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Article by Prof Stephanie Decker, Professor at Aston Business School specializing in organizational history and international strategy. Originally published here: https://orghist.com/2019/06/21/unlocking-archives-unilever-historical-archives/

On 20th June 2019 Unilever kindly hosted (with additional support from the University of Liverpool) a workshop showcasing the amazing material that can be found within business archives. It was a really great day to learn more about how different researchers are using the collections and the great work by archivist who make all of this accessible to the public.

Keynote by Valerie Johnson, Director of Research, The National Archives

Business archives – a bit of a passion killer?

Valerie Johnson opened her keynote by highlighting that business archives are often seen as dull and uninteresting – to the point she was once told by a conference organizers that he had not expected her research talk about business archives to be so interesting. Nothing could not be further from the truth. For almost any subject of interest to researchers, business archives have materials, as companies were often spearheading new developments (e.g. technology), were embedded in social and cultural trends of the day (e.g. the culture of imperialism), design history (e.g. in the Board of Trade archives) to name but a few.

In a whistle stop tour through a wide range of archives, Johnson illustrated the history of women at work through an architectural map in the ING Barings Archive, and the representations of empire in the textiles archive of John Lewis, and the United Africa Company trademarks at Unilever Historical Archives.

To get a better sense of what Unilever Historical Archives do, see their
Instagram site: https://www.instagram.com/unileverarchives/

Johnson closed by reiterating that business records offer magnificent materials and insights into society, technology and attitudes of the past, not just the records of business operations in the narrow sense. So she closed with highlighting the importance of:

Putting the passion back into business archives!

Snippets from archival research

The day continued with wide-ranging research presentations. The morning opened with Jeanette Strickland introducing the audience to William Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers (one half of the original Unilever), a formidable businessmen and somewhat of a micro-manager.

This was followed by Frank Thorpe, University of Liverpool, talking about advertising and beyond. His presentation is based on his doctoral thesis that investigates the changing attitudes towards personal hygiene, or “BO”, and how
products like deodorant were gendered and stigmatized at times. At Unilever, he
has researched uncatalogued material, but also used a range of online newspaper
archives to understand the context within which these adverts appeared.

Ronnie Hughes offered a different view on Port Sunlight, the location of the Unilever factory and archives, where the workshop took place, by asking a key question:

What must it have been like to live in someone else’s utopia 100 years after they died?

Walking through Port Sunlight village in the morning before the workshop, this is not unlike the question we asked ourselves – would we actually like to live here,
as beautiful as it is? As a heritage site, it has a very distinct and unique
feel, which is unlike other neighbourhoods. Hughes highlights that he has asked
communities questions about what their perfect place would look like before
starting this research project. He blogs at A Sense of Place.

Prof Matt Reed finished the morning session by outlining his search for the ‘origin story’ of the collaboration between Unilever and the University of Liverpool, which dates back to 1906, which was “multi-faceted and sporadic.”
Lever donated money to a number of departments, including Civic Design and town planning. The Department of Industrial Chemistry was particularly well aligned with Lever’s business interests. Reed finished with a reflection of the value
of searching archives versus the self-taught googling that passes for research
outside of archives.

A fascinating tour of the archives at lunchtime that featured highlights such as Marmite pants.

The afternoon sessions kicked off with Dr Rory Miller’s exploration of why David Fieldhouse’s Unilever Overseas is missing a chapter on Latin America – apparently he fell out with his research assistant. 25 years ago, Miller first visited the Unilever archives to find out what was actually available on Unilever’s business in Argentina and beyond. Perusing the directors’ visiting reports, he outlined how Argentinians rarely bought Lifebuoy soap other than to wash their dogs.

In her talk about the design process, Dr Lee Wright highlighted the potential importance of archives for the design practice and the sourcing of design ideas. In her teaching, students reference the past through images they source from Pinterest, highlighting the significance of social media sites in mediating our visual understanding of the past.

The day closed with two fascinating talks, the first by Prof Iain Jackson about the development of urban architecture in Accra, Ghana in the mid-twentieth century. While the National Archives had more material on the European settlements of Accra, within other archives, such as the United Africa Company collection at Unilever, mercantile areas such as Jamestown are much better documented. Some of his collected images are available in an online book available via issuu.com (search “Accra”) here.

