ends. Yet that project of discursive autonomy surreptitiously effected a retreat from larger socio-political contexts and concerns. Today, such utopian impulses seem to belong to distant past.

If there is no theoretical framework, no grand narrative, no normative system of values that offers architects orientation today as there might have been fifty years ago, there is a chance to learn from the mistakes of the past, map out new horizons, and work towards more inclusive, global futures. For we should not take for granted the ways in which architecture has been, is, and can be brought into history. It is essential to recognize the fact that the canon of architectural knowledge, which is still largely treated as the basis of the discipline and its pedagogy, is founded upon inherited practices that all too often contradict the very principles put forward by the institutions themselves. Knowledge is produced through a plurality of forms and in a multitude of sites, and not just those sanctioned by privileged traditions.

The task that stands before us today very well might require unlearning what we know and treat to be history and theory in the first place. We need to rethink how it is formed, who it is for, what role it plays, and how it relates to architectural praxis and its cultural field more widely. It is not that architecture is currently in an a-theoretical or a-historical phase, but that it remains frustratingly irrelevant. It has become an academic discipline shaped by academic carriers for academics and not by or for architecture and its challenges. This is why history and theory has never been needed more than it is today, and in its most radical and nuanced forms.

History/Theory, a project by e-flux Architecture and the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta), ETH Zürich, is returning over the next two weeks with six new contributions that continue its exploration into the contemporary status and potential future of architecture history/theory.

History/Theory debuted in 2017 with contributions by Richard Anderson, Andreas Beyer, Maristella Casciato, Peter Eisenman, Kurt W. Forster, Christophe van Gerrewey, Jacques Herzog, Sonja Hildebrand, Bernd Nicolai, Joan Ockman, Vittoria di Palma, Brigitte Sölch, Laurent Stalder, Stephan Trüby, Philip Ursprung, and Richard Wittman.

Following an event that took place at e-flux on November 14, 2017, contributions by Samia Henni, Mark Jarzombek, Reinhold Martin, Spyros Papapetros, Meredith TenHoor, and Anthony Vidler will continue to question the institutional implications of the fact that knowledge is produced through a plurality of forms and in a multitude of sites, and not just those sanctioned by privileged traditions.

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