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The Construction History Society of America (CHSA) will meet in Austin, Texas, from May 26-28, 2016.  Twelve sessions covering a wide range of topics, from Colonial Latin America to Plastic Composite Construction, will be augmented by four tours covering Austin and its environs.

The overall theme of the meeting is:  Knowledge Exchange and Building Technology Transfer.  From the CHSA website:

“The History of Construction has evolved by experimentation, refinement, and by the transference of knowledge across different cultures and continents. The cross pollination of ideas, methods of construction, and even styles is characteristic of the development of the architectural discipline. In the Americas these encounters of cultures and modes of operation have created a rich scenario in which buildings emerge as result of the cultural exchange, insertion of new social orders, industrialization, and adoption of new technologies. As cities change and mature the exchange and influences have become an intrinsic part of this ongoing evolution (and revolution) that impacts the built environment and its methods of materialization.

This conference seeks to establish a discussion within the frame of the knowledge exchange and building technology transfer. We seek for research work that depicts the spectrum of scenarios, building solutions, industry, and cultural transformations that are the result of those exchanges and transferences. The discussions aim to  reflect on the assimilations, education, and transformation processes necessary when importing or exporting building technology reflecting on the particular solutions that emerged from the process itself.”

Tyler Sprague in action, presenting The Rise of the Exterior Bearing Wall, or "Tube" Skyscraper: An Alternative Perspective from Seattle. Photo by B. Niederer.

Tyler Sprague in action, presenting The Rise of the Exterior Bearing Wall, or “Tube” Skyscraper: An Alternative Perspective from Seattle. Photo by B. Niederer.

The CHSA is part of the larger International Congress on Construction History (ICCH), which meets every three years.  Last year, for the first time, the Congress ventured to the United States to meet in Chicago in June 2015.  At the Congress, more that 300 attendees represented at least 25 different nationalities.  Over the course of the five day conference there were 52 paper sessions, each featuring three to five papers (in published form, that’s around 1800 pages).  With such a proliferation of papers, it was natural that most attendees were also presenters.  In addition to paper sessions, there were also daily keynotes, social hours, and a full day of tours in and around Chicago.  The MDR Chapter of the SAH was well represented among the presenters, mainly due to Tyler Sprague (University of Washington), who presented not one, but two papers during the Congress.  Tyler Sprague will also present as part of the the upcoming Austin conference.

The question of, “What is construction history and why should we study it?” was raised multiple times.  Based on the Congress’ content, construction history is a happy combination of historical narrative and technical analysis.  That said, architectural and structural engineers who happen to like history appeared to be the dominant form of attendee.  As to the “why,” to quote Brian Bowen, the Chair Emeritus of CHSA:

“We use history not to predict the future—a common misunderstanding—but to prepare for it and to learn how things change and, more particularly, what causes change.  Knowledge of this kind is especially helpful now, as the American construction industry goes through a period of significant transformation. However, we also study history for other purposes that are important for our self-esteem: to ensure that great deeds are not forgotten and to instill a sense of pride in the industry to which we belong. This endeavor is important today as we struggle to attract people to build their careers with us.” (“Does Construction History Matter?,” Engineering News-Record, 5/11/2015)

Though these points can easily be translated to the Society of Architectural Historians, construction history shifts the focus away from the architect and toward everyone else.  As James Campbell (University of Cambridge)  pointed out during his keynote “Bricks, Books, Cathedrals, and Libraries,” about Christopher Wren’s library for Trinity College, it is likely that Wren only visited the library twice during his lifetime, and never after its completion.  So by calling it “Wren’s Library” a vast number of contributors are omitted, from clients to craftsmen to couriers and beyond.  So how did this shift away from architects express itself during 5ICCH?

The Willis (Sears) Tower, SOM, 1973. Photo by: B. Niederer.

The Willis (Sears) Tower, SOM, 1973. Photo by: B. Niederer.