The workshop closed with Claire Tunstall describing their mission and how the archives has to serve many different stakeholders: internal divisions, brands and communications, outreach with schools, partnership with museums and universities and, of course, the Port Sunlight Village Trust, as well as researchers.

Hopefully, more such events, at Unilever or other major archives, will take place in the future. The workshop did not just have great presentations but also offered great opportunities to meet a wide variety of people interested in using and promoting archives.

Conference programme

10 am Registration Tea & coffee
10.20 Welcome, introductory remarks and housekeeping
– Claire Tunstall and Jeannette Strickland
10.30 Keynote Dr Valerie Johnson, Director of Research & Collections, The National Archives “What’s the use? Your research and business archives”
10.50 Q&A
11.00 Refreshments
11.15-12.30 Session 1 Chair: Prof Stephanie Decker, Aston University
11.15 Jeannette Strickland, Department of History, University of Liverpool, “Finding William Lever, the man behind the myth”
11.30 Frank Thorpe, Department of History, University of Liverpool, “Beyond the ad: filling gaps and finding new gaps”
11.45 Ronnie Hughes, Department of Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology, University of Liverpool, “Looking for Utopia”
12.00 Dr Matt Reed, Strategy Director, Materials Innovation Factory, University of Liverpool, “Turn every page”
12.15 Q&A
12.30-2.00 Lunch
Tours of Unilever Archives available at 12.45 and 1.10
2.00-3.00 Session 2 – Chair: Dr Valerie Johnson, The National Archives
2.10 Dr Rory Miller, formerly Reader in the Management School, University of Liverpool, “The Missing Chapter in David Fieldhouse’s Unilever Overseas: Unilever’s Expansion in Latin America in the Mid-Twentieth Century”
2.30 Dr Lee Wright, Senior Lecturer in the History and Theory of Design, Liverpool School of Art and Design, Liverpool John Moores University, “The value of archives and their potential to impact current design practice”
2.50 Q&A
3.05 Refreshments
3.20-4.20 Session 3 – Chair: Jeannette Strickland, University of Liverpool
3.20 Prof Iain Jackson, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool, “Traders, speculators, taste makers: the United Africa Company in Ghana”
3.40 Claire Tunstall, Head of Art, Archives & Records Management, Unilever plc, “The research potential of Unilever Archives”
4.00 Q&A
4.20 Summing up and closing remarks
4.30 Optional post-workshop drink at the Bridge Inn in Port Sunlight

 

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This is an excellent opportunity for emerging writers and students. Last year’s gathering produced some excellent work, and this year we will have the exhibition at James Town Cafe as a provocation and stimulus for debate….

WARUH: West African Rapid Urbanisation and Heritage Conservation Research Network

We are pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2019 British Academy – ASAUK funded 2019 African Architecture Writing Workshops. These workshops are offered for postgraduate students looking to develop their academic writing skills in the areas of architecture, urbanism and related disciplines.

This year there are two workshops. The first to be offered will take place in May 2019

FIRST WORKSHOP DETAILS

“Sharing
Stories from Jamestown and the Creation of Mercantile Accra” Writing Workshop

Monday, May 12 – Sunday, May 18, 2019

This workshop explores the colonial
and mercantile architecture of Jamestown, the British settlement area of
colonial Accra and located in Ga Mashie. This writing workshop is linked to the
May 17 exhibition organized by Professor Iain Jackson (University of Liverpool) and Joe Osae-Addo and Allotey Bruce-Konuah (Jamestown Cafe), which will showcase archival and historical images and
maps of Accra’s…

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 (sub) URBAN TROPICALITY: Urban challenges in the tropical zone

International Network of Tropical Architecture (iNTA) Conference at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia,  5 – 8 December 2019

The cities and urban centres of the (sub) tropics are where the greatest challenges facing our collective future can be found. They are where the challenges of global warming, inequality and the migration of people fleeing political unrest or climate change are at their most extreme. The 2019 International Network of Tropical Architecture (iNTA) conference provides a forum to discuss architectural and design solutions for a resilient, smart and just future for urban centres in the tropics.

