During the 1960s and 1970s, the probity and relevance of the institutional model in most areas of life were called into question. Of particular significance were Michel Foucault’s studies of forms of institutionalised care and organised supervision which he associated with the exercise of dominance, surveillance and control – famously represented in physical form by the Panopticon (Discipline and Punish, 1975). While alternative models were and have been sought, few institutions were totally disassembled or abandoned. In fact, many of those that weathered the storm, especially within the financial sector, appear to have become larger, more dominant and more powerful.
Recent scrutiny of the abuses of power by religious clergy, politicians and corporate bodies has however lent impetus to the ongoing historical and theoretical investigation of institutions and how they operate. It is timely therefore to renew the discussion of the role and status of architecture in its relationship to the institutional realm, especially around questions of change and transformation. What ideals, principles and values have underpinned the architecture of institutional organisations and constructions in the past and have these changed in recent times? How has the role of architecture in the consolidation and exercise of institutionalised power and authority changed? What role can architecture play in the reconceptualisation of institutions?
The 32nd Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) was devoted to the theme of architecture, institutions and change. The papers presented at the conference and published in its proceedings (see link below) examine various aspects and examples of this theme within different cultural contexts. Architecture in the service of the State is addressed through the study of government-sponsored and commissioned buildings and urban complexes such as hospitals, schools, university buildings and campuses, social housing, museums, theatres and expositions. The architecture of organised religion is given attention, from Catholic missionary buildings to heritage-related issues. There is an interest in the institutions of architecture and the architectural profession with a focus on education, disciplinary interaction and modes of professional organisation, involvement and acknowledgement. There is also a strong interest in spatial experimentation and the formation of alternative approaches to institutional models, especially within the fields of education, housing and house design. The making of public space and the politicisation of public memorials are discussed, along with many other topics, all resulting in what is a valuable compendium of research into the conference theme.
We would like to thank all those who contributed to the success of the conference and the production of its proceedings.
Paul Hogben and Judith O’Callaghan
Conference Convenors and Editors of the Conference Proceedings