Institute of Archaeology



archaeological architectures - architectural archaeologies | Tue Dec 17 09:30:00 | Clarke Hall (Level 3)

For three decades archaeologists have been thinking and writing about architecture in diverse and challenging ways: as action, through risk-taking activity, as dependent, in time, as atmosphere, through material culture, as landscape, on sensory terms. Slow architecture, animal architecture, quick architecture, messy architecture, living architecture - all of these are critiques of the discipline of Architecture’s knowledge of form. Architecture is now thinking and writing about archaeology on creative terms, but are archaeologists listening?This session is a celebration of the creative force of archaeological architectures and architectural archaeologies. Its focus is other ways of telling, writing, and drawing the built environment from the outside and through undisciplinary practices.

Session timetable
9:30 | Lesley McFadyen, Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck; Alessandro Zambelli, School of Architecture, University of Portsmouth


9:35 | Jonathan Hill, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

A Monument to a Ruin

The practices of the architect and the archaeologist have been interdependent for centuries. Archaeological investigations stimulated demand for accurate drawings as a means of comparative analysis within and between sites. The most substantial structures survived as ruins, while ephemeral materials, traces of use and environmental qualities were less likely to remain, giving later generations a somewhat distorted image of the original structure and the life within it, and thus an opportunity for the present to reinvent the past. In surveying ancient ruins and conceiving archaeology as a stimulus to design, Andrea Palladio established and Giovanni Battista Piranesi expanded the practice of the archaeologist-architect that enabled architects such as Robert Adam, John Soane, Louis Kahn and Alison and Peter Smithson to appreciate ancient forms. According to Palladio, the ancient Roman ruins’ purpose was to stimulate drawn and built reconstructions. But the ruin meant more in subsequent centuries due to the increasing attention to time, nature, subjectivity and the imagination.While Palladio reconstructed a ruin as a building,Piranesi constructed a building as a ruin.

Intensifying the relations between the unfinished and the ruined, and envisaging the past, present and future in a single architecture, this design practice conceives a monument and a ruin ascreative, interdependent and simultaneous themes within a single building dialectic,addressing temporal and environmental questions in poetic, psychological and practical terms, and stimulating questions of personal and national identity, nature and culture, weather and climate, permanence and impermanence, and life and death.

9:55 | Marianne Hem Eriksen, Department of Archaeology, University of Oslo

House-dreams of the Viking Age: Undisciplined explorations of architecture, personhood, and dreaming in the past

I often dream about houses, buildings in which I have lived and worked, the spaces of my childhood. For a while I wondered whether this was an occupational hazard – having studied houses archaeologically for a decade now – but it turns out I am not alone in dreaming about the remembered houses of childhood, spaces where we learn about the world, go through rites of passage and are transformed (Hall 1983). Across philosophy, psychology, anthropology and architecture, it is widely acknowledged that the house can be deeply entwined with personhood (e.g. Bachelard 1964; Carsten 2018; Jung 1963; Marcus 1971), and dreaming about houses can equal dreaming about the self. And so the question presented itself: did the people whose built environments I study — the Scandinavian populations of the Iron and Viking Ages — dream of houses too? And if they did, were their dreams related to the self?

This exploration does not spring from any established approach in either architecture or archaeology. Rather, it is a truly undisciplined exploration, another way of telling the built environment. Drawing on the field of dream anthropology, and combining literature with archaeological evidence, this paper explores how the protagonists of the Norse sagas and poetry dreamed of longhouses and architectural spaces. By combining these narratives with the material evidence of lived space in the archaeological record, the text explores the intimate links among architecture, personhood, and dreams.

10:10 | Judit Ferencz, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

The Graphic Novel as an Interdisciplinary Conservation Method in Architectural Heritage: A Book of Hours for Robin Hood Gardens

The housing crisis in London calls for a re-thinking of the role that heritage listing plays in debates regarding the demolition or refurbishment of social housing. My PhD research aims to develop a new critical methodology for conservation and architectural heritage practices, through the medium of the graphic novel. My architectural case study is the East London housing estate Robin Hood Gardens (1972), which was refused heritage listing in 2009 and 2015 and is currently being demolished as part of a wider local regeneration scheme.

