Previous Calls for Papers
Issue 17: "Domestic Natures"
Expected publication date: December 2021
As the philosopher Romano Guardini said, man became modern when he went on a mental journey out of the world to see himself facing it. In this journey, man transformed the most primitive nature to which he had belonged into an empirical and rationalized nature: a non-natural nature that he himself could create and inhabit.
At the end of the 19th century, European explorers, geographers and naturalists went on a myriad of journeys to faraway lands looking for that primitive nature the Enlightenment had abandoned. A nature to which man had once belonged but from which he had grown apart in favor of a thriving reason.
That faraway nature became the longing for a journey to untamed lands. Its discovery was portrayed from the distance of a science that observed this nature and classified it as something far off and distant from our lives. Contemplating it turned the place into a scene bound to be inhabited by the time of a journey, of a visit. Friedrich Georg Weitsch evidences so in the fabric-roofed wooden hut that Humboldt and his companions built at the foot of Chimborazo. The house and its nature are inhabited as the dream of a place from a far-off past. A remoteness that fosters the emotion of achieving that original nature; a primitive and imagined place after all is said and done.
One century later, it was modern European architects who trusted that science and its technological advances as the domestic means to achieve a new nature, a hygienic nature. Le Corbusier proposed the house as a shelter and observation of a world that only architecture and its technological advances could make healthy. Mies, in turn, converted the house into a plane that could rise over a glade, as visible as it is distant from the time of its structure.
In light of the latest scientific advances, a new way of inhabiting and a new nature became intertwined. The interior of the modern house turned to be the homeland of a renewed intimacy and the exterior became that non-natural nature, a nature of health guarantees. Modern man, far away from any kind of naturalness, stopped inhabiting the externality of a life in nature.
That lack of habitation beyond the limits of the modern house has pushed contemporary man to a new domestic move, a journey to discover nature as the homeland of a longed-for externality. A journey to reach a new domestic nature, a nature turned into the habitation of a new public intimacy. The being of contemporary man is a public being, as José Luis Pardo says. And it is here that this new man—weary of that reason and its worshiped empiricism—revisit that primitive nature to which he belonged and now intend to turn into the room of his life.
The beginning of the 21st century announces, then, new domestic journeys for which architects such as Junya Ishigami have rescued, from the first journeys of European explorers, the drawings and tales of their faraway natures; these are natures that they have decided to turn into the dwelling of a new way of inhabiting. Now, the good house is that which grants habitation to a longed-for externality, that which turns nature into the homeland of its public being.
Identifying all these domestic natures—primitive, non natural, hygienic, imagined—that lend weight to the possibility of a new house and a new way of inhabiting seems necessary for this journey. This inhabiting intends to surpass that first science whose reason had fragmented the world into pieces of little truths in order to embrace that other science that tells of a world and a nature to which we belong and where we can achieve our own domestic Eden. A belonging that seems to be able to solve old material and energy offenses to nature itself.
We aim then to create a notebook of domestic journeys to inhabited natures and to all those natures that are being heralded already. A compendium of projects of big and small, individual and collective housing that tried and still try to turn nature into place and habitation. A notebook of journeys to new and old domestic natures.
Issue 16: "Remaking Contested Architectural Heritage, Rethinking Public Space"
Publication date: June 2021
We are living through an extraordinary moment in which societies across the globe are reckoning with what to do with their monuments as part of a larger effort to address demands for social justice, and to acknowledge and repair past injustices. This reckoning has focused primarily on removing aesthetic exaltations of reprehensible figures, such as monumental statues and street names, from public spaces. As many of these statues were protected by preservation laws, heated debates have ensued about how to root out the complicity of heritage bureaucracies, resulting in the re-writing of heritage laws, according to various inflections in different countries, to enable the de-listing of historic sculptures and their removal of from public spaces.
Yet the public spaces themselves, the architectural heritage ensembles that were designed as urban stages for those sculptural monuments, and even the residences or workplaces associated with the same reviled figures, have largely escaped the same official scrutiny. Their status as heritage remains by and large unquestioned. By the same token, the strategies for treating architectural heritage have not undergone a substantial revision. The official treatments applied to contested monuments, such as removal and deletion, while theoretically extendable to architectural heritage, have not proven to be so in practice, due in part to the comparatively large scale and materiality of architectural heritage, which make demolition prohibitively costly, the legal nature of its ownership, which often involves private and public actors, its potential for utilitarian uses beyond its symbolic or historical associations, and also, more importantly for our purposes, for ontological reasons having to do with the abstract nature of architectural expression, which resists any overdetermined association with a single biography or meaning. As a case in point, the Austrian government expropriated Hitler’s birthplace in 2017 in order to demolish it, but has since opted for turning it into a police station, and organized an international architectural competition. An additional consideration is that in some instances to demolish contested built heritage, such as plazas, boulevards or parks, as in the case of Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi park, would be to remove the very precious, and increasingly rare, public spaces where social protests against historical injustices have taken place.
This issue of Zarch invites essays and projects that examine new ways of remaking contested architectural heritage. We are particularly interested in works that approach this question through the conceptual framework of experimental preservation, and that conceive of heritage as a creative and dynamic third realm of real and imaginary, physical and emotional, technological and social interactions between objects and subjects involved in processes of future-making. We are seeking contributions that explore the remaking of architectural heritage and the rethinking of public space through any disciplinary lens, and venture answers to related questions, such as, for example:
• How should architectural monuments end, aesthetically, politically or otherwise, given the practical impossibility of their removal?
• Can emerging ideas about the future of public space be theorized from recent physical alterations to contested architectural heritage?
• How do contemporary artistic and architectural interventions in built heritage help us rethink heritage as a future-making cultural and political strategy?
• How can we reconcile the impulse to preserve historical architectural evidence with the moral imperative to destroy it?
• What insights can psychoanalysis, social and behavioral psychology offer for understanding how people’s interactions with architectural heritage offends, oppresses or denigrates them?
• How can architectural heritage objects, as the recipients and bearers of public acts and expressions of anger and frustration, help societies cope with traumatic cultural transitions?
• What is the social role of architectural heritage in cultural transitions? And how does that role change over time?
• Can the imaginative remaking of the nexus between architectural heritage and public space, shed new light on related concepts such as Lefebvre’s “monumental space”, or Homi K. Bhabha’s and Edward W. Soja’s “third space”?
• What kind of aesthetic innovations, material treatments, social processes, or legal policies are able to express the public interests and desires towards contested architectural heritage?
• Can heritage be practiced and thought outside the binary of exaltation vs. denigration?
• What lessons can be learned from how protesters are treating architectural heritage?
• How can the materiality and negativity of contested architectural heritage help inform abstract concepts of the public sphere.
• How can inanimate architectural heritage be understood as an active participant in shaping public space and its modes of social interaction, such as violent protest, and emotions, such as offense?
• What social taboos exist in how academic discourse frames contested architectural heritage?
• What does it mean to practice everyday life inside contested architectural heritage?
• How do artists and architects working independently on heritage put pressure on the traditional identity of preservation with governmental agency over the protection of cultural objects and on the narrative that government preservation bureaucracies act in the interest of the common good.
• How do artists and architects express the value of buildings that appear to have none?
• How do actions on architectural heritage help make communities visible to themselves.
• How can heritage be a form of future-making cultural identities yet-to-come and not simply a mirror of past identities?
• Can mental attachment, rather than detachment, enable new critical approaches to remaking architectural heritage?