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Marie Stender's lecture Ethnography in the hands of architects will address the long standing overlappings between architecture and ethnography: ethnographers have studied local building techniques, and socio-spatial organisation of villages and longhouses around the world, and architects have sought inspiration in so-called vernacular architecture. Recently the two disciplines have however moved closer, experimenting with new ways of collaborating and combining approaches. Not just in places with ‘architecture without architects’, but also in cities, public spaces, institutions, workplaces and residential neighbourhoods that most architects are more familiar with. They have come together around ‘architecture with architects’, one could say. The focus of this keynote address is such new ways of combining approaches in these contexts.

Hilde Heynen will speak about The vernacular as counterimage. Why modernism needed ethnography. She will take a closer look at the ways modern architects of the postwar period engaged with ethnography in a time when it became increasingly clear that architectural modernism was not able to charm the masses and to become popularly adopted. Modern architects blamed commercialism, which embraced kitsch and pseudo-styles rather than the purity of avant-garde aesthetics. Searching for a way out of this dilemma, they became interested in vernacular architecture, which they saw as a more authentic version of an ‘architecture for the people’. Especially the vernacular of non-industrialised people was of interest to them, hence the need to study this folk culture through ethnography. 


The Jaap Bakema Study Centre conference The Observers Observed explores ethnography’s influence on architecture. Visit the conference page to see the two day programme, on 24 and 25 November.

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19:30 – 21:00

Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam



Marie Stender

Marie Stender is an anthropologist and senior researcher in the Department of the Built Environment at Aalborg University. She is the founder of the Nordic Research Network for Architectural Anthropology. Her research focuses on architectural anthropology, disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and the relationship between social life and built environments. Her most recent publication is the anthology Architectural Anthropology. Exploring Lived Space.

Hilde Heynen

Hilde Heynen is a professor of architectural theory at the University of Leuven. Her research focuses on issues of modernity, modernism and gender in architecture. In Architecture and Modernity. A Critique she investigated the relationship between architecture, modernity and dwelling. She also engaged with the intersection between architecture and gender studies, resulting in the volume Negotiating Domesticity (co-edited with Gulsum Baydar). More recently she published an intellectual biography of Sibyl Moholy-Nagy.

Thursday Night at Het Nieuwe Instituut
Luca Napoli

Thursday Night Live! is a weekly programme of lectures, screenings and discussions on architecture, design and digital culture. Developments and critical insights are discussed by thinkers, designers and makers from the Netherlands and abroad.