Sessions tended to group papers into overall themes.  In some cases, presenters focused on very small elements.  For example, during a session on “Equipment and Elevation,” Ilaria Giannetti (University of Rome) looked at the far-reaching impact of tubular scaffolding, or more precisely, a “clamping bolt with a T-shaped head and a hinge,” patented by Ferdinando Innocenti in 1934.  The resultant scaffolding system was much used in cast-in-place concrete construction in Italy, including bridges of the Autostrada del Sole and Pier Luigi Nervi’s Palasport domes.  A much larger scale was addressed in the “Skyscrapers” session, which included an analysis of the 1969-1974 construction of Willis (Sears) Tower by John Zils; Skidmore, Owings, Merrill (SOM) Associate Partner Emeritus.  The structure’s modular “bundled tube” design employed by its structural engineer Fazlur Khan combined with extensive off-site prefabrication and streamlined personnel management (around 2400 people worked on the site each day) resulted in a building that was particularly efficient in terms of resources used, time, and costs.  The tale of the Sears Tower’s efficient progress, around two stories per week, contrasted with the tale of another building discussed during a keynote lecture:  “Frank Lloyd Wright and the Mile High Tower,” presented by William F. Baker, Structural and Civil Engineering Partner at SOM.  The primary difference between the Sears Tower and Wright’s Mile High Tower (also known as “The Illinois”) is of course that one is very real while the other remains hypothetical.  Could Wright, known for his “ground scraping” residential projects such as Chicago’s Robie House,” design a viable skyscraper in 1956?  Though conceptual drawings for the Mile High Tower rather resemble the half-mile tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai (for which the presenter served as the structural engineer), Wright’s foundation system, the “taproot” he employed at the Johnson Wax Research Tower (1950) would be ineffective in a mile high cantilever.  All structural issues aside, it is on the logistical end that Wright’s design would have fallen apart.  Contrast the construction progress of the two story per week Sears Tower with the five story per year Johnson Wax Tower.  The 18 million square foot interior would also present a commercial real estate nightmare.  In contrast, the Sears Tower’s 108 stories contain nearly 4.5 million square feet.  Sears initially intended to occupy 26 levels of the structure, leasing out the remainder, but eventually intended to occupy the ENTIRE structure.  That never quite happened and thus the Sears Tower became the Willis Tower, whose current largest tenant (United Airlines) occupies 20 floors.

Architectural Models at the Chicago offices of SOM. Photo by B. Niederer.

Architectural Models at the Chicago offices of SOM. Photo by B. Niederer.

SOM not only provided presenters to the Congress, but also hosted an evening reception at their Chicago offices.  Located in the Railway Exchange Building (Burnham & Root, 1904), the firm spreads the roughly 300 employees of the Chicago office over three floors arranged around a central atrium.  A large reception area, located on a lower level, is dominated by oversize renderings and models of the firms projects throughout the world.  Another large reception during the Congress was held at the Ballroom at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (formerly the Illinois Athletic Club; Barnett, Hayes, and Barnett, 1908).  Titled “We Built Chicago,” the event was sponsored by the Builders Association of Chicago and featured representatives from four construction firms talking about their history.  The companies were family businesses, one founded as early as 1856.  There was a certain jealousy of this west coaster for the continuous construction history and expertise represented on stage.

While the conference’s content skewed highly technical, occasionally resulting in rather overheated grey matter on my part, I can highly recommend attending a meeting of the Construction History Society, whether it be the upcoming Austin gathering or the next international meeting in Brussels in 2018.

For more on CHSA, go to http://www.constructionhistorysociety.org/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARION DEAN ROSS/PACIFIC NORTHWEST CHAPTER
SOCIETY OF ARCHITECTURAL HISTORIANS

ANNUAL CONFERENCE
ASHLAND, OREGON, OCTOBER 23-25, 2015

 By Diana Painter, Chapter President

Chautauqua Park in downtown Ashland pays homage to the Oregon Shakespeare Festivals beginnings as a Chautauqua venue. Photo: D. Painter

Chautauqua Park in downtown Ashland pays homage to the Oregon
Shakespeare Festivals beginnings as a Chautauqua venue. Photo: D. Painter

Vice President Amanda Clark and host Judson Parson at Hillcrest Orchard . Photo: D. Painter

Vice President Amanda Clark and host Judson Parson at Hillcrest Orchard. Photo: D. Painter

