Economy 6-8 July 2011
link to Conference Programme
link to Economy conference booking form

Keynote Speakers' Biographies

Oikonomia - Women at Home (Greek Pyxis - © The Trustees of the British Museum)

An international conference to be held at the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff, Wales, UK

The word ‘economy’ first described the management of a household. It comes from the Greek oikonomia—oikous (house) and nemein (manage)—but its description of domestic frugality bears little relation to the contemporary ‘economy’ of governments and financial markets. Economies and capital are central to the dynamics of construction and urbanism, in ordering and disordering patterns of production and consumption. Given the collapse and mismanagement of the larger households of our societies, is it not vital to now evaluate the multiple meanings and potentials contained within this word? This international conference invites papers that investigate economy under the following themes:

Dwelling and Economy
Economy was seen historically as a spatially situated physical and social entity. Accordingly we invite contributions which interpret architectural territories as households. The extreme abstraction which characterises 'the economy' of financial experts tends to disempower the non-expert in relation to creative and productive life. Global scale and seemingly boundless territory is a part of this condition. Where, we might ask, are the edges of global economics? Papers are invited that address economies as spatially and materially embodied ‘wholes’ read in relation to their creative or productive life. The households under consideration may be at any scale: bed-sit, house, estate, community. Historic and contemporary studies are welcome.

Economy and/of Means
The dialogue between architecture and economy can lead to the minimal or the extravagant according to the agendas at play among the various actors. If we speak of economy and means we might consider system-building, self-build, re-use and conservation, prefabrication and component development - factors which impact upon architectural production, procurement and design-team communications. If we speak of economy of means we might question ideas of the everyday, the as-found, and minimalism, and consider ways in which architects spend more to achieve a desired ‘less’ or, alternatively, achieve more with less. We invite papers that address these and related issues.

Politics of Economy
For Marx, studying political economy meant studying the means of production of the capitalist system—understanding the mechanisms by which a small elite produces profit from habits socialised into working people. Economy here is understood as a system of control, exploitation and alienation. Lefebvre, among others, proposed that consumption, distribution and branding produce the spaces of capitalism, and are produced by it. Papers might question how architects are produced by, or produce, political economy.

Architecture and Capital
‘We are soaked in economy as the mediaeval peoples were soaked in religion’, wrote Mies van der Rohe in 1959. The symbolic role of the cathedral has arguably been superseded by an architecture of capital, in which the bank, the commercial high-rise, shopping mall, and museum function as iconic destinations in urban landscapes produced for consumers. From the architecture of financial institutions, to the consequences of urban environments developed by speculators and programmed for tourists, papers could examine the historic, present, and future implications of environments built for economy.

Defining Value
The science of political economy as it emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was arguably purely mercantile and lacked any definition of social capital. It was not only labour that was divided, but people themselves that were broken. In resistance, John Ruskin proclaimed: ‘There is no Wealth but Life’. Architecture appears to be involved in wealth creation and deprivation—but how? We invite papers that address issues of how value is acquired, defined or created in the many realms of architecture and its discourse, including education, practice, criticism and research.

Confirmed keynote speakers are:

Owen Hatherley
Birkbeck College, University of London

David Leatherbarrow
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Simon Sadler
University of California, Davis

Flora Samuel
University of Sheffield School of Architecture

Jonathan Sergison
Sergison Bates architects, London

Christine Stevenson
Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London

Jeremy Till
University of Westminster

A drinks reception will be held on the night of Wednesday 6th July and the conference dinner will be held on Thursday 7th July.  These will be included in the conference fee of £295 sterling.  A reduced fee of £260 applies if payment is received by 31 March 2011.

Abstracts of 300 words are invited on any topic related to notions of ‘Economy’ in architecture or related fields. These should be submitted for refereeing by 7th January 2011, either electronically or by post to the address below. Abstracts will be double-blind refereed. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance or rejection by 31 January 2011. Additional information can be found on the conference website at

We are in discussion with Routledge over a book containing selected papers from the conference, and a selection of papers will also be included in the Cambridge University Press journal arq (Architectural Research Quarterly).

Address: Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, Bute Building, King Edward VII Avenue, CF10 3NB, UK
Conference email (to which abstracts should be sent):
Contacts: For booking, timetabling and administrative queries please contact Katrina Lewis (
For matters academic, please contact Mhairi McVicar (, Juliet Odgers (, or Stephen Kite (
In the 2008 RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) the Welsh School of Architecture was rated the 4th best UK School of Architecture in terms of research power, with 90% of its research activity classed as internationally recognised or better.