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Situated Ecologies of Care

The 20th AHRA International Conference

Wed 25 Oct—Fri 27 Oct 2023

Portsmouth School of Architecture

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Architecture is always deeply entangled with both ‘big’ issues and with everyday lives. Architecture’s ‘produce’ directly participates in various intertwined ecologies, including those of the environment, culture, economy, the political, and the aesthetic. Whether we are looking at climate catastrophe, the distribution of wealth or the nature of community empowerment, the transformative power of the disciplines and practices of architecture (and its cognate disciplines) cannot be underestimated. The transformations occur through our ethos and methodologies in encounters – materials, constructions, ideas and concepts – with various pressing situated matters of concern which might be local or shared across the globe.

In the title of this conference, Situated Ecologies of Care, we bring together parts of an ‘apparatus’ with which to encounter and interrogate various themes. Through the notion of ecologies we understand the complex contingent interrelationships amongst various seemingly separate entities, be they materials, people, constructions, non-humans, concepts, imaginings, speculations. From one perspective, there is only one all-inclusive edgeless ecology. But, in those contingent interrelationships, demarcating different ecologies not only allows us to engage without being overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of it all, but also affords us possibilities to render our own political and ethical positions.

Care, for us, encompasses approaches of pedagogy as well as placemaking, biopolitics in addition to architectural representation, and spatial and performative activisms not uncoupled from the more conventional spaces of care. Being care-ful means paying radical attention to one-another, recognising kin in a multitude of forms.

Within the practices and discourses of the crisscrossing transversals of ‘architecture’ and the ‘humanities’, the matters of situated ecologies of care make themselves known through various ‘cuts’. How does (can?) care inhere in the ecologies of modes of representation that we use to design and communicate architecture? Who is caring for whom/what in activist practices of urban development? How can we understand the very situated (in particular places with particular people in particular contractual relationships) potential of professional practice and its political nature to engender caring forms of ‘doing’ architecture? What are the expanded ecologies of buildings for care (such as healthcare facilities) and how do they acknowledge the particularities of users’ situations? How might the apparatus situated ecologies of care challenge, through spatial discourses, places, and things, systemised and institutionalised inequalities, whether along dimensions of race, gender, empowerment, or economies?

The conference will perform as a space of care, a care of critique, people, subjects and subjectivities and intersubjectivities. A place for dialogues, conversations and chatter where threads, ideas and performative events are woven together towards the making of a social fabric. It will ask, what is it that is being made through the performativity of these conversations, actions, gestures, mutterings and matterings. What materialises through these exchanges? How does the fabric made through care perform? How is this knowledge made? In short, we seek to choreograph care through the performativity of the conference and we seek to do it through a series of themes.