Close Readings: Alan Colquhoun 1921–2012: A Centenary Colloquium

Organizer: Chair of Prof. Avermaete
Date: Friday, 25 June 2021 to Friday, 25 June 2021
Time: 15.00 to 21.00 CET (Zürich)
Location: for access link to online event visit

Download Schedule (all times in British Summer Time)
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14.00–20.00 British Summer Time
06.00–12.00 US Pacific Time
09.00–15.00 US Eastern Time
15.00–21.00 Central Europe Time (Zürich)

In June 2021 we celebrate the centenary of Alan Colquhoun (1921–2012), British architect and prominent architecture critic and theoretician. The goal of this online colloquium is to consider the continuing significance of Colquhoun’s writings, and the ways in which they continue to provoke and inform contemporary research. To this end, several generations of scholars gather to discuss the relevance of this body of works to the current tasks of the architectural historian.

This conference has been jointly initiated and organized by Irina Davidovici (ETH Zurich) and Mary McLeod (GSAPP Columbia), together with the Scientific Committee comprising Tom Avermaete (ETH Zurich), Adrian Forty (Emeritus Bartlett UCL), Kathleen James-Chakraborty (University College Dublin), and Patricia Morton (University of California, Riverside). The event is kindly hosted by the streaming platform of The Architecture Foundation,

all times in Central European Time (Zürich)

Introduction. The Art of the Essay: Reading Alan Colquhoun
June 25, 2021, 15.00–15.15 CET

A welcome address from colloquium organizers Irina Davidovici (ETH Zurich), Mary McLeod (GSAPP Columbia) and Ellis Woodman, Director, The Architectural Foundation, describing the event and its intellectual premises.

Session 1: Writings on Meaning
June 25, 2021, 15.15–16.15 CET

Jana Ndiaye Berankova (GSAPP Columbia) and Léa-Catherine Szacka (University of Manchester) describe the influence on their work of Alan Colquhoun’s essays on meaning, semiotics and structuralism, including Historicism and the Limits of Semiology; Postmodernism and Structuralism: A Retrospective Glance; Sign and Substance; Reflections on Complexity, Las Vegas and Oberlin.
Respondent: Joan Ockman, Yale School of Architecture
Moderator: Mary McLeod, GSAPP Columbia

Session 2: Writings on Type
June 25, 2021, 16.15–17.15 CET

Ioanna Piniara (Architectural Association School of Architecture, London) and Charles L. Davis, State University of New York at Buffalo) analyze the notion of type in the work of Alan Colquhoun, and their impact on their own research. Their work addresses the seminal essays ‘Typology and Design Method’; ‘Superblock’; ‘Form and Figure’; ‘Twentieth-Century Concepts of Urban Space’.
Respondent: Anthony Vidler, Cooper Union
Moderator: Tom Avermaete, ETH Zurich

Session 3: Writings on Historicism
June 25, 2021, 17.30–18.30 CET

Nikos Magouliotis (ETH Zurich) and Cesare Birignani (The City College of New York) revisit the notion of historicism through the lens of Alan Colquhoun’s seminal essays ‘Rules, Realism, History’; ‘Historicism and the Limits of Semiology’; ‘Three Kinds of Historicism’; ‘E. H. Gombrich and the Hegelian Tradition’.
Respondent: Mari Hvattum, AHO Oslo School of Architecture
Moderator: Patricia A. Morton, University of California, Riverside

Session 4: Writings on Regionalism
June 25, 2021, 18.30–19.30 CET

Scholars Phillip Denny (GSD Harvard) and Ayala Levin (UCLA) discuss the notion of Regionalism as expounded by Alan Colquhoun (‘Regionalism I+II’; ‘Regionalism and Technology’) within shifting the theoretical frameworks and expanded geopolitical of contemporary research contexts.
Respondent: Stanislaus von Moos, Emeritus, University of Zurich
Moderator: Kathleen James-Chakraborty, University College Dublin

Keynote address: Alan Colquhoun, Colleague and Protagonist
June 25, 2021, 19.30–20.00 CET

Kenneth Frampton (Emeritus, GSAPP Columbia)