Research Unit

Architecture Culture and the Contemporary

28 May 2021 → 30 September 2050
Group leader
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Architectural heritage and conservation
    • Architectural history and theory
    • Criticism and theory
  • Engineering and technology
    • Architecture not elsewhere classified
Architecture Culture and the Contemporary is a research unit within the Architecture History and Theory research group. ACC conducts theoretical and historical research into problems and developments in architecture culture (architecture, architecture practice, criticism, publications, exhibitions, competitions, policy, …), and their relations with broader conditions in society, today and in the recent past. Architecture exists ‘in the world’ and within an ‘architecture culture’ of institutions, knowledge, references, and discourses. The past decades saw a productive oscillation between claiming the (relative) autonomy of architecture and heteronomous repositioning. The architecture discipline balances between self-referentiality and trans-, interdisciplinary, extradisciplinary recalibrations. This is evident from the subjects around which the architectural debate centres and from the forms used to discuss architecture. Buildings and drawings seem to be alternately confirmed and downplayedas privileged 'media' of architecture. Architecture publications, centres and exhibitions can confirm traditional interpretations of 'architecture' and 'architect', but they are also platforms where 'expanded architecture practices' find opportunities. 'The Contemporary' is first a temporal designation: 'of our time'. 'Contemporary' does not connote the kind of opposition to a historical past in the way that 'modern' does, and includes a more complex and weaker relationship with history. 'Contemporary' however also refers to a condition for architecture, marked by developments and tensions such as liberalisation and the dismantling of the welfare state; post-politics and re-politicization; globalisation, (super)diversity, decoloniality, but also the recultivation of local identities; advanced heritage regimes and cultural industries; climate change and mitigation; communication technologies, the digital turn, or economic disruption. ACC adopts the conventional boundary ‘since 1989’. The geographical research scope takes ACC’s situatedness in Belgium into account – with its local and transnational realities – but is not limited to Belgium. Engagement with contemporaneity offers opportunities and poses practical and methodological challenges for researchers. It always requires a reflexive positioning, both as regards being involved in current matters and collaboration with contemporary architects, institutions, and other actors, and as regards the choice for critique, theory and/or history.