Thursday 15 July and Friday 16 July, 2010

Architecture; Critical and Clinical


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Convenor: Professor Sandra Kaji-O’Grady


The professional and technical specialization of ‘health architecture’ concentrates on the hospital and clinic - sites where the subject is produced as a patient. Likewise, historical examination of the convergence of architecture and medicine in the production of the medicalized body has concentrated on spaces of quarantine and surveillance and for the sequestering of the ill, along with the regulation through architecture and its infrastructure of the physical elements of water and air that carried disease.

Yet, as Foucault observes, we embody medical precepts at a “multitude of sites in the social body of health” - all of which are spatial.* The medicalization of the body does not take place simply as the vertical imposition of the political power of state medicine through hospitals and clinics. Threats to health no longer present as an invading force, but are experienced as complex interaction of diet, medications, exercise and lifestyle to which we, as individuals, are responsible. The new schema is more difficult to trace, as Jennifer Harding has written, “owing to the medicalisation of life generally and the promulgation of medical statements about symptoms and diseases and their treatments, in the clinic and in the media, as news and entertainment, it is hard to isolate examples of medicalization from its absences . . .”** Indeed, architecture’s preventative or therapeutic role is not confined to individual building types - whole cities are pathologised as vehicles for preventing or contributing to epidemics of infectious disease, juvenile obesity and diabetes.

Despite the pervasiveness of medicalization - and, indeed, because of it - we believe that a significant contribution to the field can be made through a critical view of the medicalized body and a close interrogation of the disciplinary mechanisms of architecture. We are also interested in the diagnostic potential that exists in architecture, akin to that which Gilles Deleuze proposes for literature in Essays Critical and Clinical (Critique et Clinique (1993)). Like literature, architecture implies a way of living, and must then be evaluated not only critically but also clinically. Architects, like doctors and clinicians, can be viewed as diagnosticians.

With the above in mind, the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney has established the research cluster Architecture; Critical and Clinical. Our inaugural event will be a one-and-a-half day workshop aimed at unearthing new work and opening up relevant lines of inquiry for future research projects. These future projects might take the form of a book, a grant application, an inter-university collaboration, and/or a larger conference. As the workshop is essentially a scoping exercise and a venue for establishing networks between researchers in architecture, medicine and the humanities we are inviting short positions, provocations or proposals of no more than ten minutes to allow significant discussion time.


*Foucault, M. (1980) ‘The politics of health in the eighteenth century’, C. Gordon (ed.), Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 1972–1977, New York: Pantheon, p. 166.
**Harding, J. (1997) ‘Bodies at risk: Sex surveillance and hormone replacement therapy’, A. Petersen & R. Bunton (eds.), Foucault: Health and medicine, London: Routledge, p. 145.