Architecture and/for Society
“Architecture and/for Society” (2014–2015) is the first in a series of multidisciplinary research projects funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This first project used the CCA’s fonds of the British architect Cedric Price (1934-2003) to address the theme of post-war “British culture for architecture” through an investigation of the relationship between social transformations and architecture.
Cedric Price represents a generation of architects whose approach captured the optimism of—if not fascination with—architecture’s social responsibility. This optimism not only nourished the discipline and profession in postwar Britain, but also provides a template for rethinking society today. The decades following WWII were a rare period in which an emerging architecture culture actually paved the way for social transformation and, by aligning with the social-democratic model, allowed architects to act as catalysts rather than mediators .
Taking Price as a starting point, the critical and contextual analysis of British architecture culture during the 1946–1979 period tackled broad questions of the genealogy of consumer and leisure society; societal transformation and reform; standardization of cultural and individualization of society; British demographic changes and the effect of immigration on social composition; and welfare state politics on housing, health care, and higher education, and so on. The objective of the research project was to reassess the figure and work of Cedric Price, by historically reframing individual projects and re-contextualizing them in a larger narrative.
The interdisciplinary team of researchers was selected through a peer-reviewed process that followed an open call for applications and a preparatory seminar with shortlisted candidates. The seminar sought to develop a new kind of historiography that reconsidered post-war British culture in the light of social and cultural issues today. The team was composed of Nick Beech (University of London), Tim Ivison (Birkbeck College, University of London), Murray Fraser (UCL, The Bartlett School of Architecture, London), Simon Sadler (University of California, Santa Cruz) and Ben Sweeting (University of Brighton).
Over the course of three workshops—at the CCA and a seminar in London—and their individual residencies in Montreal, the five researchers covered a range of themes: from the relationship between political beliefs and aesthetic values, to cultural studies and the construction industry, cybernetics and indeterminism in design, town planning and the creation of official knowledge, and alternative visions to the social democratic ideals.
“Architecture and/for Society” is a collaborative research project that encompasses key concepts across architectural history, cultural studies, science and technology studies, historical etymology, and critical studies, that offers a contemporary reading on the modern condition of, what sociologist Ulrich Beck called, the “risk society.”