Still Architecture: Photography, Vision and Cultural Transmission

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Thursday, 3 May 2012 to Saturday, 5 May 2012
Location: CRASSH

Dr Marco Iuliano (Architecture, University of Cambridge)

Dr François Penz (Architecture, University of Cambridge)

Conference summary

“We have an architecture still”, wrote Philip Johnson in 1932. Eighty years later we could say that we have a ‘still architecture’: too often, our first encounter with a building comes from looking at an image, usually a photograph. However, despite its importance in shaping our perception of the reality, the study of architectural photography is underestimated. The conference analyzes the potentialities of photography as a source of creative imagination and as a tool for spatial knowledge, aiming to develop a novel interpretation of architecture from avant-garde movements to present. The following four themes are key to this challenge:

Visual information often replaces the real experience: what is the impact on architecture? Our knowledge and spatial imagination about architectures have often been shaped by a photographic vision that preconditions not only our perception of an object, but also our conception of it and our relationship to it. An interdisciplinary panel of scholars will explore the issue.

architects and photographers
The legacy of the Maestri, from the 1920’s onwards, is fundamental: all were aware of the role of photographic media and were sometimes in control of it. A comparative reading of the role of the architect as photographer and the relationship between architects and photographers is crucial to an understanding of contemporary architectural discourse.

Photographic archives play a central role in the accurate reconstruction of the architectural object. The documents they preserve are not nostalgic images but dynamic ones: while every photograph has its own historical integrity, it can be re-interpreted through new connections and juxtapositions emerging from meticulous archival research.

cultural transmission, translatability
‘At every moment, either directly or through the medium of newspaper and reviews, we are presented with objects of an arresting novelty. All these objects of modern life create, in the long run, a modern state of mind’. Le Corbusier’s statement, still valid today, outlines the challenge: are we able to understand the real trajectory of a representation from its reproduction in another medium to its expression in different contexts and cultures?

Call for papers:
By 18 December 2011 we welcome abstracts in one of the four conference themes stated above. Submissions can be made for a traditional presentation or a '10 minutes x 1 image' session. We especially encourage young scholars to apply for the latter. In both cases abstract of no more than 300 words should be sent via email to, either with the subject heading 'CFP submission' or 'CFP10x1'. Applicants will be receiving a formal reply by the committee at the end of January 2012.

The conference will be part of the Department of Architecture 100th Anniversary Celebration, 1912-2012