Founded in Singapore in 2004, the International Network for Tropical Architecture (iNTA) is a networking platform for international researchers and practitioners to collaborate and learn from each other about problems and solutions pertaining to architecture and urban design in the tropical (and sub-tropical) regions and brought together by the shared climatic imperatives and opportunities of these regions. The iNTA permanent secretariat is located at the Department of Architecture, School of Design and Environment at the National University Singapore.

The 2019 iNTA conference is hosted by the School of Architecture at The University of Queensland, located in Brisbane, capital city of the state of Queensland, Australia. Brisbane is proximate to both the fastest growing urban centres in Asia and many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) most at risk from climate change, including Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federal States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Niue and Tuvalu amongst others. Queensland’s most northern extremity, Cape York, sits at the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, those very same oceans that generate the weather systems that circle the globe and affect the destiny of millions of people.

For those who live in the so-called “global south,” there is a sense of urgency about the challenges arising from rapidly changing climate conditions. Matters are not merely academic, but dynamic and concrete. Before the launch of iNTA, discourse around architecture and urbanism in the tropics was framed by centres of scholarship in Europe and North America. The malingering aftermath of devastating tropical storms such as Maria and Irma (2017) in the Caribbean and Typhoon Haima (2016) in the Philippines challenges such ascendancy. The 2019 iNTA conference in Brisbane brings discourse to a subtropical city at the crossroads of cultures, regions and climate zones. At a time when Australia’s role in the region continues to be questioned, it provides an opportunity to enhance north-south dialogue. 

Submission Information & Instructions

Submit abstracts of no more than 300 words in length by email as Word documents to:  https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=inta2019.  Please name the email subject ABSTRACT-SURNAME and use this name for your submission file as well.

  • Abstract deadline: 26 April 2019
  • Submission of full papers for review: 26 July 2019
  • Submission of final papers for publication: 18 October 2019

 All abstracts will be considered by the conference academic committee; authors will be invited to prepare a full paper (no longer than 4,500 words); authors wishing their papers to be published in conference proceedings should submit their final papers for peer review on or before 26 July 2019. The date for submission of final papers is 18 October 2019. Authors may opt out of publication.

Conference Streams 

Tropical Architecture refers to constructed architectural and urban environments relating the climatic and natural conditions of the tropical (and sub- tropical) regions, and interacting with various local specifics of culture, urban fabric and technology. Contributions to the following conference streams are sought. 

1.            Tropical Urbanism  

Stream focussing on challenges to and solutions for enhanced liveability in urban centres of the tropics. Papers might address:

  • projects or propositions for reversing or healing the degradation and collapse of urban centres under rapid growth; 
  • urban infrastructures at risk: rising sea-levels, increasing storm intensity, expanding torridity and aridity.
  • urban adaptation responses : design planning policy, governance and codes
  • urban forms shaped by determinants other than climate alone, such as topography, nature, cultural life. 
  • vegetation in (sub) tropical cities: cultivation in gardens and the peri-urban or neglect in terrain vague

2.             Tropical Architecture :: Contemporary Tropical-isms

Stream focussing on individual designs/ architectural, infrastructure, adaptation projects.  What is it that makes the contemporary architectural project tropical? Or the tropical project contemporary? Papers might illuminate projects that demonstrate instances of : 

  • building technologies: tropical and subtropical applications including 
  • passive low energy and carbon neutral architecture
  • climate mitigation strategies
  • equity in the tropical city
  • the (sub)tropical tower
  • contemporary architecture (still) learning from vernacular traditions
  • reciprocities/dialogue between architecture and tropical environments: between the zeitgeist of a globalized culture and a project’s specific circumstance. 

3.            Narratives of Disease, Discomfort, Development and Disaster ::  Reconsidering Tropical Architecture and Urbanism  

The idea of tropical architecture and urbanism initially developed through a particular connection between discourses on disease, spatial practices and optimum architectural typologies, which were believed to circumvent the spread of tropical diseases and to maintain the comfort of the white settler. After the Second World War, the focus shifted from the European settlement of the colonial tropics to the self-development and governance of the world’s tropical regions; a phenomenon necessitated and propelled by post-war decolonization and global regimes of development aid. Accompanying this change was a shift away from the physiological comfort of the colonial settler to a new focus on indigenous cultures, vernacular building traditions, use of local materials, and increasing appreciation for the psychological value of cultural conventions, including superstition and taboo. The aim of this stream is to examine how “triumph” in the tropics was imagined across multiple geographies, by various subjects, through diverse discourses, and at different times and to critically investigate the roles architecture and urban planning played in this process. We particularly welcome papers that offer historical case studies of tropical and subtropical architecture and urbanism examined through one of four lenses: 

  • disease 
  • discomfort
  • development or disaster.

