Straining Pulp-Theory from Architecture Discourse: a symposium


The 14th of June 2010, a symposium will be held at Newcastle University. The objective of the symposium is to engender as well as provide an informal platform for real philosophic engagement with the subject of architecture. Ed Winters and Andrew Ballantyne will be giving keynote presentations. The Aesthetics Research Group from Durham University’s Department of Philosophy and the Tectonic Cultures Research Group from Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape will also participate. The intention of bringing these scholars together on this platform is not merely to raise questions about architecture, but also in a Wittgensteinian sense, bring clarity to an otherwise metaphysically muddled discourse. John Haldane eloquently describes the situation:

the facts of disagreement should encourage one to investigate the grounds of aesthetic judgement and the possibilities of establishing by reason-giving the superiority of one building or scheme over another. Too often it is simply assumed that disagreement over values within a community is proof of the subjective character of the rival attitudes. What is more rarely noticed is that a necessary condition of there being such disputes is that all parties to them share a common presupposed belief in the objectivity of value (Haldane 1990: 204-5).

This is no easy task. Karsten Harries’ 1987 article entitled, “Philosophy and the Task of Architecture” is particularly illustrative of the problems of philosophically engaging with the topic of architecture, pointing out that philosophers and architects think differently about architecture (Harries 1987: 29). On the one hand, philosophers often are no more than dilettantes when it comes to the subject of architecture and building, tending to focus on problems relevant to the philosophical discourse than those relevant to architecture. On the other hand, architects often fail to understand the import of philosophy, generally, and in their discipline. Amongst those that purport to understand is a tendency to ‘theory shop’ and produce what Haldane described as ‘quasi-philosophical ideas’ with regards to building. These theory shoppers fail to understand the ideas and methods assumed in their equally as dilettante readings of philosophy, and results in curious movements. An example of this is the use of Derrida’s Deconstructionism by Eisenman and acolytes.

Therefore, broadly conceived, the symposium’s theme is a critique of pulp-theory in the architecture discourse. This not because theory needs to be eradicated so much as the use of theory in architecture tends towards grand egomaniacal claims given truth-value and believed in, which are problematic. Instead we would like to think of theory in architecture discourse as a wide range of tools, rather than devoting oneself to the hammer as it were, use the screwdriver and saw when needed too. As such, the society is looking for contributions which approach the problem of the architecture discourse in this manner. It will not be limiting these approaches to a specific area or topic of study within the discourse.

If you are interested in attending this symposium, please send a 300 word abstract for peer-review to by the 19th of April. To register the cost is £25 and £15 for students. Please fill out this form: Straining Pulp, and return it to the address provided (on the form) by the 31st of May. As further details of the symposium develop, this information will be added to this blog post, so please check back for more up-to-date information or feel free to contact us with any queries you might have.

Harvard Citation GuideFahey, C. (2010) Straining Pulp-Theory from Architecture Discourse: a symposium, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 23 May 2010, Available at: [Accessed: 01 June 2012].

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