Architectural History in Critical Practice

Abstract: I started out as an architectural designer and came later to architectural history. From there I moved into teaching art and writing art criticism. More recently I have returned to architecture, and to history, but my journey through art has changed me. This paper tracks the transformation in my own architectural history writing as a microcosm of a larger shift, a change in the role of critical theory in the practice of architectural history. My paper locates architectural history in an interdisciplinary context, between history, theory and practice, and argues that architectural history can no longer only be understood as a form of research that locates the researcher as a disinterested observer. Rather, through a text-work called ‘Confessional Construction’, I demonstrate how the architectural historian is an involved subject and how architectural history is a spatialized writing practice, which constructs and is constructed by the changing position of the author. I argue that architectural history is a form of praxis, a practice with a transformational role, one that can transform the writer as much as the reader. So this is not so much a paper then, as an outline of an approach, my changing approach to the practice of architectural history.

Publication Details: ‘Architectural History as Critical Practice’, in Hilde Heynen and Jean-Louis Genard (eds.), Critical Tools: International Coloquium on Architecture and Cities, no. 3, (Bruxelles, La Lettre Volée, forthcoming 2006).

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