This stream will be convened by Dr Deborah van der Plaat (The Univerity of Queensland), Dr Vandana Baweja (University of Florida) and Professor Tom Avermaete (ETH Zurich).

4.             Historic Urban Landscapes and Tropicality 

The Historic Urban Landscape is a new approach recommended by UNESCO that recognises and positions the historic city and its core as a resource for the future and the centre for the urban development process. Papers might address:

  • operational principles for urban conservation models: respecting values, traditions and environments of different cultural contexts.
  • historic urban centres and tropical vulnerability 
  • mapping urban heritage values and attributes
  • planning, design and implementation of development projects in historic urban centres
  • adaptive use and re-use impacting authenticity and integrity of physical and social fabric in historic urban centres
  • Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Pacific and Caribbean: their vulnerability and resilience

Conference Report: A World History of Architecture

The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

November 2-4, 2018

Eliana Abu-Hamdi Murchie: emurchie@mit.edu

mf_conference_image_2.jpg

A World History of Architecture, a small but mighty conference organized by Murray Fraser took place at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, November 2-4, 2018. Over two days, and only eight sessions, Fraser was able to curate a cumulative and rigorous series of presentations that tousled with all facets of teaching global architectural history to the undergraduate and graduate audience. The conference focused on the term “global” in two ways. The first was as a geographic lens, a method that leaned towards the increased inclusion of previously ill-studied parts of the world into the architectural survey. The second was an intellectual engagement with the instruction of global architectural history, and an analysis of its growing interdisciplinarity with neighboring fields of study. The aim of these methods of engagement was explicitly to study and inform on the future direction of global architectural history in universities.

The morning session on day one, The Expanded Field, had Mark Jarzombek tangling with the concept of tradition, a theme that can be in one sense totalizing of all that is non-modern, but in another, a useful/clever label used to project value and meaning onto art and architectural objects. The presentation intended to make clear a much needed separation between the term traditional – so often a synonym for the vernacular – and the meaning of global history.

 Subsequent sessions were based on the themes of:

Global Domesticity

Colonialism, Post-Colonialism and Beyond

Architectural History and Design Research

Informalities, Identities and Subjectivities

Culture and Architectural History

Architectural History as Pedagogy

 

Evening sessions focused on a discussion of the architectural object on the first day, and closed with an ambitious debate of the future of architectural education on the second. Throughout, the group of global scholars shared the pedagogical challenges of teaching in architectural history in their home institutions, in hope that together, they could begin to envision a way for the discipline to transcend beyond its seemingly fixed limits. David Leatherbarrow, in his presentation on Architectural History as Pedagogy transformed architectural survey into a study of architectural details, with intense focus on the various elements that compose the architectural object, rather than a rote evaluation of the whole. In this way architectural education takes pause, ensures that the students absorb and evaluate, not just commit the basic facts of architectural history to memory. Students thus are able to engage emotionally with their object of study, connect with the built environment around them, and, most importantly, hone their critical analysis skills.

 

 

British Academy – ASAUK Funded Ghana Architecture Writing Workshop 6–8 July

Apologies for the short notice – but if you’re in Accra this weekend and want an opportunity to improve your writing skills, there are some free places to join an excellent Architectural Writing Workshop.

IMG_1436

Water tower at Korle Bu, Accra.

Please do get in touch with Prof. Ola Uduku on o.uduku@mmu.ac.uk for more details and see: British Academy – ASAUK Funded Ghana Architecture Writing Workshop  6–8 July

Call for Papers: COLONIAL AND POSTCOLONIAL LANDSCAPES: Architecture, Cities, Infrastructures

16th – 18th January 2019  |   Lisbon | Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
DSC_0412

The infrastructure of the colonial territories obeyed the logic of economic exploitation, territorial domain and commercial dynamics among others that left deep marks in the constructed landscape. The rationales applied to the decisions behind the construction of infrastructures varied according to the historical period, the political model of colonial administration and the international conjuncture.

