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About the conference

Educational Architecture – Pasts, Presents and Futures

The purpose of this conference is to bring together international scholars working in the field of educational architecture in the broadest sense of the words. This could include (pre)schools and universities (colleges), but also playgrounds, theme parks and children’s libraries; all are constructions which have educative and civilizing purposes. We want to discuss the past, present – and the future of such constructions. We want to illuminate the processes of designing, building and using; we want to discuss the roles (and networks) of architects, educators and users; and we want to draw on new sociological and spatial theories - from ANT to material feminism - within an interdisciplinary frame of interpretation. We also want to stress and discuss various methodological approaches, alternating between fieldwork, archival studies, observations and interviews.

As in many other countries, the question of educational architecture has recently reemerged with renewed vigor in Denmark: a new educational reform in 2014 has raised many spatial questions and forced many schools to rebuild. The university college sector is also expanding with new headquarter-like buildings erected and a reorganization of disciplinary practices and identities. Daycare centers and preschools are being turned into nature learning centers – and high schools are replacing their air of middle-class culture with street art and references to networks and a multicultural and global society. From these recent transformations in Danish educational architecture, it is clear that developments are embedded in local, national and international/transnational ideas and practices.

Drawing on current as well as past transformations, the working conference aims to answer the following questions: What does the field of educational architecture look like in and across different national contexts – how do we understand past and emerging trends and their possible future educative and civilizing impacts? How do we move closer to an understanding of transformations and constants in educational architecture in the past, present and future; and how do we understand changing relations between architecture, politics and pedagogy? Finally, how do we describe and document agency and architectural processes within cultural, educational and social contexts?

The three-day conference program has been carefully structured to encourage mutual inspiration and fruitful debate among researchers. The first day will be centered on three distinguished keynote speakers and in-depth discussions of presentations. On the second day, we will hop on a bus and take a working tour of some of the most interesting educational architecture in the Copenhagen area, including a number of recent constructions. Please note that this is not a tourist event, but a way to open reflections and share thoughts concerning research strategies at the specific sites. Finally, on day three, we return to base for new discussions of what we have seen and heard and how this might influence further research within the field. We will also maintain a methodological focus throughout that day, with short presentations by participants.

Participants will be offered the chance to contribute to the conference in various roles: they can discuss keynotes, produce a poster presentation, or act as panelists with short presentations touching upon subjects under the heading of either “Architecture as construction”, “Architecture as process”, “Architecture as heritage” (see below).

Three keynote speakers have been chosen for the event; all exceptional and distinguished researchers at the forefront of their particular field. Professor Julie Willis is an authority on the history of Australian architecture 1890-1950, as well as currently being involved in major projects examining the development of innovative school architecture in Australia. Dr. Jos Boys was trained as an architect and has since conducted a substantial body of ethnographic research in innovative learning spaces of post-compulsory education in various national contexts. Helle Juul is an architect MAA and the co-owner of JUUL FROST Architects. Furthermore, she holds a PhD from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. She has long been deeply involved in developing educational campuses of the future in Denmark and abroad.    

The objective of this conference is to connect with junior and senior scholars working with educational architecture of the past, present or future, in Denmark, Scandinavia, and across the world. Participants will have the opportunity to exchange empirical findings and discuss theoretical and methodological perspectives for the analysis of educational architecture.