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Peter Smithson: Play Brubeck

“Think of (architecture) not as a set of forms but – and this is not to diminish architecture’s engagement with the world, or its status as a material practice – rather as a professional conference. It has a large and fluid constituency of professionals joined by interested outside visitors, such as artists, philosophers, and scientists. Like any conference, this one is a forum for a series of debates and discussions on a relatively closed, identifiable set of questions in which individuals take positions in reference to, in reaction to, in combat with, or in sympathy with one another. Session topics, and therefore the agenda for discussion, are determined in advance, vetted by people of positional or intellectual leadership. Viewpoints are offered, new insights proposed. Positions are conceptualized in large part by their difference from or similarities to other possible and actual stances. Identifiable strains of thought and practice, patterns of conflict and schools emerge to press their claims. Notwithstanding  such schools, which often do not have the allegiance of their members on every issue, the number of such positions is extremely large, varying with individuals’ personal proclivities and ethical convictions, social reference groups, training and background, talents and desires.[1] Like the debates at professional conferences, the discourse of (…) architecture (spawns) a wide range of responses, with participants situating themselves and refining past positions, and reframing the discourse’s central questions in response to social, cultural, political, economic, technological, and other developments extrinsic to, but ever penetrating into, its permeable yet highly articulated boundaries.[2][3]

– Sarah Williams Goldhagen

[1] “There are “as many fields of performances as there are fields of stylistic possibles. Each of these worlds… provides a small number of distinctive gesture which, functioning as a system of differences, differential deviations, allow the most fundamental social differences to be expressed… the total field of these fields offers well-nigh inexhaustible possibilities for the pursuit of distinction.” – Bordieu, Distinctions, 226. Note 76 in the original.

[2] Lipstadt, “Art Professions,” 400. Note 77 in the original

[3] Williams Goldhagen, Sarah. “Something to Talk About: Modernism, Discourse, Style,” Journal of the Society of Architecture Hisorians, Vol. 64, No. 2  (June, 2005), pg. 161

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