The 2015 MDR SAH conference was held in Ashland, Oregon, with side trips to Medford, Jacksonville and the Oregon Caves. Friday afternoon began with a tour of Hillcrest Orchard, which is one of the oldest continuously owned family orchards in the Rogue River Valley. Our host Judson Parson, whose family has owned and operated the orchard since 1908, led a tour of the National Register-listed house, barns and outbuildings, all of which were designed by venerable Rogue River Valley architect Frank C. Clark. Hillcrest Orchard is known for its fine quality fruit and produce, quality maintained today under the guidance of the grandchildren of Reginald and Maude Bemis Parks (The Parsons family donated the historic Parsons Garden Park on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle).

The evening’s festivities began at Elements Tapas Bar in downtown Medford, with a rousing talk by historian George Kramer on the history of downtown Medford and Medford’s Downtown Historic District. Kramer has worked on the restoration of several buildings in downtown Medford, including the Palm building, where the reception and talk was held. The Palm Building was built as two separate buildings and then unified by architect Frank C. Clark in 1916.

Dr. Phil Long welcomes SAH MDR to Ashland. Photo: D. Painter

Dr. Phil Long welcomes SAH MDR to Ashland. Photo: D. Painter

The theme of the 2015 conference was “Artifice and Authenticity in Architecture! To Play or Not to Play?” in honor of our host city of Ashland, home of the 81-year-old Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Paper sessions began Saturday morning at Pioneer Hall, a 1921 building in Ashland’s historic Lithia Park. We were welcomed to Ashland by Dr. Phil Long, Board President of the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

In addition to honoring our host city of Ashland, the conference theme was meant to focus attention on heritage tourism and questions of authenticity. Many of the papers and presentations addressed this theme, both directly and indirectly. Papers began with a presentation by Amy Crain, historian with the California Office of Historic Preservation. Her paper, “Synagogue Architecture as Metaphor: Standing Out or Blending In,” discussed synagogue architecture on the west coast and the variety of styles and building forms expressed in synagogue architecture. Her presentation was followed by a paper by Julianne Parse Sandlin, an instructor in the Art Department at Portland Community College. Sandlin’s paper, “The Ca’ d’Zan: Whimsical Play or Serious Business?” reflected on time she had spent researching the Venetian Gothic mansion developed by John Ringling and his wife Mabel in Sarasota, Florida. The 1926 mansion, now open to the public, was designed by New York architect Dwight James Baum. Our third paper, entitled “Authenticity and Artifice in Alvar Aalto’s Mount Angel Library,” focused on this architectural landmark in Oregon, one of three buildings designed by Aalto in the United States. It was presented by long time SAH MDR member and contributor Henry Matthews. Matthews is Professor Emeritus in architectural history from Washington State University.

The late morning session kicked off with a fascinating discussion by Noah Guadagni, a recent graduate from the Master of Landscape Architecture program at the University of Oregon. His research, presented in the paper, “Ten Principles of Pacific Northwest Landscape Architecture: How Authenticity is the New Regional Commodity,” attempts to define those principles that can be found in landscapes that successfully convey a sense of local identity and culture. His paper can be found in our chapter archives at the UO Library (see links below). It was followed by the discussion of another landscape which is attempting to recover its roots, “The Weippe Prairie” by Robert Franklin, formerly with Spokane Falls Community College and now an archivist and historian at Washington State University. Next was a presentation on the Molalla Log House by retired historic preservationist Pam Hayden and historic building contractor Gregg Olson. In conjunction with their work to restore of this early log cabin, possibly Oregon’s oldest structure, they are attempting to authenticate its origins with early Russian settlers in Oregon.

Liz Carter, 2013 recipient of Elisabeth Walton Potter Research Grant. Photo: D. Painter

Liz Carter, 2013 recipient of Elisabeth Walton Potter Research Grant. Photo: D. Painter

Liz Carter, now our regional representative from Oregon, followed up on her 2013 Elisabeth Walton Potter Research Grant with a presentation entitled, “Mid-Nineteenth Century Dwelling of Oregon Black Pioneers: A Brief Historical Context.” In conjunction with this research, Carter, an independent architectural historian, nominated the Hannah and Eliza Gorman House in Corvallis to the National Register of Historic Places. The Gormans were African American slaves who arrived in Oregon via the Oregon Trail, gained their freedom, and built a home and business in Corvallis, Oregon at a time when African Americans were not allowed to own property in Oregon.

