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Architecture, Urbanism, and World War One

72nd Annual International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians
April 24-28, 2019 / Providence, Rhode Island

CFP: State of Emergency: Architecture, Urbanism, and World War One
Session Chairs: Erin Sassin, Middlebury College, and Sophie Hochhäusl, Harvard University

“Far greater than the infamy of war is that of men who want to forget that it ever took place, although they exulted in it at the time,” wrote Austrian journalist Karl Kraus in The Last Days of Mankind, revealing humanity’s abyss on the eve of World War I. With the centennial of the conclusion of the First World War approaching, we seek to reassess what this cataclysmic global conflict meant for architecture and urbanism from a human, social, and economic perspective.

Histories of design have often emphasized wartime advances in mechanization and standardization that opened new fields of inquiry in the aftermath of WWI and blurred the meaning of what constituted architecture. Yet, the war also prompted the rapid development of military-architectural knowledge impacting civilian populations at great human cost. As mechanized trench warfare came to the brink of collapse, hyper-development was accompanied by the re-emergence of systems of underdevelopment, including barter and subsistence economies, as well as mobile kitchens, field railways, and do-it-yourself objects made in the state of emergency.

In this session, we seek to imbed the formation of architectural networks and institutions (such as the Glass Chain or Vkhutemas) in broader histories of wartime architectural production advanced by governments, institutions, organizations, or citizens in order to interrogate the complex and often violent relationship between front and home front. We particularly welcome papers that address regions impacted by WWI beyond Western Europe analyzing how architectural agents and institutions mitigated, exacerbated, or actively resisted complicity in this human tragedy. We seek contributions that consider the impact of the ephemeral and the creation of makeshift architecture by women and children in the transformation of wartime urbanism. Finally, we encourage projects that engage economic theories of the war and relate them to post-war debates on cooperation, socialization, and democracy.

The 72nd Annual International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians will take place on April 24-28, 2019 in Providence, Rhode Island. Submission of abstracts begins on April 3, 2018. Applicants will submit a 300-word abstract and CV through the online portal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Please do not send these materials directly to the panel co-chairs. Submission of proposals to the SAH online portal closes at 11:59 on June 5, 2018.

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