CFP: Architecture and Experience in the Nineteenth Century

March 17-18, 2016, St. John's College, Oxford

Victorians constructed their buildings to be more than just seen; they were made to be inhabited. This seemingly obvious statement raises an important but often overlooked question: how was architecture experienced in the nineteenth century? This period witnessed unprecedented urban growth, radical new materials, invented building types and sometimes dangerous technologies. Now more than ever buildings embodied the cultural values of their patrons, architects, and builders. The aesthetics of churches were shaped by desires to secure particular responses from congregations. The architecture of scientific laboratories could be intended to guide specific approaches to knowledge production. Of course once complete, the meanings of such works were unstable and subject to an audience’s interpretation.

Architectural history has traditionally focused on questions of style and form.  However in recent years the discipline has demonstrated a growing interest in the social history of architecture, with attention paid to how buildings were used. This has led to the analysis of building as more than merely a passive background to human activity. The question that this conference addresses is, what were the purposes of architectural projects and how did they perform?  Clubs, debating chambers, schools, cathedrals, houses, hotels and laboratories were all built to perform specific functions. Once constructed, they were all experienced by audiences who inhabited these spaces.  At a basic level, how did people hear, breath, see, and smell these structures?  Ventilation, acoustics, and lighting were all vital considerations for architects. But also, how did these buildings convey meaning?  How did they instruct and educate?  Nineteenth-century buildings were not just works of art, but mechanisms of function, utility, and performance.

We welcome submissions from all disciplines, and are keen to encourage interdisciplinary applications from scholars and architectural practitioners. Papers should be no more than 20 minutes in length. Please send proposals of up to 250 words and a one page CV toVictorian.architecture@history.ox.ac.uk by 5 November 2015.

Call for papers

Deadline: November 5, 2015

Posted: June 21, 2015