This was followed by an update and call for participants for the Society of Architectural Historians Archipedia project by Washington regional representative Phil Gruen. Gruen, who is Washington State University associate professor and director of the School of Design and Construction, undertook this effort with Robert Franklin. This challenging project will place 100 of the most significant buildings and structures from every state in an online encyclopedia that is free and available to the public. Gruen and Franklin were the recipients of a 2014 Elizabeth Walton Potter Research Award for this project.

As is our usual practice, lunch was combined with the Annual General Meeting. Liz Carter was welcomed as the new regional representative from Oregon, replacing former SAH MDR president Ed Teague. One of the topics of discussion at the meeting was the location of next year’s meeting. Baker City, Oregon and Sun Valley, Idaho were discussed enthusiastically. Former SAH MDR president Martin Segger invited the membership to have their annual meeting in Victoria in 2017. More on that later.

Archivist Debra Griffith speaking on the history of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival . Photo: D. Painter

Archivist Debra Griffith speaking on the history of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival . Photo: D. Painter

Lunch was followed by a presentation by Debra Griffith, archivist for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, on the history of the festival and early festival buildings. Chock full of historic photos of buildings and people, this presentation offered a glimpse into the festival’s modest beginnings and many early challenges.

Our next venue was downtown Ashland and the Downtown Historic District, for a walking tour led by Terry Skibby, an Ashland native and member of the Ashland Historic Commission. Skibby has been leading walking tours of Ashland for many years, and has an amazing collection of historic photographs of the town.

Members Susan Boyle and Henry Matthews sample Lithia Springs water at the fountain in downtown Ashland. Photo: D. Painter

Members Susan Boyle and Henry Matthews sample Lithia Springs water at the fountain in downtown Ashland. Photo: D. Painter

Our annual banquet began with refreshments at Ashland’s four-story Elks Lodge, which has a beautifully situated top floor sun room overlooking the hills northeast of Ashland. Our keynote speaker was Jeff LaLande, a 45-year resident of the Rogue River Valley and author, archaeologist and historian who is retired from the Forest Service. LaLande’s entertaining talk about Ashland also touched on our theme of authenticity and introduced us to the term, “Tudorized.”

Tour leaders Dirk Siedlecki and Scott Clay chat between showers at the Jacksonville Cemetery. Photo: D. Painter

Tour leaders Dirk Siedlecki and Scott Clay chat between showers at the Jacksonville Cemetery. Photo: D. Painter

Sunday began with a tour of the historic Jacksonville Cemetery by Dirk Siedlecki, president of the Friends of the Jacksonville Cemetery. The Jacksonville Cemetery is one of the oldest and largest in the state of Oregon, with its first burial occurring in 1859. The cemetery is the final resting place for over 5,600 residents of the Rogue Valley and continues in use to this day.

This was followed by a walking tour of downtown Jacksonville by Scott Clay, Rogue River Valley native and former consultant and historic preservation planner for the City of Jacksonville. Jacksonville owes its impressive and intact architecture to the fact that gold was discovered in the area in 1851, but the town was ultimately bypassed by the railroad. The outstanding historic integrity of Jacksonville’s downtown was recognized in the 1960s, and it was designated a National Register Landmark District in 1966, the same year as the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act. The tour culminated at Jacksonville’s impressive Jackson County Courthouse, which is undergoing a restoration.

The height of fall color in downtown Jacksonville. Photo: D. Painter

The height of fall color in downtown Jacksonville. Photo: D. Painter

Enjoying beers and bratwurst at the Schoolhaus Brewhaus. Photo: D. Painter

Enjoying beers and bratwurst at the Schoolhaus Brewhaus. Photo: D. Painter

The morning was capped off with lunch at the Schoolhaus Brewhaus on the Bigham Knoll campus in Jacksonville.  The Schoolhaus, known historically as the Jacksonville School House, is a historic school whose ground floor is occupied by the German restaurant, brew pub and beer garden. The 1907 building was designed by Medford architect John McIntosh. After lunch, those who participated in the post-conference event headed west toward Cave Junction for an evening event at the Chateau at the Oregon Caves.

