ETH Zurich, Switzerland, September 10 - 12, 2015
Registration deadline: Aug 31, 2015
East West Central 03: Re-framing Identities: Architecture's Turn to
The years between 1970 and 1990 were characterized by the rise of
postmodernism in architecture in Western and Eastern Europe. During
this period, the 1980s in particular, several socialist countries also
witnessed processes of liberalization and economic reforms, and the
overthrow of state leaderships in 1989/90, which would mark the end of
Europe's political division. Architecture, in these processes, became a
means through which to reframe identities, reconsider relationships to
history, and thus call into question not only the modern project but
also its wider political promises. The aim of this two-day
international conference is to revisit this historic period, and to
analyse and compare parallel developments in architecture and urban
design on both sides of the Cold War divide against the backdrop of
unfolding geopolitical transformations.
While postmodernism’s impact could be felt across different
disciplines, its origins can be traced most strongly in architecture
and urban design. After all, the term and concept postmodernism first
emerged in these disciplines. Since the mid-1960s, an increasingly
critical attitude toward functionalist modernism developed within
architecture that led to a spread of revisionist thinking and a growing
concern for historicism, symbolism and meaning. This change was
paralleled and sustained by a proliferation of architectural theory,
influenced in particular by phenomenology and semiotics. During the
1970s and 1980s, the recognition of architecture’s capacity to reflect
and ground identity reignited the search for ways to represent local,
national and regional traditions through built form.
The conference will address, among others, questions concerning:
- the chronology of the turn to history in architecture and urban
design in different European countries.
- how terms and concepts such as modernism and postmodernism were
discussed by architects and theorists in East and West.
- the relationship between postmodern discourse and mainstream
architectural culture during the 1970s and 1980s, asking how elements
of critique and opposition manifested themselves.
- role played by questions of heritage and identity in architectural
practice, and the specific forms this took in various countries in
- the impact of historicism and postmodernism on the development of
cities in Eastern and Western Europe.
- the mechanisms of international exchange and transfer that allowed
postmodernism to become a global phenomenon.
In recent years, postmodernism received growing attention though both
scholarship and popular exhibitions such as "Postmodernism – Style and
Subversion 1970—1990" at the V&A and the Landesmuseum Zürich (2012).
However, the focus of academic research and public shows tended to be
on Western Europe and North America, where postmodernism's conceptual
basis was developed and where, arguably, its impact could be felt most
strongly. Thus far, parallel developments and exchanges with Eastern
Europe have played a marginal role. A complex comparative analysis of
these developments that accounts for their heterogeneous nature is
missing. The question whether and to what extent the term and concept
postmodernism can be usefully applied to the Eastern European context
remains insufficiently addressed.
Our objective is to examine the historical turn in architecture in
Eastern and Western Europe during the 1970s and 1980s as a common
cultural legacy, situated in relation to fundamental and far-reaching
socio-economic and political changes – the erosion of communist
regimes, their eventual disintegration and the triumph of global
neoliberal capitalism. We propose a framework that treats
contemporaneous architectural phenomena in Western and Eastern Europe
on equal terms and side by side, thus asking for mechanisms of
interconnection, mutual exchange, transfer, and translation across the
The conference will bring together an international group of
established and younger academics and practitioners, including a number
of former protagonists. Keynote lectures by Ákos Moravánszky,
Stanislaus von Moos, Joan Ockman, and Karin Šerman.
Attendance of the conference is free of charge. We kindly ask you to
register your interest by sending an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org until 31 August 2015.
Chair for Theory of Architecture
Prof. Dr. Ákos Moravánszky
Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta)