Diversity in History?

Seminar Geschichte und Theorie der Architektur (052-0839-23)
Veranstalter: Gruppe Anne Hultzsch
Dozierende: PD Dr Anne Hultzsch
Zeit: Monday 11:45-13:30
Ort: HCP E47.4

What about diversity in the historiography of architecture? This course applies concepts such as parity, equality, diversity, or inclusivity to the construction of the past. It explores texts written by marginalised authors of the 18th and 19th centuries. What kind of histories will we write based on the testimonies of those commonly excluded from the canon due to their gender, race, class, or sexuality?

This course is linked to the EU-funded project WoWA Women Writing Architecture 1700-1900.

How can we work towards diversity and inclusivity in architectural historiography? What do we need to do to populate our textbooks with protagonists who more fully represent the lived experiences in the cities and buildings of the past? Rather than presenting conclusive historical narratives, this course enables students to build a new sourcebook with historical texts written by a few of those often ignored by the canon: women, people of colour, workers, queer writers, and others. Focusing on the 18th and 19th centuries, the course centres their voices to look at architecture beyond the architect.

At the core of the course sits the architectural agency that practices of writing and publishing award to authors: those excluded from architectural training (or the vote) claimed a public voice through their texts and thus gained the agency to shape their environment both physically as well as in the way in which spaces were used and acquired meaning. Her, his, and their lived experiences and skills to describe and critique architectures for others to relive are as crucial to our understanding of architectural history as that of contemporaneous design practices. In this course, we listen to them to write inclusive and diverse architectural histories. The object is to broaden students’ understanding of the modern age by challenging existing canons in terms of gender, class, race, and other social categorisations creating systems of oppression.

Consisting of open discussions, based on recent critical writing, as well as innovative reading and writing labs, the course will introduce students to a new reading method – ‘reading-with’ – developed by the WoWA research group at ETH. Active reading and writing are central to the course, both to engage with primary sources as well as critical historiographic tools. Students will gain skills in historical research as well as with digital humanities tools. Concepts taught include situated writing, intensive/extensive reading, as well as text mining and analysis. Students will be enabled to write their own histories, to take agency themselves who to listen to when reconstructing the past. Assignments consist of several written pieces, produced during the semester, of differing length and format, both creative and academic, as well as editorial tasks to produce the final collective annotated sourcebook, to be launched at the end of the semester.