The evening at the Chateau at the Oregon Caves began with a “backstage tour” of the Chateau’s renovation, led by Sue Densmore, Executive Director of the Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau. The Oregon Caves and Chateau is a National Historic Landmark. The Chateau sits amidst several rustic buildings and a 1938 Civilian Conservation Corps-built landscape, all of which is part of a National Register of Historic Places District. The Oregon Caves is additionally a National Monument, established by President Howard Taft in 1909. The tour was followed by a banquet for about ten of the SAH MDR members and another half dozen board members of the Friends of the Oregon Caves, which allowed us to learn more about the National Park Service-led renovation of the building. The visit culminated in a tour of the Oregon Caves on Sunday morning.

So ends another year of scholarship and fellowship at the 61st annual meeting of the Marion Dean Ross/Pacific Northwest Chapter Society of Architectural Historians meeting. Stay tuned for news of a Victoria meeting in 2017!

The west wing of the Oregon Caves Chateau. Photo: D. Painter

The west wing of the Oregon Caves Chateau. Photo: D. Painter

 

 

LINKS (in order of appearance in meeting)

Peterson, Joe, “Chautauqua in Oregon,” Oregon Encyclopedia, http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/chautauqua_in_oregon/#.VuWVNH0rJD8

Hillcrest Orchard, http://hillcrestorchard.com/

Medford Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, “Medford Oregon History,” http://www.ci.medford.or.us/SectionIndex.asp?SectionID=576

“History of the Ca D‘Zan,” The Ringling, https://www.ringling.org/history-ca-dzan

Guadagni, Noah, “10 Principles of Pacific Northwest Landscape Architecture: How Authenticity Is the New Regional Commodity,” https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/handle/1794/19417

Hayden, Pam, “Wanted: Site and Purpose for Oregon’s Oldest Log House,” Restore Oregon, http://restoreoregon.org/oregons-oldest-log-house/

Carter, Liz, “Gorman, Hannah and Eliza, House National Register nomination, Oregon Historic Sites Database,” http://heritagedata.prd.state.or.us/historic/index.cfm?do=main.loadFile&load=NR_Noms/15000045.pdf

Society of Architectural Historians, “Classic Buildings,” SAH Archipedia, http://sah-archipedia.org/

“Our History,” Oregon Shakespeare Festival, https://www.osfashland.org/about/our-history.aspx

“Historic Commission,” City of Ashland, http://www.ashland.or.us/CCBIndex.asp?CCBID=195

The Friends of Jacksonville’s Historic Cemetery, http://www.friendsjvillecemetery.org/

“The historic small-town that never gets old,” Jacksonville, Oregon, http://jacksonvilleoregon.com/

“Welcome to Bigham Knoll in historic Jacksonville, Oregon,” http://bighamknoll.com/

Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau, http://friendsocac.org/

issues in HP fieldtrip 2000

Historic Preservation students on a field trip to Bridal Veil Falls in 2000 for an “Issues in Historic Preservation” class. Instructor Sally Donovan, second from right.

Sally Donovan is the recipient of the 2016 George McMath Award for excellence in Historic Preservation.  Established by the University of Oregon in conjunction with Venerable, Inc. in 2009, the McMath Award celebrates a leader in the field who has made significant contributions to historic preservation in the state of Oregon.  The award is named for George McMath, FAIA, who is considered one of the fathers of the preservation movement in Portland.

While the 2014 McMath Award was given to Don Peting, long-time director of the University of Oregon’s Historic Preservation Program, Sally is the first graduate of the program to receive the honor.  After graduating in 1987, Sally occasionally dropped-in to teach classes, one of which was “Issues in Historic Preservation,” the occasion for the photo above.  In retrospect, that one-day field-trip came close to covering pretty much every issue in preservation, illustrating Sally’s breadth of interests and awareness of place.  There was restoration (Crown Point), adaptive reuse (McMenamin’s Edgefield), infill (downtown Troutdale), landscape (Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area), preservation by neglect and when to give up the fight (buildings of the Bridal Veil Falls Lumbering Company, demolished in 2001), and yep, a cemetery (Bridal Veil).  I’m sure there was more, now lost in the fog of memory and unrecorded due to the limitations of print film.  However, I would be remiss in neglecting to mention Bruce Howard, Sally’s husband and compadre (most likely the one behind the camera for the group shot), providing support and insightful commentary from his informed civilian perspective.

