16 June 2008

AGENCY: 5th International Conference of the Architectural Humanities Research Association

AGENCY, the 5th International Conference of the Architectural Humanities Research Association, asks for a more active relationship between the humanities, the
architectural profession, and society. The conference will attempt to energise these relationships by addressing issues of agency, and will specifically address the role of
architectural humanities research as an agency of transformation.

While the potential of agency is most frequently taken to be the power and freedom to act for oneself, for the architectural and architectural research community this also involves the power and responsibility to act as intermediaries on behalf of others. There are a number of factors that affect how well this potential can be realised.

AGENCY accepts that the conditions for effective action are both contingent on individual circumstances and constantly changing. Nevertheless, the conference sets
out to explore how humanities research can better contribute towards understanding current architectural needs, possibilities and capacities for action. It will explore what is meant by ‘action’ in this context, what kinds of activities and conditions are relevant, what prevents the effective exercise of agency, and how the consideration of
such prevention might indicate effective points of, and tactics for, alternative action.

Research in the architectural humanities has tended to be too inward looking, avoiding these kinds of questions and leaving important aspects of architecture’s role
dramatically under-theorised. AGENCY will investigate active and outward looking approaches to humanities research, attempting to connect to a number of key political and social issues. The conference thus moves away from a concentration on the immediate objects and processes of architectural production towards an investigation of their wider context and possibilities.

It is proposed to focus the conference on two key areas where questions concerning the relationships between architecture and agency are particularly significant: the
particular possibilities of ARCHITECTURAL PRAXIS, and the big social and political questions of our age concerning the SURVIVAL OF THE ENVIRONMENT. In each case the intention is that such questions will be addressed through humanities research approaches, allowing our field of research to invigorate these neglected areas.