This congress seeks to bring to the knowledge of the scientific community the dynamics of occupation of colonial territory, especially those involving agents related to architecture and urbanism and its repercussions in the same territories as independent countries.

It is hoped to address issues such as how colonial infrastructure has conditioned the current development models of the new countries or what options taken by colonial administrations have been abandoned or otherwise strengthened after independence.

The congress is part of the ongoing research project entitled “Coast to Coast – Late Portuguese Infrastructural Development in Continental Africa (Angola and Mozambique): Critical and Historical Analysis and Postcolonial Assessment” funded by ‘Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia’ (FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology), which has as partner the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (FCG).

The aim of this congress is to extend the debate on the repercussions of the decisions taken by the colonial states in the area of ​​territorial infrastructures – in particular through the disciplines of architecture and urbanism – in post-independence development models and the formation of new countries with colonial past

 

1. Projecting Power in Colonial and Post-Colonial Angola and Mozambique: Architecture, Urban Design, Public Art and Monuments (Jeremy Ball, Gerbert Verheij)

2. China in African, Latin American and Caribbean territories: Examining spatial transformations around diplomacy and economic aid (Valeria Guzmán Verri, Natalia Solano Meza)

3. Spaces in the Americas: current efforts towards a non-Eurocentric theory (Fernando Luiz Lara, Marcio Cotrim Cunha)

4. Planned Violence: Post/Colonial Urban Infrastructures, Literature and Culture (Dominic Davies, Elleke Boehmer)

5. Infrastructural development in the European Portuguese territory in the late colonial period (Paulo Tormenta Pinto, João Paulo Delgado)

6. Peripheral infrastructures in late colonial cities (Tiago Castela)

7. Single and collective housing as a modern laboratory in colonial territories: from public order to private initiative (Ana Magalhães)

8. Beyond Colonialism: Afro-Modernist Agents and Tectonics as Expression of Cultural Independence  (Milia Lorraine Khoury, Diogo Pereira Henriques)

9. (De)constructing the Right to the City: Infrastructural policies and practices in Portuguese-speaking African countries (Sílvia Viegas, Sílvia Jorge)

10. The interrupted utopia. Landscapes of modern collective housing in Former European Colonies  (Roberto Goycoolea, Inês Lima Rodrigues)

11. Globalized Regionalism: the inheritance of colonial infrastructure (Eliana Sousa Santos, Susanne Bauer)

12. Materiality & Mobility in the construction of Colonial Landscapes (Alice Santiago Faria)

13. The transnational live project: critical reflections on the ethics, politics and pedagogies of collaborations between the global north and global south (Jhono Bennett, James Benedict Brown, Peter Russell)

14. Colonial Spatiality in African Sahara Regions (Samia Henni)

15. Urban Legacies: linking enclaving and social identities (Anna Mazzolini, Morten Nielsen)

16. The spatialization of population control in late colonialism: contexts, modalities, dynamics (Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo)

 

The paper focusses on the planning of rural settlements by the Athens-based firm Doxiadis Associates (DA), a key, even if unrealised, project for Zambia’s nation-building and development efforts in the mid-1960s. In line with post-war discourses of modernisation, DA employed Christaller’s 1933-Central Place Theory and its abstract hexagonal geometrical model to organise different-sized settlements within a single spatial system. By introducing a hierarchical rural network over Zambia, the firm aimed to standardise rural settlement patterns and to formulate a strategy to alleviate rural-urban migration. DA’s top-down, large-scale approach even exceeded the State’s aspirations and the firm’s visions eventually faced two challenges: First, DA’s modernist planning was questioned by the social/ecological considerations as formulated by George Kay’s counterproposal on resettlement policy. Secondly, DA’s ‘urbanising’ visions for rural areas were forestalled by some of the country’s realities, which remained out of the planners’ field of control, and eventually called for more cautious responses to the realities on the ground. By exposing the challenges DA’s rural proposal faced, the paper ultimately contemplates the multiple, and even conflicting reactions towards Zambia’s rural settlement projects, and also adds nuances to the wider histories of rural development in Africa.

Full article here: https://doi.org/10.1080/13602365.2018.1458044