Congratulations on the McMath Award Sally and Bruce!  Your former students find you most deserving!

More on Sally Donovan from the UofO AAA Newsletter:  http://aaa.uoregon.edu/news/mcmath-award-recognizes-sally-donovan-exemplary-cultural-resources-work-habshaer-photography

The McMath Award luncheon will take place on May 11, 2016.  Tickets will be available beginning on April 1 and can be ordered online or by calling 541-346-3697.

 

“A blueprint to preserve, rehabilitate, and promote historic theaters in Oregon has earned national honors in applied research for a team of University of Oregon graduate students who analyzed the physical and fiscal conditions of more than fifty historic theaters statewide. But they didn’t stop there: Their findings spurred them to also recommend a five-year plan to help both the aging buildings and the often-underfunded organizations that operate them.

The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) recognized the team’s efforts with the 2016 AICP Student Project Award in Applied Research for their report, “Oregon Historic Theaters: Statewide Survey and Needs Assessment.” The AICP will present the award April 5 in Phoenix, Arizona, at the American Planning Association’s annual national conference.

The competitive award recognizes the outstanding work by graduate students in the UO’s Community and Regional Planning and Public Administration programs, housed in the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management (PPPM), and the Historic Preservation Program.”

— School of Architecture & Allied Arts news blog

Read more:

Historic theaters research nets national award for UO graduate students

In April PBS will begin broadcasting a new series, 10 That Changed America, focusing on the nation’s best houses, parks, and towns.  The University of Washington’s College of Built Environments will offer a sneak peak of part two, 10 Parks That Changed America, along with a panel discussion on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at UW’s Architecture Hall 147, beginning with a reception at 6:00 pm.  The event is free and open to the public, but attendants are requested to RSVP by March 23 by clicking here.  Since Seattle’s Gas Works Parks is prominently featured in the program, it is most appropriate that the headliner of the panel is Rich Haag, designer of the park and UWLA Professor Emeritus.  Other speakers will include Rachel Gleeson, of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates; Geoffrey Baer, host of the series; and series producer Dan Protess.

HAAG 2b

Those that can’t make it to the panel discussion will be able to see the program itself on April 12th on OPB as well as KCTS, check your local listings and don’t forget about 10 Homes that Changed America on April 5th and 10 Towns that Changed America on April 19th.

 

 

 

Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Photo copyright Alana Couch.

Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Photo copyright Alana Couch.

The 2015 Elisabeth Walton Potter (EWP) Research Award was given to Christina Gray for her proposal, Client Relations:  Arthur Erickson and the Musqueam First Nation.  The project is an outgrowth of Ms. Gray’s dissertation research at UCLA, on the role of clients in architectural culture during the 1970s.

From the EWP Award proposal:

Arthur Erickson has been well celebrated as an architect formed through the architectural heritage of the Pacific Northwest.  However, the role that his clients have played in contributing to his work remains understudied.  This project proposes to examine the complex interplay between Arthur Erickson and his clients as a way to investigate not only his particular methods of practice but also the influence of the region upon his work.  Focusing in particular upon his 1976 Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, this research hopes to uncover how the complicated combination of client stakeholders that included both a public university and the Musqueam First Nations were addressed historically in the architectural process as well as in the finished built work.

Ms. Gray is interested in engaging with the Native Youth Program that is run through the Museum of Anthropology, potentially publishing a piece in their self-published zine or Urban Native Magazine as a way to outline the historical narrative of how the Musqueam Nation interacted with Arthur Erickson in the creation of the museum.  In parallel to this, she hopes to publish a more extensive article in a publication dedicated to the heritage of the Pacific Northwest, as well as in C Magazine and/or Border Crossings to reach a broader audience.

