As a field of inquiry, architectural history has, in recent decades, seen marked shifts in its scope, methods, and significance.
These shifts respond to changes that have registered across the humanities, but also to positions within the field. Among these latter claims, reflections by a generation of “critical” historians of architecture across the 1960s and 70s led to the identification of history’s disruptive capacity. This capacity was so seemingly at odds, in that moment, with architecture itself that architectural history (or a certain kind of architectural history) was claimed to undermine architecture’s modern project, even as it laid out the ways in which historical knowledge could shape and test that same project. Taking a cue from those developments, and from present decolonizing imperative, this lecture will explore the conceptual basis of a new architectural history of Britain’s first Australian colony, New South Wales. In doing so, it ponders the purpose and borders of architectural history as a field that has been invited for the last half century to argue its positions among cognate disciplines and in relation to conflicting cultural and artistic projects. What does it mean to do architectural history, today?
Andrew Leach is a professor of architecture and associate dean for research at the University of Sydney’s School of Architecture, Design, and Planning, and the 2019-20 Stuckeman Professor of Interdisciplinary Design at Penn State. Among his books are Rome (Polity, 2017), Crisis on Crisis (Standpunkte, 2017), What is Architectural History? (Polity, 2010), and Manfredo Tafuri (A&S books, 2007). He was a 2017-18 Wallace Fellow at the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Villa I Tatti, and held a Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council (2012-17). His current project – Unstylish Style – examines the modern construction and uptake of “mannerism” in architectural historiography.