Leading academics head for international architecture conference at Nottingham Trent University

A major international conference looking at the role of ’nation’ in architecture and design is being held at Nottingham Trent University on September 14 and 15. Theoretical Currents: Architecture, Design and the Nation has attracted more than 50 research papers from academics across the globe. The conference, the first in a series exploring architectural theory, will feature three leading experts as keynote speakers - Professor Alex Tzonis, Professor Mitchell Schwarzer and Professor Mark Crinson.

It has been organised by the university with the support of the East Midlands History and Philosophy of Architecture Research Network, an active research network linking academics across institutions in Nottingham, Lincoln and Derby. The event will be held at the Nottingham Conference Centre, a new facility created as part of the university’s £90m refurbishment of its flagship Newton and Arkwright buildings.

The conference aims to examine how some of the most significant expressions of nation since the late 18th century have been in architecture and design.

Researchers will look at diverse issues such as how nationalism evolves, is constructed, interpreted and exported through architecture and design. Issues such as the effect of fascism and the politics of power upon architecture will also be explored, along with the notion of politics in design and how identity and memory have been interpreted.

Three Nottingham Trent academics will contribute to the programme including the conference organiser and the programme leader for architecture, Raymond Quek, who will talk on ’The cloak of a nation: Taiwan/Chinese Taipei’. Marisela Mendoza’s topic will be ’A canvas of colour and light and the Mexican nation’, and Ana Souto will present ’Building (for) the nation: functionalist architecture in Mexico City 1930-1950’.

Other topics include ’Feeling good in a glass house: how the architecture of US modernism became a symbol of national identity’; ’Made in Italy: a design label as national identity’; ’Landscapes of nation: constructing places and identities in the deserts of Bahrain’; and ’Vanity modern in prerevolutionary Havana: Cuban nation and architecture imagined in the USA’.

Delegatesare coming from global institutions including Germany’s Technical University of Berlin, thePolitecnico di Milano in Italy, the Berlage Institute in the Netherlands, the University of Dammam in Saudi Arabia and Australia’s University of Technology and University of Melbourne. Others are from Kuwait University, the University of Antwerp in Belgium, the University of Zadar in Croatia, Massachusetts College of Art and Design in the US and Hungary’s Budapest University of Technology and Economics.

Professor Tzonis is from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Tsinghua University in China; Professor Schwarzer is from the California College of the Arts and Professor Crinson is coming from the University of Manchester.

The Head of Designed Environment in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, Paul Collins, said: “This is a very timely conference to explore these issues, as the world struggles between expressions of national self identity and ever marching global architecture that could be anywhere, by anybody and for who ever it likes.

“The historical perspective of many of the papers will hopefully trigger fresh insight and meaning in to the way we interpret and reinterpret ’national’ buildings and space, as well as inform new design that might wish to express, or does so inadvertently, something of the nation state.”

The Theoretical Currents conference comes just as Nottingham Trent University launches its new MArch Architecture, which will be taught from the university’s Arkwright building.