Appel à communication : « Architectures, décors, objets » (21-22 mars 2019, Strasbourg et Mulhouse)

Appel à communication : « Architectures, décors, objets » (21-22 mars 2019, Strasbourg et Mulhouse)

International symposium organised by the University of Strasbourg (UNISTRA) and the ARCHE research unit, the Haute-Alsace University and the CRESAT, the Haute École des Arts du Rhin (HEAR).

Wednesday the 21stand Friday the 22ndof March 2019 Strasbourg and Mulhouse.

André Chastel, when writing that the scope of intervention in the inventory of the artistic wealth of France extended from “the cathedral to the teaspoon”, included all objects belonging to human activity. By appropriating and transforming this well-used expression[1], this conference hopes to address the architect’s implication in the entirety of the architectural project. The idea of a decorative unity including furniture in dwelling spaces appeared in eighteenth century architectural treaties. However, it was only by the end of the nineteenth century that consistency between habitat and interior decoration was more commonly applied – from wall covering to furniture or tableware. Ever since William Morris stated that “the true unit of the art, is a building with all its due ornament and furniture”[2] , architects and decorators haven’t ceased to claim their commitment to this notion of creation, a notion the Art nouveau creators reached with their total art ideal. Indeed, many architects from the end of the eighteenth century onwards have developed projects that pertain to interior decoration or furniture[3], as did Charles Percier[4]or Zaha Hadid, whose furniture sometimes echoes the organic shapes of her architecture[5]. Another example could be Jean Nouvel, who created Jean Nouvel Design (JDN), a studio that complements his architectural firm, in 1995[6]. Conversely, certain actors of the Design world demonstrate a treatment of space which, in various degrees, seems close to that of architects. Such is the case of Philippe Starck[7], the  brothers,  Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec[8]or Matali Crasset.

Beyond the figure of the « architecte-décorateur », another topic to be explored is that of the relationship between architect and decorator within the scope of specific projects.  Does the creation, when it is the fruit of the collaboration between two artists with different yet complementary skills, differ from one that would be conceived entirely by the architect alone? How can the relationship between the two actors be described ? how does the collaboration function? How are tasks assigned?  Does a hierarchy appear? What is the role of the client – whether public or private- in assigning roles?

The decorator acting as an architect could also be studied, as well as the decorator choosing the title of architect, as was the case of Armand Albert Rateau[9]when he associated with Jeanne Lanvin in 1921 to create “Lanvin-décoration”. Another example is Pierre Chateau, of whom Francis Jourdain said that he “(…) never ceased – whatever the task he took on – to create as an architect. He applied his creating gifts not to decorating the home, but to thinking the home, to organising it with the occupant in mind (…)[10]”. In this instance, Jourdain suggested a repartition of the tasks usually devolved between architect and decorator which attributed the lesser role to the latter in the creation of the domestic space.

The conference aims at understanding the implication of architects in the conception of interior decoration and furniture design, from the eighteenth century until today, and thus at contributing to a better knowledge of the profession, of its practices, of the training and education that allow one to become an architect, as well as of the constitution of the profession’s prerogatives during the contemporary period[11].

This call for papers follows several scientific events dedicated to the decorator and his/her role in conceiving architecture as well as to the relation between decoration and architecture during the modern period[12]. This conference therefore aims at exploring further the topics relating to the profession of decorator, through both aspects of training and practice.

An interesting aspect to explore could be, for instance, the fact that some famous figures received an initial training in a field different from the one they later practiced with success. Trained as a painter, Henry van de Velde[13]became known as a decorator before turning to architecture.[14]Blacksmith artist Jean Prouvé[15]created artworks whose metallic structures displayed a type of research that could be found in his furniture and architecture. Another aspect of education to analyse is the role of architects in the creation and pedagogy of new institutions training artists to create interior decoration and furniture. For example, attention could be paid to the influence of the Bauhaus on the creation or the reform of schools of applied arts in Europe (the school created by Walter Gropius in 1919 to reform living spaces only started to teach architecture much later).  On the conversely, it would be interesting to question the way interior decoration was taken into account during the formation of future architects at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and regional architectural schools.

Proposals can be case studies as well as explore movements, art and architecture schools within which theory and practice developed.

Among possible themes, we suggest the following:

  • Professions: architect, interior architect, “ensemblier”, decorator, designer…
  • The vocabulary used and its impact
  • The spread of publications, the importance of decoration and architecture journals
  • Education: the creation of schools of applied arts in Europe; the teaching of interior decoration in architectural schools.

