Footprint 29: The Architecture of Populism: Media, Politics, and Aesthetics

2020-06-22

The concept of populism remains evasive insofar as it is used to define political and economic phenomena reaching from far-right to far-left. It may be said to put into question the traditional binary division between left and right altogether. In this issue of Footprint, we would like to explore new interpretations of the architectural ramification of populism intended as a political approach and strategy that strives to appeal to ‘common’ men or women who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elites and intellectuals.

 In recent years, the link between architecture and populism has resurfaced in the form of heated polemics. In 2017, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) stoked fury when releasing a three-minute video in which images of grand neoclassical buildings were interwoven with shots of modernist towers spectacularly collapsing into dust. A year later, the reconstruction of Frankfurt’s old town provoked an outburst in German architectural circles when architectural theorist Stephan Trüby associated the project with right-wing extremism. And, in the Netherlands in 2019, Forum for Democracy leader Thierry Baudet, in his general elections victory speech, denied climate change and attacked energy transition by proclaiming his disdain for modern aesthetics through the instrumentalisation of architectural devices such as wind turbines and solar panels. More recently, Donald Trump’s declaration ‘Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again’ provoked a forceful response from the Society of Architectural Historians who, in an opposition letter, stated: ‘We nonetheless remain convinced that the dictation of style – any style – is not the path to excellence in civic architecture.’

On the one hand, we want to explore how right-wing populism contributes to reshaping architecture’s elite aspirations, cementing the distinction between high and low cultures; while, at the same time, also using highly communicative and seductive images. On the other hand, we are interested to investigate other forms of populism such as commercial populism – here Las Vegas can be seen as the paradigmatic example of an architecture commissioned by rich and powerful clients to appeal to ‘the people’ – and welfare state populism, or examples referring to spatial and architectural articulations of anti-austerity and anti-establishment initiatives. Ultimately, we would like to downplay the traditional opposition between left- and right-wing populism to reframe and/or reconceptualize the architecture of populism.

Footprint 29 asks the following questions: What are the possible links between architecture and populism, given that both are abstractions emerging from and referring to different historical, social, and geographic contexts? What are the spatial and material realities of right- and left-wing populism in politics and architecture, both in a historical and contemporary perspective? What are the mechanisms of stylistic appropriation – such as po(pu)larisation – and how are forms of architecture populism mediated? How was architecture instrumentalised for the sake of populist agendas and, in turn, how was populism used and articulated within architectural projects? Is populism (mis)used in order to obtain important commissions, position the client in an architectural field driven by the globalized forces of finance?

This exploration into the architecture of populism follows the work published in Footprint 8 – Defying the Avant-Garde Logic: Architecture, Populism and Mass Culture. We welcome original research articles (6 000–8 000 words) that bring to the fore new archival and discourse-analytical case-studies where populism and architecture intersect and mutually take form in socio-spatial transformation processes. We also accept more explorative approaches such as review articles (2 000–4 000 words) or visual essays (2 000 words accompanied by two to five images). Contributions to this issue could aim to define new relations between architecture and populism, exploring architectural case studies, but also theoretical frameworks, research methods, and analytical instruments. Not only does this issue seek to examine the context relating to architecture and populism but also how architects change their design language in relation to changing social and economic determinants. Full research articles are to be submitted on Footprint’s online platform before 1 October 2020, and will go through a double-blind peer-review process. For review articles and visual essays, authors can submit an abstract of max. 500 words  before 1 October 2020.

The editors will select from the proposed articles based on thematic relevance, innovativeness, and evidence of an explorative academic level.

A guide to Footprint’s preferred editorial and reference style is available at https://journals.open.tudelft.nl/index.php/footprint/about/submissions.

Authors are responsible for securing permission to use images and copyrighted materials.

Footprint 29 will be published in Autumn 2021.

For submissions and inquiries, please contact editors Léa-Catherine Szacka and Salomon Frausto at editors.footprint@gmail.com.