Call For Papers:

Housing Blocs: Ordinary Modernism Across the Atlantic

S. R. Crown Hall
Illinois Institute of Technology
Chicago, Illinois, USA

May 20-22, 2022.

Recent scholarship on architectural modernism has deepened critical attention to social structures and political economies, while also widening research to include “ordinary” architecture including mass housing. Extensive publication around mass housing in Europe has engaged post-socialist issues in perception, valuation and conservation of mass housing, while similar output concerning the mass housing legacy of United States has strongly focused on race and social othering as well as erasure of high-rise forms. While some surveys of global mass housing exist, there are few concentrated comparative projects that place the mass housing of the United States into dialogue with European programs, beyond repeated narratives of aesthetic influence. Also in the current moment of a global pandemic, internationalism seems crucial as we create narratives of the past, present and future.

The Housing Blocs symposium calls for research that revisits the scene of the Iron Curtain through the specific material practices of mass housing production, maintenance and disposition. The symposium builds from a workshop in October 2021 in Belgrade that positioned inquiry around the mass housing architectures of the United States and Yugoslavia, with specific focus on how contemporary political and social valuation has impacted both conservation of sites and historical scholarship. As the United States and Yugoslavia pursued mass housing production programs after World War II simultaneously, they also opened diplomatic relations that makes the relationship distinct from that between the US and the post-socialist nations within the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence. Mass housing production in both nations also form an interesting set of divergences, while today gentrification has impacted the survival of mass housing in both the US and post-Yugoslavian republics.

The symposium specifically invites papers and presentations around mass housing in the United States and Yugoslavia, but will consider relevant proposals concerning mass housing in other post-socialist parts of Europe. The larger Housing Blocs project will specifically work on the US/Yugoslavian connection, but the symposium is open to presentations that provide useful parallels and analogies or models of research. Proposals do not have to adopt a comparative internationalist framework, but can present research devoted to specific sites or specific nations. Proposals should engage histories of design and housing production, the role of housing production in US and socialist political economies, dynamics of racial and social difference in mass housing sites, histories of resident life and political organizing, the infrapolitics of inhabitation at sites, the ways in which architects and planners across the Atlantic learned from or reacted to each other, problems in material conservation, and the ways in which state policy, ownership and public attitude on both sides challenge conservation efforts today.

The symposium is interdisciplinary and invites proposals from architectural history, heritage/historic preservation, political science, cultural studies, urban studies, sociology, anthropology, race and gender studies, literature, art, film and other fields. Creative practitioners also are strongly urged to submit a proposal.

Those interested in presenting should submit abstracts of no more than 250 words by January 31, 2022 for review by the organizing committee. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by February 15, 2022. There will be no registration fee.

Due to the ongoing pandemic and evolving travel restrictions, visa delays and other concerns, Housing Blocs invites proposals for virtual presentations. Presenters should present live if presenting virtually.

Abstracts should be sent to Vladana Putnik Prica, Research Associate, Art History Department, Faculty of the Arts, University of Belgrade, Serbia, and Michael Allen, Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design at Washington University in St. Louis, USA:

contact@housingblocs.org