This year's international conference of the Jaap Bakema Study Centre focuses on the years 1965 to 1989, in which welfare state arrangements were contested on both left and right, by counterculture movements and the rise of populism. While government institutions sought a proper response, urban renewal and city repair became a new field of work for architects and planners.
1965 to 1989
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was still generally believed that nationalization and collectivization of large parts of the economy were essential in order to achieve fair redistribution, curb wasteful mass production and control inflation. By the end of the 1970s, however, deregulation and free-market ideology were being embraced as the antidote to stifling bureaucracy and economic stagnation.
In the Netherlands, the year 1965 marked the beginnings of the radical anarchist Provo movement, which proposed a set of policy alternatives to failing housing policies, oppressive policing, air pollution, consumerism and car ownership. Although non-violent by nature – in contrast to terrorist groups of the 1970s such as the Red Brigades in Italy and the Rote Armee Fraktion in West Germany – Provo is best remembered for setting off smoke bombs at the royal wedding in Amsterdam, in 1966. More importantly, Provo heralded a turbulent era of urban protest which would last throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Its special contribution was its combination of local action, political agitation and art happenings, addressing real urban planning issues.
1989, which famously saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, is perhaps an obvious choice for the second bookend. Yet along with the subsequent break-up of the Soviet Union and the gradual opening up of communist China to global trade, it marked a new and disruptive world condition – triumphant capitalism –replacing that of the Cold War era.
Architecture and Democracy
Where is architecture in this period? How did architects, planners, institutions and the building industry prepare for, and respond to, the shifting conditions – to citizens’ protests and squatters’ movements, the first waves of immigrants from the former colonies, the first awareness of a burgeoning ecological crisis, and feminist critique? The overall picture is far from unambiguous. Whereas some chose to become activists and agents of advocacy planning, others pursued projects for autonomy – sometimes politically, sometimes aesthetically.
In light of the current political and ideological crises in liberal democracies around the world, the conference seeks to probe the complicated relationship between architecture and democracy during the 1965-1989 period. At what intersections was architecture able to propose a new, if precarious, balance between planning and citizens’ empowerment? How did this impact the disciplinary institutions of architecture and its epistemologies? And perhaps more speculatively, where do these shifting conditions leave architecture today, considering questions of democratic values, a ruthless market logic that penetrates all sectors of society, and a divisive populism dominating the public debate?
We are happy to announce as keynote speaker Esra Akcan, Director of the Institute for European Studies at Cornell University and author of Open Architecture: Migration, Citizenship and the Urban Renewal of Berlin-Kreuzberg.
The conference builds on the recently launched PhD programme Architecture and Democracy, as supported by TU Delft and Het Nieuwe Instituut.
The initial call for papers can be found here.