During the 1990s a flurry of concurrent developments in the social sciences and the arts brought archives to the fore of scholarly limelight: the “archival fever” in the arts and philosophy (Derrida, 1996), the emergence of the trend of “archival ethnography” in anthropology (Sahlins, 1992) and the “empirical turn” in archival science (The American Archivist, 1996: 59/2). The radical change in architectural practice triggered by computerization also led to its own “archival turn,” prompting practitioners to reflect on the techniques of archivization, both traditional and novel. All these developments point toward the importance to study archives as practice, and prompt us to ask: What constitutes an archive in architecture today? What epistemology does it perform? What kind of craft is archiving and how does it relate to design?
Addressing these questions, the lecture offers insights to the ontological granularity of architectural archiving based on interviews with archivist Chiara Porcu and architect Álvaro Siza in Porto and ethnographic observation of the practices of conservators, cataloguers, digital and paper archivists, museum technicians and curators at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal. Following archiving in its mundane, down-to-earth and practical course – how objects are processed and catalogued, how drawings are preserved, how born-digital material battles time and technology obsolescence – allow us to unravel its multiple epistemic dimensions as well as to question some well-established myths of creativity and authorship.
Albena Yaneva is Professor of Architectural Theory and director of the Manchester Architecture Research Group (MARG) at the University of Manchester, UK. She has been Visiting Professor at Princeton School of Architecture (2013), Parsons, New School (2015) and Politecnico di Turino (2018), and held the prestigious Lise Meitner Visiting Chair in Architecture at the University of Lund, Sweden (2017-2019). Her research is intrinsically transdisciplinary and crosses the boundaries of science studies, cognitive anthropology, architectural theory and political philosophy. She is the author of several books: The Making of a Building (Peter Lang 2009), Made by the OMA: An Ethnography of Design (010 Publishers 2009), Mapping Controversies in Architecture (Routledge 2012), Five Ways to Make Architecture Political. An Introduction to the Politics of Design Practice (Bloomsbury 2017), Crafting History: Archiving and the Quest for Architectural Legacy (Cornell University Press 2020) and The New Architecture of Science: Learning from Graphene (World Scientific Publishing 2020), co-authored with Sir Kostya S. Novoselov (Nobel Laureate in Physics). Her work has been translated into German, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Thai, Polish, Turkish and Japanese. Yaneva is the recipient of the RIBA President’s award for outstanding university-based research (2010).
Mark Wigley is Professor and Dean Emeritus at Columbia GSAPP. His most recent book is Konrad Wachsmann’s Television: Post-Architectural Transmissions (Sternberg Press, 2020).