Ringling Theatre, Baraboo, Wisconsin. Architects: Rapp & Rapp, 1915. Photo by D. Pinyerd.

Ringling Theatre, Baraboo, Wisconsin. Architects: Rapp & Rapp, 1915. Photo by D. Pinyerd.

Martin Segger just directed my attention toward the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR).  Given that our 2015 annual meeting and conference was organized around the theme of Artifice and Authenticity in Architecture! To Play or Not To Play?,” and the recent “Oregon Historic Theaters: Statewide Survey and Needs Assessment” by students from the UO Community Planning Workshop, I thought I’d pass along some information for the IFTR Architecture Working Group’s call for papers for their 2016 conference (13-17 June) in Stockholm, Sweden.

IFTR is a truly international organization, with recent meetings in Barcelona, Spain (2013); Santiago, Chile (2012); and Osaka, Japan (2011).  The broad umbrella of “Theater Research” covers a fascinating range of topics related to theater and performance.  These topics are addressed by around 24 working groups which include “Samuel Becket,” “Choreography and Corporeality,” and the aforementioned, “Theater Architecture.”  Like the conference, the architecture group is international, with participants from Australia, Brazil, Chile, England, Greece, Holland, Turkey, the Unites States, and Wales.

About the Theatre Working Group (taken from the call for papers):

“The purpose of the Theatre Architecture Working Group is to explore all that theatre architecture has been historically, is at present, and might be in the future.  We consider built projects alongside unbuilt or speculative architectures, studying these from a wide range of practical and theoretical perspectives.  We continue to investigate the ways in which space can be manipulated to bring performers and spectators into dynamic relationship inside traditional theatre auditoria, while also asking how else the disciplines of theatre and architecture intersect.  Over the next four years, we will be focusing on three major strands of enquiry:  a) theatre projects (especially those that provide insights into performing arts venues beyond Europe and North America);  b) inter–‐disciplinary practices (including performance practices that closely engage with, radically undermine, critically re-examine or nakedly depend on architecture for their meaning and value, and architectural practices which employ performance, performativity and/or theatricality to transform our experiences of the built environment);  c) interdisciplinary pedagogies (especially those driven by the question of what is gained for students of one discipline in the encounter between that discipline and the other).  We seek to develop theoretical paradigms appropriate to theatre and architecture and to the relationship between them–articulating the many contemporary sites of exchange between these fields and re-examining historical encounters in the light of recent developments in spatial theory, architecture theory and practice, and performance studies.”

Shakespeare's Globe, London. Architects: Pentagram, 1997. Photo by D. Pinyerd.

Shakespeare’s Globe, London. Architects: Pentagram, 1997. Photo by D. Pinyerd.

The overall theme of the conference is:  PRESENTING THE THEATRICAL PAST – INTERPLAYS OF ARTEFACTS, DISCOURSES AND PRACTICES.  The Theatre Architecture Group is planning on two sessions, one addressing architecture and historiography, the other a joint session with the Scenography Working Group addressing genealogies of theatre architecture and scenography.  For the former, topic suggestions include:  re-readings of historical theatres in the light of developments in critical theory (e.g. spatial theory); artistic and critical practices that engage with historic theatre architectures and/or historic architectures (e.g. oral history, re-enactment, reconstruction); and theories and debates about the preservation, conservation or renovation of theatre buildings; among others.  The joint session with scenography includes topic suggestions along the lines of:  scenographic and architectural strategies by which performance and wider social/cultural activities have been “staged” or presented historically (theaters, concert halls, ballrooms, parks, public open space, etc.); and strategies by which historic performances are now “restaged” (museums, historical re-enactments, “authentic” performance, revivals of plays and performances, etc.).

The International Federation for Theatre Research Conference will take place from June 13-17 in Stockholm, Sweden.  The deadline for financial aid/bursary applications is December 1, 2015 while the deadline for proposals is January 15, 2015.

For more on the conference in general, go to http://www.iftr.org/conference.  For information on financial aid go to http://www.iftr.org/conference/bursaries.

For the full Architecture Working Group’s 2016 Call for Papers, click here.

 

 

 

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