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2e international Conference: WRITINGPLACE – literary methods in architectural research and design

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS deadline July 1st 2013

the 2nd international conference on Architecture and Fiction:

WRITINGPLACE -literary methods in architectural research and design

TU Delft, Faculty of Architecture, 25-27 November 2013


The conference “Writingplace – literary methods in architectural research and design” is the second international conference on Architecture and Fiction, and will be held in the Netherlands, at the Faculty of Architecture of the Delft University of Technology, between 25-27 November 2013.

As the research platform that supports it, this event aims to explore alternative ways of reading and designing architecture, urban places and landscapes through literary means. While the first conference on Architecture and Fiction (Once Upon a Place, Lisbon 2010), had a more general focus on the connections between architecture and literature, this conference will have the use of literary methods for architectural and urban research and design as a central topic.

A set of crucial questions has been set forth by the organizing committee as guidelines for debate and discussion. Among these are:

  • If literature can offer an alternative perspective to the experience, use and imagination of place, how can a literary gaze generate alternative methods for site research and architectural design?
  • How can the reading of sites allow for new interpretations of historical traces, for new writings of place?
  • How can we re-read eminent literary works and learn from these for contemporary architectural and urban practice?
  • What can literary methods, such as narrative, character, scenario and poetry writing mean in regard to architectural and urban analysis and design?

These questions will be approached by means of five “scriptive” themes (description, transcription, prescription, inscription and rescription), allowing participants and interested parties to explore the question of literary methods from different perspectives.


The conference invites researchers, architects and writers from the fields of architecture, urban planning and literary studies who are interested in or work on the connections between literature and the constitution of the built environment, to submit an abstract (max. 400 words) with their proposal, by July 1st, 2013. Each abstract must include the full name(s) of the author(s), affiliation and a clear indication of the preferred session theme.  A full description of the aforementioned scriptive themes follows.


Session themes (scriptive approaches):

A) DESCRIPTION: reading places
Central topic in this theme session is the evocative description of architectural and urban perception. Translated to literary methods, description deals with the skills to meticulously observe and evocatively describe atmospheres, site-specific characteristics and architectural details, with more senses than only the visual.  Literary descriptions reveal a sensitivity toward such rather phenomenological themes, as will become clear from fragments of novels and poetry. Thus, literary descriptions may offer ways for “Reading Places”.

B) TRANSCRIPTION: telling places

The theme session Transcription brings into play the social dimension of architecture, and brings to the fore the connection between the notion of narrative and the social practices in architecture and the city. Literary practices actively experimenting with the interplay between the writer and the reader may offers means to discuss the interactivity between designer and user. The design tools deriving from such an approach include the use of narrative and characters. Transcription may offer new opportunities to analyze and design the so-called public realm, to understand and design “Telling Places”

C) PRESCRIPTION: writing places

The theme session Prescription balances between reality and imagination. Like writers, architects as well construct their imaginary account of the future world of which their design projects will take part. The creative balance between reality and imagination may be discussed in this session by means of such concepts as the literary chronotope and the practice of scenario planning. It highlights the position of the architect designing for an unknown future, and therefore to the possibility of “Writing Places”.

D) INSCRIPTION: tracing places

The theme session Inscription focuses on the role of history and memory in literary and architectural practice. Like the tracing of history in lines and stones as depicted in W.G. Sebald’s novel Austerlitz, also contemporary architects, urban planners and landscape architects search for ways to take up traces of history in their designs. Concepts such as the narrative of place play a crucial role in the balance between past, presence and future of places.

E) RESCRIPTION: re-readings and re-writings

The theme session Rescription brings into play references that have been discussed by many scholars in comparative literature for their architectural qualities. The complex spatial constructions of the works of James Joyce, or, more recent, Mark Z. Danielewski, may come to mind, as well as experimental writers such as Italo Calvino and Georges Perec who often took urban or architectural themes as their point of departure. How can we re-read these texts and what new insights do they offer for architectural methodologies and analysis?


Conference academic committee

prof. dr. Tom Avermaete (Architecture, TU Delft)

dr. Klaske Havik (Architecture, TU Delft)

prof. Alberto Pérez-Gómez (Architecture, McGill university, Montréal, Canada)

dr. Susana Oliveira, (FAUTL Lisbon, organizer Once Upon a Place, Lisbon 2010)

prof. dr. Bart Keunen (Literature, Ghent Urban Studies, UGent)

dr. Frederik Tygstrup, PhD (Literature, University of Copenhagen)

prof. Wim van den Bergh (Architecture, Aachen University)


Conference organizing committee

Tom Avermaete

Klaske Havik

Jorge Mejia Hernandez

Mike Schäfer

Mark Proosten

Laura Theng

Negar Sanaan Bensi

Debbie Rietdijk

James Tanner


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