My work brings together archival historical research and ethnographic on-site practice. My methodology draws on my own practice as an illustrator in publishing, situating this in relation to the Hungarian conservation practice ‘falkutatás’ (Dávid: 1977) and Jane Rendell’s critical spatial practice ‘site-writing’ (2010). Falkutatás applies archaeological stratigraphy to walls of historical buildings in order to access deeper histories of buildings.‘Site-writing’ draws outthe ‘material, emotional, political and conceptual’ sites of research. My thesis re-evaluates falkutatás as a site-writing practice, specifically through a graphic novel that critically re-works the historic, material and temporal literary form of the Book of Hours, late medieval illuminated manuscripts.

Through techniques specific to the sites of research such as reportage drawing and montage technique, I rework the processes and temporality of conservation and heritage. Through engaging with specific audiences - government bodies, architects and residents - processes often disregardedsuch as the time of waiting for demolition and the entire life cycle of the estate are brought to life.

10:25 | Rose Ferraby, Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge

Traces and Void: Architectural spaces and the archaeological imagination

Archaeologists work with fragments; the seedling suggestions of forms and materials from which re-imagined spaces and architectures can grow. It is this process, this in-between stage of thinking, which is of interest here. How do we animate and give life and space, light and resonance to architectural structures that have been reduced to negative or skeletal form? This paper will explore how creative practice and experimentation can bring new modes of thinking through the interplay of archaeology and architecture; how processes of making might draw out alternate perspectives and modes of communicating them more broadly. The focus will be one building: the Roman forum at Aldborough, North Yorkshire, and the creative practice carried out there with the project ‘Soundmarks’ (soundmarks.co.uk).

10:40 | Lesley McFadyen, Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck


10:55 | BREAK
11:25 | Tanja Romankiewicz, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh

Metamorphosing Architecture

Form ever follows function – this is the law.

This paradigm has dominated not only modern architecture, but also influenced archaeological theory, especially the debates on “new materialism” and “anti-materialism”. While architecture can apply an interpretation of this paradigm in a tangible “built object”, archaeological debates often operate within intangible theoretical spheres. Yet it is the form (or typology) of buildings from which we infer their function. The architectural paradigm is therefore of imminent importance to archaeology. But how tangible can this be?

A recent architectural analysis of later prehistoric stone and timber houses in northwest Europe has reassessed the character and concepts of this architecture, and its role for later prehistoric communities. The results suggest that form indeed followed function, in a very direct, intra-active and tangible way: houses morphed and remorphed with the energies happening inside and around them, and are best described as form-shifters – metamorphosing architectures. With this realisation, our interpretations of prehistoric domestic architecture should also shift: away from functional-deterministic assumptions that prehistoric houses were built for one particular use and had only one “life” intricately fixed to the life cycle of its household; built, dwelt in, and abandoned in a linear trajectory. We need to metamorphose such assumptions of prehistoric architecture and as a conclusion also reconsider our concepts of the household that were intra-related with these formed, forming, and performing houses. New, dynamic, multi-perspective views on ancient architecture are needed, which in turn can help designing our own dynamic architectures today and for tomorrow.

11:40 | Kevin Kay, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

How Buildings Learn, Depend, and Extend: Drawing out the politics of space-making

Archaeologists and architects have struggled in parallel against the gravity of the static edifice: architects against a disciplinary tradition focused more on newly-finished forms than vitality through time, and archaeologists against data that is itself deceptively ‘dead and buried’ – but must once have lived. This paper follows three parallel currents of architectural and archaeological thought, and suggests that a common concern with drawing out politics (literally and figuratively) can twine these conversations together. Firstly, archaeologists and architects have developed understanding of tempo, temporality, maintenance and change, and highlighted the vibrant role of materials in shaping architecture over time: in Stewart Brand’s phrase, we have begun asking how buildings learn. Although buildings’ biographies are shaped by their material components, they form within a range of social contingencies: because buildings depend on the involvement of diverse communities in diverse ways space is always multiple. Finally, no building is a world unto itself; as relations and communities pulse in and out of a structure through time, spaces extend through one another: from the apartment to the grocery store, farmstead to the field or council estate to City Hall. Learning, depending, and extending architecture creates political sites, moments and durations, shifting our focus from form to formation, from the edifice of space to the transformative power of space-making. Drawing out the lives of Neolithic buildings, especially at Çatalhöyük, I tie archaeological and architectural discourses together and illustrate ways these adjacent disciplines can converge to enliven the study of space, past and present.

