Symposium 10-11 June 2015
Behind the Scenes: the hidden mechanisms of architectural and design cultures

J.M. Richards, architectural journalist and one time editor of the Architectural Review, wrote in 1937 that he wished the personalities of architects would become ‘culturally irrelevant’. He thought of architecture as a collective, ongoing pursuit – between various professions and the general public - rather than as a collection of finished buildings and named architects. Richards’ preoccupations with process rather than result, the existing rather than the imagined, the anonymous rather than the famous and the ordinary rather than the extra-ordinary, form the starting point of this symposium.

In recent years the boundaries of Architectural and Design History have expanded to include the stories of lesser-known designers, the role of patrons, critics and historians, media, photography and drawing in design practice. Professional networks and personal relationships are also increasingly subjects of scholarship, together with the broader social and cultural contexts of architecture and design. This symposium aims to draw attention to the behind the scenes of architectural and design cultures, and seeks proposals that build on these expanding boundaries of the subject by considering the everyday places and procedures and the ordinary people that make architecture and design.

Proposals might therefore include explorations of:

  • The overlaps between professional and personal, for instance the editorial meeting and the evening in the pub, the studio and the sitting room, colleagues and lovers.

  • The everyday places of architectural and design culture including the office, the conference room, the bar; also the ordinary objects that furnish them. The ephemera of design culture – minute books, invitations, posters, leaflets, correspondence.

  • The hidden processes such as meetings, minute taking, letters, telephone conversations, chats, dinners.

  • The ordinary people are those not usually included in historical discourses – the intermediaries, the mediators, the anonymous editor, the secretaries, the organizers, observers and recorders. This could involve exploring the practices of biography in architectural history, asking whose stories are told and why.

The symposium will question conventional narratives of ‘greatness’, ‘genius’ and ‘the extra-ordinary’, by focusing on the commonplace and ordinary – the things behind the big names, well known faces and places of architectural and design history and practice. We welcome papers from a range of disciplines in design and architecture, including history and practice.

The symposium will be on the 10th-11th June at the University for the Creative Arts in the Canterbury School of Architecture. Please send 300 word abstracts for 20 minute papers to Jessica Kelly at by 17th April 2015.