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Opening up architecture and building archives, collections and exhibitions

Collaboration with the Barbican Arts Centre to explore curatorial and archival practices in architecture.

Part of BSSC’s inclusive practices agenda is to explore how museums and galleries can become truly inclusive spaces. In partnership with the Barbican Arts Centre in London, and David Roberts from the Bartlett School of Architecture, we recently achieved funding from UCL Innovation and Enterprise to co-explore how architectural collections and their exhibition can be opened up to more diverse participation in both creation and interpretation. This builds on an existing project, funded by the Bartlett Innovation Fund (BIF) throughout 2020, and co-ordinated by Dr. Jos Boys of BSSC; developing an online learning resource, based on the work of a feminist architecture practice based in London from the 1980s, and called the Matrix Open feminist architecture archive (MOfaa).

barbican show image

By starting from the Matrix Open online archive prototype, together with existing Barbican archives and a planned public exhibition called How We Live Now: Reimagining Spaces with Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative (22nd February to 10 September 2021), we will be creating a series of online workshops bringing together Bartlett UCL scholars, architectural practitioners and archival and curatorial experts for knowledge sharing about innovative ways to rethink architectural archives.

Architectural archives are a vital source for scholars to research and interpret the history and development of ideas within the discipline, and as the basis for exhibitions that make artefacts and associated narratives available to wider audiences.  However, mainstream archival practice has been historically centred on ‘Starchitects’ – leading to selective representation and tending to perpetuate a ‘canon’ that limits what stories get told and by whom.

To challenge these conventional narratives, we will apply seed ideas from related research activities and at the Barbican, through knowledge exchange activities with professional practice across the heritage, museums and galleries and architecture sectors. This will enable the collection of further insights from practitioners in the UK and internationally about innovative kinds of archival and curatorial approaches.

Knowledge exchange will focus on:

  • expanding definitions of, and opportunities for, what is collected
  • how to capture diverse perceptions and experiences of built environment practices and designed spaces
  • reorienting architectural archives away from singular designers and towards the communities of practitioners and residents who build and adapt the built environment
  • developing innovative and creative methods for extending learning and interpretation to wider audiences

The project brings together two major cultural and educational organisations that can collaborate in the long term on developing further innovative research and projects centred on opening up architectural archival and curatorial practices.

Click here for more details of the Barbican exhibition https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2021/event/how-we-live-now

To see the MOfaa online resource in progress go to http://www.matrixfeministarchitecturearchive.co.uk/

Matrix leaflet