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April 3, 2020

Decolonizing Architecture: Modernism and Demodernization

Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm

Photo: Luca Capuano for the Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Course (2018–19).*

With an increasing presence in European cities of populations with a migratory background, the struggle of decolonization, once primarily located outside of Europe, has today moved within its borders. Historical processes of colonization and decolonization, as well as today’s conditions of coloniality and decoloniality, have shaped the world order and continue to either sustain, or struggle to dismantle, inequality, structural violence, systems of privilege and white supremacy.

In this global scenario, architecture has always played a crucial role in organizing colonial spatial relations and reflecting or contesting Modernity, its rationalities, ideologies and hierarchies. The specific focus of this year’s course is to unveil the connections and relations between modernism and colonialism, and to speculate on possible projects of architectural demodernization. The European colonial/modern project of exploitation, segregation, and dispossession has divided the world into different races and nations, constructing its identity in opposition to “other projects” labeled as traditional or backwards.

The course uses the term decolonization as a critical position and conceptual frame for an architectural and artistic research practice engaged in social and political struggles. The suppression of alternatives was, and is, an attempt to create a singular modernist/colonial epistemology, and hence modernity cannot exist without the disqualification and degradation of other approaches, and world views. While architectural modernism, in particular, continues to be celebrated for its progressive social and political agenda, what the modernist rhetoric of progress and innovation obscures is its dark side, namely its inherent homogenizing, authoritarian, and segregational dimensions.

These modernist conceptions are still present in contemporary architecture and urban planning; where in the name of modern architecture, entire communities, forms of lives, and historical sites, are erased. While alone, a critique of modernism is not enough, having already been conducted by postmodernism, the task of the present is, additionally, to imagine architectural forms of demodernization.

Decolonizing Architecture course is part of a sequence of courses and research that together form the platform: Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Studies (DAAS) for higher education at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. Each year the course focus on a specific theme. The first year (2017/18) the course dealt with the legacy and reuse of fascist architecture. The second-year (2018/19) investigated and learned from the reuse of fascist colonial architecture in former Italian occupied cities. During the third year (2019/20) the course dealt with spatial knowledge that emerges from sites understood as physical spaces, as well as communities, experiences, and bodies. Read more on the course blog.

The course is intended for those with a background in architecture, art, urban research, decolonial theory or activism who are interested in the ideological, social and political dimensions of Architecture. It welcomes applicants from diverse backgrounds committed to developing an artistic, architectural and collective practice that is both theoretically and practically engaged in the struggle for justice and equality. The course is particularly relevant for participants interested in collaborative forms of knowledge production that emerge from collective discussions and engagement with specific sites and communities.

The course is led by Alessandro Petti, professor in Architecture and Social Justice in collaboration with Marie-Louise Richards, lecturer in Architecture and enriched by the contribution of advisors and invited guests.

Post-master courses in Fine Art and Architecture at the Royal Institute of Art are directed at emerging and established practitioners to continue studies on an advanced level. The courses are experimental, risk-taking, peer-learning, and research-based in nature. They are particularly suitable to applicants interested in engaging with urgent contemporary spatial, artistic, and societal issues.

Applicants should hold a Master Degree in art, architecture or relevant field, or else have equivalent and documented knowledge and experience. Admission is assessed on previous projects and experiences. Ideal candidates should be interested in conceptual speculations and theories that are grounded and emerge from artistic and architectural practice. Candidates should be open to experimental forms of collective production which challenge individual authorship, and to an open-ended process oriented towards material and immaterial outcomes.

The Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm is a leading artistic higher education institution with a long tradition dating back to the beginning of the 18th century. The institute offers a combination of artistic breadth and excellence within both undergraduate and Master programmes in Fine Art, as well as post-postgraduate education in architecture.

Apply here: ansokan.kkh.se
Application deadline: May 5, 2020

*Image caption: Addis Ababa, 14 steps fascist monument built in 1936 for the commemoration of the 14 years since the foundation of the Italian fascist party. The monument was not destroyed after the Ethiopian liberation from the fascist regime, a Lion of Judah instead was added on top of 14 steps reorienting its meanings.

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