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1945–1975: British Culture for Architecture, Call for Participation - International Seminar

Published on January 31, 2014

CCA Multidisciplinary Research Program/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal is launching a Multidisciplinary Research Program on the social, economic and technological shifts that took place in Britain in the period 1945–1975 and, specifically, how these transformations and reform efforts were registered through culture. The CCA invites researchers or practitioners from any relevant cultural discipline to propose papers fitting this topic for a working seminar to be held in Montreal during April 2014. The seminar will be the first phase of an 18-month research program generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This initiative is suggested in part by the CCA’s extensive holdings of work by the British architect Cedric Price, whose provocative proposals during those years represent one example of how architecture might envision, and even prompt, a transformed society. The theme recognizes that the optimism and fascination with social responsibility that nourished the work of British architects after wartime devastation are valuable examples for the shaping of society today. The social-democratic stamp of those years accompanied the belief that social order and human behavior should encompass culture as well as leisure and education, issues that are emerging as priorities in contemporary society and the planning of the built environment.

Through this research program and the discussions it cultivates, the CCA hopes to establish a deeper base for contextualizing Price’s outputs. Its wider agenda, however, is to enact a new method of multidisciplinary historiography that explores the relationship between societal change and cultural production, a historiography through which architecture’s contributions to culture and interactions with other disciplines may be more meaningfully understood.

Given the seminar’s aim to attract participants from a variety of backgrounds, papers could engage with architectural discourse from points of departure in other fields or investigate other issues related to culture in Britain during the period 1945–1975, such as:

- Distinctions between high and low (or mass) culture in the context of the welfare state, and the emergence of counter-culture positions
- The emergence of new media and artistic expressions and the dissemination of ideas related to social transformation
- The development of new mechanisms or spaces for engaging in cultural or leisure activity
- Literacy and/or education and their relationship to culture
- Links between culture and advancing forms of techno-scientific knowledge
- The relationship between the reordering of culture and cultural consumption
- The standardization or individualization of culture and their relationship to economic factors
- Cultural critiques of social and economic policy
- The influence of immigration and demographic changes on the forms and content of culture
- Relationships between culture and housing, healthcare or higher education

Applicants should submit a 500-word abstract, a short bibliography and a CV to the CCA by Monday, 17 February, 2014. Abstracts should define the subject and summarize the argument to be presented in the proposed paper. The content of the paper should be the product of well-documented original research that is primarily analytical and interpretative rather than descriptive in nature. Papers may not have been previously published, nor presented in public.

Submissions should be made in English or French and be sent through the CCA application portal. Documents faxed, mailed or sent via electronic mail will not be accepted.

A committee consisting of an external expert and the CCA Curatorial Committee will select proposals to be developed into papers for presentation in Spring 2014. Seminar participants will be notified by early March. Official languages for presentations at the seminar are English and French.

The CCA will cover travel and accommodation expenses for participants, who will be invited to consult selected works from the CCA Collection for more information).

Development of the project

The project will progress through several stages:

- Following the abstracts’ submission and the selection of papers, a two-day working seminar will be held at the CCA with the selected speakers, who will number 15 at the maximum. The seminar will take place in Spring 2014 over dates to be confirmed. Its format will be that of a research session based on the model of conversation and feedback. Presentations accompanied by visual material should be limited to 30 minutes in order to allow time for questions and debate. A limited number of guests from the academic community in Montreal and beyond will be invited to attend the seminar. Abstracts of the papers will be posted in advance on the CCA website.

- Following a blind peer-review process six seminar participants will then be invited back to the CCA to form a research team, who will further the main objectives of the project in order to advance a collective work. The members of the team will have the status of Mellon Researchers and will meet in a series of closed workshops and online discussions over the next one-and-a-half years. The team will be asked in these meetings to elaborate on a new historiographical model that will open up to a reconsideration of post-World War II British society and culture in light of today’s social concerns. Researchers could refer to key concepts that Price advanced in his projects, including scientific, technological and political orders, and offer a contemporary evaluation of the new modernity of the so-called “risk society.” In addition to the close exchange that will take place during the workshops in Montreal, online seminars and the circulation of visual and written documents will allow the team to fully engage in this new practice of elaborating the joint research. A publication is among the possible outputs of this collective endeavor.

The CCA will fully finance and provide logistical support for the project, including the residency of the team members.


17 February 2014
Proposals submission via CCA application portal

Early March 2014
Seminar participants notified

Spring 2014
International Working Seminar

Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal

Second half 2014 and full year 2015
Selected seminar participants develop expanded research

For further information please contact:
Study Centre
Canadian Centre for Architecture
1920, rue Baile
Montréal, Québec
Canada H3H 2S6

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