Proposals (in French or English) should be sent (abstract of c.300 words) by 15 June 2018 and a short CV to : and

Timeline :

  • Submission deadline: 15 June 2018
  • Answers: September 2018
  • Articles projects : early 2019
  • Symposium : 21 and 22 March 2019
  • Articles for publication : late April 2019

Scientific Committee :

Jérémie Cerman, Maître de conférences en histoire de l’art contemporain, Sorbonne Université

Anne-Marie Châtelet, Professeur d’histoire et culture architecturales, École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Strasbourg

Rossella Froissart, Professeur histoire de l’art contemporain université Aix-Marseille
Gilles Marseille, Maître de conférences en histoire de l’art contemporain, Université de Lorraine
Christine Peltre, Professeur d’histoire de l’art contemporain, Université de Strasbourg.

Organizing Committee :

David Cascaro, directeur de la Haute École des Arts du Rhin

Hervé Doucet, Maître de conférences en histoire de l’art contemporain, Université de Strasbourg(Unistra-ARCHE)

Aziza Gril-Mariotte, Maître de conférences en histoire de l’art, Université de Haute-Alsace (UHA-CRESAT).

[1]We are refering to Nathalie Heinich, La fabrique du patrimoine, de la cathédrale à la petite cuillère, Ed. de la Maison des Sciences de l’homme, 2009.

[2]This definition was given during the Arts and Crafts of today conference, given in Edimburgh on the 30th of October 1889 for the Applied Art Section of the National Association for the Advancement of Art.

[3]The exhibition that took place from the 18th of April to the 31stof July 2016, at the Stanze del Vetro (in Venice) called Il Vetro degli architetti. Vienna 1900-1937, shows the recent international interest for art objects conceived by architects. One can also mention the conference held in Houston in 2016 which chose the theme: “A Sense of Proportion: Architect-Designed Objects, 1650–1950”.

[4]Jean-Philippe Garric, Vincent Cochet, Charles Percier (1764-1838). Architecture et design, Paris, RMN, 2017.

[5]Zaha Hadid’s creation scope extended as far as fashion when she created some models of women’s shoes.

[6]Maxime Gasnier, « Jean Nouvel Design, de l’architecture à l’objet radicalisé », archistorm, n°72, mai-juin 2015, p. 136-140.

[7]Franco Bertoni, Philippe Starck, l’architecture, Bruxelles, Mardaga, 1994.

[8]Out of the four recent exhibitions devoted to them, two clearly refer to the architectural world:  Rêveries urbainesand the Kiosque placed in the courtyard of the Parlement of Brittany (25thof March – 28thof  August 2016).

[9]Hélène Guéné-Loyer, Décoration et haute couture. Armand Albert Rateau pour Jeanne Lanvin, un autre Art déco, Paris, Les Arts décoratifs éditions, 2006.

[10]Francis Jourdain, preface to the book : Un inventeur… L’architecte Pierre Chareau, Paris, Editions du Salon des arts ménagers, 1954.

[11]The aim will be to contribute to the ongoing reflexion about the profession of architect, illustrated, amongst recent events, by the following conference L’enseignement de l’architecture au XXe siècle. Quelles sources ? Quelle histoire ? held at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine in February 2016, and organised by Anne-Marie Châtelet or the study day Construire l’histoire des architectes : autour du Dictionnaire des élèves architectes de l’École des beaux-arts (1800-1968)organised by Marie-Laure Crosnier-Lecomte at the INHA the 13th of April 2016.

[12]The two following events, which were held simultaneously  during the autumn 2016, illustrate the richness of this research field as well as testify to the renewal of approaches to the study of interior decoration and architecture : international conference organised by the INHA and the Arts Décoratifs de Paris, Pour une histoire culturelle du décorateur (XVIIIe-XXesiècle), 7-8 October 2016; international conference at the  Lausanne University titled La relation entre le décor et l’architecture à l’époque moderne, 24-25 November 2016.

[13]Henry van de Velde – Passion Fonction Beauté 1863-1957. Tielt : Lannoo, 2013.

[14]His global vision extended to the creation of clothes in which Maria Sète, Van de Velde’s wife, was photographed, posing in their Bloemenwerf house.

[15]Claire Stoullig, Catherine Coley (dir.), Jean Prouvé, Nancy, Musée des beaux-arts, Somogy, 2012.

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