Appel à communication : « Oral History as Method: Writing a History of Diverse Architectural Voices » (Pasadena/Los Angeles, SAH, 6-10 avril 2016)

Entretien avec Vincen Cornu, Architecte, Paris, 4 février 2014Oral history as a mode of research has brought about a significant diversification of the voices that elucidate and construct the canon of modern architecture. However its place within the discipline of architectural history is not yet fully accepted. Architecture remains a strongly authorised practice, as the authority to speak for and about buildings is still attached to author figures. Their design intentions are often privileged over other possible accounts. Furthermore, in architecture, as in other disciplines, oral history conversations take place within a particular professional context and culture, with all the tropes, types, patterns, clichés and performances of professional belonging that entails.

This session aims to address some key questions, including: what types of information are disclosed through oral history in architecture that would otherwise remain unknown? How do oral histories differ from written histories in architecture? Does the oral history interview change the role of the architectural historian, particularly around issues of ‘authenticity’? How might
oral history unsettle the very foundations of architectural historiography, for instance, does ‘reliability’ become irrelevant?

The oral history method also raises questions regarding the positioning of the interviewer vis-à-vis the interviewee. Up until the 1970s architecture was a largely male-dominated profession. In recent decades however women have become more visible, both in architectural practice, and in architectural history. Women furthermore appear to be disproportionately involved in oral history projects. This leads us to question the ‘erotics’ of oral history methodologies, especially when (young) women interview elderly men. Beyond sexual dynamics, how are oral histories affected by cultural or political differences between the interviewer and the interviewee? What of the effects of the time, day, location, and circumstances of the interview?

This session proposes to explore what is gained, and what might be lost, through the use of oral history methods in architectural research.

Abstracts of under 300 words must be submitted beforeJun 9, 2015 via the SAH online abstract submission process at

Session chairs:
Janina Gosseye, TUDelft/ University of Queensland, Australia, 
Naomi Stead, University of Queensland,


Cette session fait partie du 69e Congrès International de  la Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) qui se tiendra à
Pasadena / Los Angeles, Californie, du 6 au 10 avril 2016.

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