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Call for Papers until 17th May 2024 - International Conference "The Architecture of Need"

Fire Station in Montalegre (PT), 1976-1981

The Architecture of Need: Collective-Use Facilities and Community Service in the Twentieth Century

International Conference

Lisbon and Évora, 29-31 October 2024

Human need is one of the foundations of architecture. Its expression becomes particularly intense when conveyed by the community or in the name of the community, as a collective, shared necessity. Yet we often lose sight of this essential aspect of built environment production processes, focusing instead on matters such as design intentions, formal or technical innovation and authorship. The international conference The Architecture of Need wants to bring together current research efforts to reconsider the role of need in the equation of architectural production by examining how collective-use facilities, devised for community service in response to specific needs, originated and came to fruition in the twentieth century, in any geography. We want to reassess essential need as a key proviso in architecture, and how this determined our existing building stock, at a time when resource scarcity demands that architectural practice and thought contribute towards sustainable, participated built environment management strategies and resist the lure of often questionable building growth trends. 

Accepted papers will cover, among other topics:  

  1. Architectural responses to disparate collective needs, from subsistence to sanitation, from emergency and minimum-rent housing to healthcare and security, from compulsory schooling to senior living, from sports practice to culture.  

  2. The expression and negotiation of needs by disparate agents and through different means and media, from official procedure to public campaigning, paying close attention to the on- and off-the-record discourses and voices and their repercussion on solutions proposed. 

  3. The origin, nature and position of those agents, their strategies and scope of action, and the mechanisms established to channel resources and resolve towards the provision of infrastructure to mitigate need. 

  4. The challenges posed to architectural design by particular aspects of collective need, such as its scale, its economic imperative, its replicability potential.  

  5. The objects produced, their fortune over time and their current and potential roles in local communities, including their ability to adapt and the challenges posed by de-functionalisation, obsolesce and disuse. 

  6. Attempts at reconstructing the use history of these facilities over time, and  

  7. Experiments in co-producing knowledge on collective-use facilities and rendering it appropriable by communities in support of built environment management. 

We welcome papers that focus on little-studied contexts, cultures, agents and objects, and work that is grounded on primary source material by using history methods and those of other disciplines; research that looks at institutions, programmes, administration, and law, or adopt more specifically architectural lines of enquiry (e.g. morphological and spatial analysis). This conference is an opportunity to debate new approaches to the metadata of architectural design and production – with the archive at its core – and the methodological challenges facing architectural history, theory, and criticism as they deal with the ubiquitous mass of common buildings created to address common needs, on the one hand, and with the urgency of inclusiveness in knowledge creation, on the other. 


The international conference The Architecture of Need: Collective-Use Facilities and Community Service in the Twentieth Century is organised in the context of the initiative “Arquitectura Aqui – Community, Proximity, Action: Collective-use Facilities in Portugal and Spain 1939-1985” (, an output of the research projects ArchNeed – The Architecture of Need: Community Facilities in Portugal 1945-1985 (national funds through Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, FCT, grant PTDC/ART-DAQ/6510/2020), based at CIDEHUS Interdisciplinary Centre for History, Culture and Societies, University of Évora, and ReARQ.IB – Built Environment Knowledge for Resilient, Sustainable Communities: Understanding Everyday Modern Architecture and Urban Design in the Iberian Peninsula (1939-1985) (funded by the European Research Council, ERC, under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement 949686), based at DINÂMIA'CET-Iscte Centre for Socioeconomic and Territorial Studies, Iscte – University Institute of Lisbon.


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