The Values of Architecture and the Economy of Culture

The conference The Values of Architecture and the Economy of Culture is the closing event of the ‘Is Architecture Art?’ research project, to be held at The University of Queensland, UQ Brisbane City, 293 Queen St, between 12-14 June 2019.

Keynote speakers include Andrea Phillips, BALTIC Professor and Director of BxNU Institute at Northumbria University and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Daniel M. Abramson, Professor of American and European Architecture, The Department of History of Art and Architecture at Boston University.

Register your attendance here.

Check the papers that will be presented here.



Architecture has always been found in a space between its monetary and cultural values, but the rise of the concept of the cultural economy asks new questions as to how these values of architecture intersect and affect one another. Discussions of the cultural economy tend to deal with architecture and urban design as the infrastructure of culture, asking questions such as: what building types and land values enable a vibrant popular music culture; or, what landmark cultural flagships drive cultural tourism and city branding. Architecture itself is rarely seen as a matter of culture or, if it is, it becomes framed as a symptom of the social inequities of gentrification. It seems that outside of the architecture and design communities, architecture is not culture but its scaffold. At the same time, those cultural forms usually seen as having pure intrinsic value—the visual and performing arts, literature, music and the like—are now also seen as having socio-economic values of the kinds usually claimed by architecture in economics and employment, value in community engagement and even health and well-being. One can be sceptical of the efficacy and the politics of exchanging cultural, social and economic values in this way, but the fact that culture is now seen as a holistic interacting system capable of measurement asks new questions of the place of architecture. As methods for assessing value become increasingly important in the management of culture, the conference asks: how do we understand the values of architecture as a matter of culture?

There is a growing cultural audience for architecture in galleries, events and public space; visual artists take architecture as subject matter; spectacular buildings make for city identity, while the strong line between commercial and creative activity that used to keep architecture in the real estate pages of newspapers has been blurred. Architecture, we could say, has never been more valued, or valued in such a variety of ways, but often in some form of friction with how the discipline values itself. Our conference is not concerned with arguments for or against the cultural value of architecture per se or that of particular buildings, but rather in the different sites and occasions where values are bestowed, exchanged and come into conflict. We are sceptical of an equivalence of values, whereby an addition of real and proxy monetary values, or a ‘dashboard’ of quantitative and qualitative aspects is said to express the total value of a work, institution or cultural agency, and hold it up for comparison. Rather our focus is on finding concrete cases, both historical and contemporary, from which we hope to make some account of the construction and interrelationship of the values of architecture.

The conference aims to bring together academics and professionals from a range of disciplines. We seek papers that investigate specific cases that can open out to more general issues. Cases may address one or more of the following interlinked themes: Market/Museum, Historical Fabric and Environments, Civics and Cultural Policy.


Keynote Lectures:

12 June 2019
Andrea Phillips – Northumbria University Newcastle

13 June 2019
Daniel M. Abramson – Boston University

Paper presentations 13-14 June 2019

Adrian Atique (University of Queensland)
Kate Brehme (Technical University Berlin)
Alex Brown (Monash University)
Elke Couchez (University of Queensland)
Wouter Davidts (Ghent University)
Bart Decroos (University of Antwerp)
Maryam Gusheh (Monash University)
Douglas Hill (University of Otago)
Susan Holden (University of Queensland)
Paul James (University of Queensland)
Jordan Kauffman (Monash University)
Hamish Lonergan
John Macarthur (University of Queensland)
Antony Moulis (University of Queensland)
Ashley Paine (University of Queensland)
Anton Pereira Rodriguez (Ghent University)
Lara Schrijver (University of Antwerp)
Ari Seligmann (Monash University)
Naomi Stead (Monash University)
Courtney R. Thompson (University of Manitoba)
Kirsty Volz (University of Queensland)
Rosemary Willink (University of Queensland)


This Conference is part of the research project “Is Architecture Art? A history of concepts, categories and recent practices,” funded by the Australian Research Council and The University of Queensland’s Architecture Theory Criticism History Research Centre (ATCH), in partnership with Ghent University.

Convened by John Macarthur, Susan Holden, Wouter Davidts, Ashley Paine and Elke Couchez.


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