The problem with the SOCIAL: the exemple of Architecture in Effect Symposium.

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On one side, it is delightful to see a panel of speakers with a ratio of 4/6 women on board, at the Architecture in Effect Symposium at the Umea School of Architecture (Sweden):

The symposium Rethinking the Social in Architecture adresses the following:

” • The Welfare State and Beyond are exploring where we are, where we have been and what is becoming. What is the role of the state, the private, the public, and the commons?

• Towards New Subjectivities are exploring transformative agencies; the individual, the body, the collective, the fictional, the real. Spatial identities, across or against, differentiating markers like gender, race, ability, economy, location, will be investigated.

• The Politics of Things are exploring the politics of the object and its content, as well as relational thinking – how the object knits, directs, actualizes and enacts the political. How might form become capable of thinking?

Over the three days the invited keynote lecturers – Dana Cuff, Sven-Olov Wallenstein, Anne Lacaton, Constantin Petcou, Doina Petrescu, and Michelle Provoost – will reflect on and discuss these questions together with researchers from Architecture in Effect, ResArc, and beyond, that in thirty-five papers will present the results from their current research projects. In addition to this among our international guests are Tahl Kaminer, Hilde Heynen, and Jane Rendell who will be joining and present their views on the importance of addressing the social in architecture.”

The speakers are outstanding experts, architects, activists and historians;

Dana Cuff, (Phd) is Professor of Architecture/Urban Design and Urban Planning at UCLA School of Public Affairs. Her work focuses on urban design, affordable housing, modernism, urban sensing technologies, and the politics of place.

Anne Lacaton, founding member of the architecture office Lacaton/Vassal, is a graduated architect and urbanist from the Architecture School of Bordeaux. Her work revolutionizes the architecture of proximity.

Doina Petrescu (PhD), founder of Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée, teaches at Scheffield, trained as an architect in Romania, is interested in the importance of ‘other spaces’, the temporary appropriation, the social role of architectural activism.

and Michelle Provoost, of whom we are great fans, is historian of architecture with Crimson Architectural historians– and teaches at the INTI.

Hilde Heynen, professor of architectural theory at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

 Jane Rendell, (PhD), director of Architectural Research at the Bartlett UCL.

While, on one hand it’s great to have a panel of speakers that shows the opposite of what you usually see at such events (see The Electric City and Singapore Architecture Festival), i can’t help but be disturbed by the fact that this gender balancing corresponds with something ‘SOCIAL’. Typically, women are associated to the social realm- and it’s not changing. Factors narrowing women into traditional role occupations included social sciences, in the sense that those are the fields of less impact- in the capitalist sense, less money generating. Nursing, children education, social works are all undervalued, underpaid work categories. So when i see that the for once female majority cast is related to the ‘SOCIAL’, i’m annoyed.

Anyway, let’s not be too grim and enjoy the conference, organized by Architecture in Effect: Rethinking the Social in Architecture.