11:55 | Dominic Walker, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

The Orkney Island Re-Forestry Commission. A Monastic Building to Celebrate the Beginnings and Endings of Humanity

The primary theme of my research has been the influence of theories of origins in the production of architecture. I employed these themes of ‘architectural origins’ in the design of a building for the beginnings and endings of humanity, sited on the Orkney Islands.

The project began with the proposition that the greatest unrealized project of architecture is its own origins. Unrealized in the sense that there has been no truly indisputable theory of the beginnings of architecture. After a study of various theories of origins, I devised my own theory of origins that took inspiration from Neolithic structures on the Orkney Islands. My understanding of origins was structured around a cyclical as opposed to linear conception of time. For me, the idea of origins was therefore inextricably linked to beginnings as well as endings.

To address the theme of beginnings I proposed a selective re-forestation of the Orkney West Mainland, in order to return it to its pre-human condition. Then to address the theme of endings I sited a building for the 2050 UN Climate Summit at the end of a pilgrimage route through this re-forestation program. This building will no longer be accessible by 2100, due to rising sea levels. At this point it will become a fossil – a key trace in the Anthropocene of a time when we questioned our own relative fragility within the vast cycles of nature. In this sense, the proposal is an architecture that is both timeful and timeless.

12:10 | Samantha Brummage, Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck

Architecture and Artefacts in the Colne Valley: Place attachment in prehistory

The Colne Valley is a landscape of prehistoric assemblages and sites, as well as smaller scatters and spot finds. The architectural legacy is not limited to the physical remains of mainly Neolithic monumental and domestic structures, generally found in the Lower Colne/Middle Thames area. Whilst Mesolithic sites are far more evident as artefactual scatters in the Upper Colne Valley, affective construction was part of both Mesolithic and Neolithic practice. Traces of daily life at varying scales, both arbitrary and structured, are discernible in the artefactual record. It is those traces of connections across time and space which shape and make sense of localities.

Places in the Colne Valley were built by the processes and attachments of daily life; through interactions between past (memories) and future (intentionality), between subjectivity and sociality (individual people and wider groups). Certain spots became affectively laden; they gained familiarity through the use of particular routes, knowledge of resources, contact with others, signs of human practice and dwelling. But while daily practice was both ad hoc and accumulative, personal and communal, condensed and dispersed, the archaeology is often only visible where aggregations of accumulated material or collective labour are located. Archaeological records, however, do provide detail of smaller, non-durational events; single find spots or small collections of flint tools, for example. This paper intends to reposition those more isolated artefacts as constituent and connective elements in the wider architectural process and creation of place.

12:25 | Kate Franklin, Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London

Ambivalent Architectures: Infrastructure, hospitality and the power of care on the medieval Silk Road

This paper considers the agency of architecture in housing the conditions by which sovereignty and hospitality are mutually produced. Situated in the high medieval (AD 1200-1500) South Caucasus, the paper looks at the relationship between road infrastructures and the construction of shared cultural ecumenes across what we now think of as the ‘Silk Road’. In particular, the paper examines medieval “monumental infrastructures”, or built spaces and landscapes which situate both local politics and global mobilities. This discussion of the medieval past will engage with the future-oriented work of theorists like Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, who argues that a new politics hinges on the power defined incaringfor others, selves, guests and fellow travellers. The paper centres on the contingency of care, and the ways that architecture frames transformations between service and sovereignty, comfort and constraint. The paper will also draw from discussions in science fiction, specifically the work of William Gibson, which imagines the ways that built infrastructures both outlast projects of power, and also contort and subvert those projects.

12:40 | Alessandro Zambelli, School of Architecture, University of Portsmouth


13:00 | END