2017 Call for papers / Architecture and professionalism.
Léon Stynen
Léon Stynen

12.04.2017 | what’s on
by CVAa (Centre for Flemish Architectural Archives)

The Architectural Archives of the Province of Antwerp and the Flanders Architecture Institute are hosting an international conference as a prelude to ‘Stynen Year’ in 2018. Belgian designer Léon Stynen (1899-1990) epitomises an entire generation of post-war modernist architects whose oeuvres and profiles share many similarities. Typically, these architects were part of a strong national and international network; up-to-date and knowledgeable; prolific and varied builders (which points to great ideological flexibility); consummate professionals; able to access large-scale and visible commissions.

Scholars should submit proposals for 20-minute papers on topics relevant to the three approaches/sessions, as detailed below. Abstracts of 300 words, succinctly outlining the subject and argument, should be emailed to the following address: Submissions should arrive no later than 30 April 2017. A selection will be made by the academic committee and notification of acceptance will be given by the end of May 2017.

Session 1 – knowledge transfer and networks
This session focuses on international modernism and vehicles of knowledge transfer. We are particularly interested in the way these exchanges are registered in the surviving archives. How did Stynen and his contemporaries keep abreast of international developments? To which sources can we attribute their fascination for the kind of ‘Americanism’ that emphasised ‘the good life’? Which periodicals did they read and how did they collect and archive the information they encountered? What inspired their reverence for certain precedents – with Le Corbusier as the incontestable hero for Stynen’s generation – and where did these architects meet one another? What role did the International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM) and other comparable networks play? To what extent did wealthy clients disseminate ideas and information about international modernism?

Session 2 – canonisation and the forging of an international reputation
On a local level, the Belgian architectural press rightly considered Léon Stynen to be a key modernist architect and his oeuvre was well-published. The international architectural press, on the other hand, paid scant attention to his work and activities. This session explores the
mechanics of international ‘canonisation’. Which periodicals, critics, criteria and networks were essential to the creation of an international reputation in the post-war period? How did architects gain worldwide exposure? Was it specifically the Belgian architectural world that lacked the right connections, or do we see similar barriers in other (smaller or more ‘peripheral’) countries? And how does this situation influence contemporary scholarship and the international canon? How do (local) archives attract the attention of international researchers and deal with the unexplored material in their collections? How important is the internet and digitisation in terms of remedying these ‘blind spots’ i.e. by providing international access to previously obscure primary resources and (local) periodicals?

Session 3 – contemporary approaches towards modernist architecture: research, archives and public programmes
A great deal of attention has been devoted to the architectural oeuvre of Léon Stynen in recent decades. Yet the richness of his archive – comprising documentation, unpublished writings and correspondence – offers a wealth of opportunities for further exploration of his personality, network, self-representation and involvement in architectural education. Several of his buildings have undergone (or are currently undergoing) major restorations, for which the archives provide important documentation.

This session aims to collate international examples of best practice within the cultural heritage sector. The focus is placed on the archives belonging to Stynen’s generation: how can we communicate their richness and potential to a wider audience? Furthermore, how do we raise awareness of the multifaceted nature of twentieth-century architecture? While the iconic modernist buildings are internationally championed and protected, how can we build support for other less obvious but equally interesting examples that express a different range of values e.g. local importance or significance within the collective memory? The aim being to devise strategies for giving such buildings a tangible presence within the contemporary metropolis.
We would especially like to hear about innovative or surprising ways of approaching the (non-specialised) public (e.g. apps and other online tools) and examples of how architecture and archives can ‘infiltrate’ more ‘mainstream cultural consumption’ (e.g. through combining heritage with tourism projects) as a way of eradicating the perception that these are ‘elitist’ or ‘niche’ interests.

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