Appel à communication : « Fourth International Congress on Construction History »

The Écoles nationales supérieures d’architecture Paris-Malaquais, Paris La Villette and Versailles as well as the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (CNAM) invite you to participate in the 4th International Congress on Construction History. After Madrid (2003), Cambridge (2006) and Cottbus (2009), this event will take place in Paris, from Tuesday 3 July to Saturday 7 July 2012.


By definition, construction history appears as hybrid, associating design to fabrication, the conceptualization phase to the implementation phase. It is thus necessarily interdisciplinary, combining historians and practitioners of all sorts. Construction history is also multifaceted: material, conceptual, patrimonial. With this Fourth International Congress, we are aiming to:

Reunite a large community of scholars and technicians

The objective is to bring together technical approaches to construction history, already well established and dynamic, while developing its social and cultural dimensions. This is why we are calling for the participation of a large community of established practitioners, established scholars and doctoral candidates, whether they be historians of technology, of art, of architecture, of law or of economy, or archeologists and anthropologists, as well as politicians, architects, engineers, technicians and artisans.

To identify and initiate new fields of research

  • To increase the knowledge base and the appreciation of technologies: the history of construction establishes parallels between traditional techniques and contemporary know-how. It plays a determining role in the knowledge and the conservation of the techniques of the past, as well as in the recognition of this heritage and of its value.
  • To give a historical and critical dimension to the current questions of energy savings and sustainability of materials: the history of construction is essential for fundamentally reconsidering the way in which we develop city and countryside and the necessary reconsideration not only of reducing environmental impacts but also of production methods for buildings and urban and rural structures.
  • To expand the teaching of construction for architects and engineers: over the last few years, many universities and schools of engineering and architecture have developed history courses within programs dedicated to construction and restoration. The cultural dimension, intrinsically related to the historical prospect, informs the practice of the “design project”.

To bring teacher-researchers from the various continents closer together

As part of the work undertaken to establish a network of practitioners and historians, the Congress will make a concerted effort to reach out to local, national and continental researchers hitherto barely present in the international debates, notably those coming from: Africa, Asia, South America, the Maghreb, Mashreq and Eastern Europe.
This five day international Congress will alternate plenary sessions and thematically organized parallel paper sessions. Site visits and moments of relaxation and exchange are incorporated into the program. The high quality of debates and paper presentations is guaranteed by the Scientific Committee and the Honor Committee made up of leading experts in construction history. The Organizational Committee is assisted by the National Support Committee.

Call for Papers

We invite researchers from all disciplines concerned with the history of construction—whether they be historians or experts, experienced or young researchers—to submit 20-minute paper abstracts for the 4th International Congress on Construction History. The proposal should include:

  • a title followed by the name(s) of the author(s) and institutional affiliation(s);
  • an abstract of 400 words maximum that must contain mention of the sources consulted.
  • six key words (selected, if possible, from the list of topics and subjects);
  • a short curriculum vitae of one page maximum indicating contact information, status, laboratory affiliation if relevant, as well as a list of your most important or most recent publications.

Topics and Subjects in Construction History

History of Construction: Object of Study or Discipline?

  • Definitions of construction history and/or its components
  • Relationships to related disciplines (history of technology, archaeology, geology, ecology, urbanism, landscape)
  • Sources: buildings, archives and documents
  • Methods of research, analysis and evaluation; communications tools
  • Teaching, pedagogy with regard to engineers and architects

Theoretical Thought and Applied Sciences

  • Ideas, design, competitions
  • Applied Sciences: engineering, natural disasters and fire, interior environment (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, acoustics), hydraulics, structural morphology, ergonomics
  • Scientific and technical controversies
  • Function, feasibility, sustainability
  • Model, modeling, analytical methods
  • Invention, innovation
  • Constitution, diffusion and transfer of knowledge
  • Models, drawings
  • Relations between science and practice
  • The technical publication: technical writing and drawings
  • Experimentation, control, quality

Constructive techniques and materials

  • Techniques and applied arts: Stereotomy, carpentry, masonry, engineering (civil, military, maritime), technology, cladding, decoration
  • Heritage: expertise, preservation, restoration, rehabilitation
  • Constructive elements: foundations and floors, walls, bays, elements of support and stability, spanning (lintel, arc, vault, ceiling), frame, roofing, staircase.
  • Constructive process: prefabrication, standardization, technical gestures, disorderliness and faulty workmanship, reuse
  • Materials: earth, wood, metal, stone, concrete, glass, fabric, composite materials, binders
  • Tools, instruments, apparatuses, machines, heavy equipment
  • Places of practice: workshops, lodges, construction sites
  • Infrastructure and public works: bridges, dams, roadways and diverse networks

Social and cultural perspectives

  • Law: estimates and contracts, legislation, regulations, codes, technical norms and trade practices, customs, expertise, control, patents, ownership, leasing, easements, neighborliness, responsibility, architect, client
  • Economy: history of companies, construction trades, economic analyses of construction, accounts, prices, cost, wages, financing, production, quantity surveying, estimating, risk, speculation
  • Social history of labor: training, teaching, academies, technical literature, archives, corporations, craft industry, trade-guilds, emigration/immigration, organization of work
  • Construction professions and knowledge of the trades, biographies
  • Construction politics and policies
  • Cultural influences of the society on construction and vice versa (construction history in literature, cinema and television).

Prospective speakers should submit proposals to us by e-mail (

no later than 15 April 2011.

Two members of the Scientific Committee will evaluate each proposal. The results of these deliberations will be communicated before 31 June 2011. This will give authors of accepted proposals six months to complete their papers—following the publication format guidelines that will appear on the web-site under the header “Instructions for Papers”—to be sent no later than 31 December 2011. The paper will then be evaluated by the Scientific Committee, which has the right to accept the text as it is, request modifications or refuse the text submitted.
After approval by the Scientific Committee, the papers will be published in both paper and electronic versions. In the electronic publication, authors who would like to may, in addition to the English version of their article, also publish a version in the language of their choice.
We have drawn up a thematic list of topics and subjects attempting to cover the various aspects of the history of construction. Undoubtedly, the submitted and accepted abstracts will challenge this scheme, thereby revealing the state of research in construction history in 2012. They will intersect with the suggested thematics, giving rise to new and stimulating debates. One of the interests of the Congress is just this: to discover the richness of research today in construction history.
However, as you are aware, the history of construction should not be confused with the history of architecture, of urbanism or of heritage, even if it maintains privileged and sometimes direct links with these disciplines. Any proposition must therefore make sure to respect the distinctions that constitute construction history.
Furthermore, we would like to draw your attention (and especially that of non English speaking researchers) to the fact that the texts must be written in impeccable English in order to not detract from the quality of the publication that will result from this congress.


  • Deadline for abstracts: 15 April 2011
  • Decision regarding abstracts: 31 June 2011
  • Deadline for papers: 31 December 2011
  • Decision regarding papers: 31 January 2011


Informations available on the website of the congress:

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