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What if…? Counterfactual Architectural History


● Fully booked

Monday 21 November 2016
6.30 — 8pm

This event has now ended

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Demolition of the P&O Building by GMW at 122 Leadenhall Street, City of London.

© Robert Stainforth/Alamy

A panel of architectural historians explores a range of ‘what if’ scenarios in the history of architecture, posing alternative narratives that lead us to re-think how existing accounts are written and perpetuated.

What if? It’s a question that historians have increasingly been asking. How might the course of history have unfolded if particular events had turned out differently, or alternative decisions had been made? The often-noted risk of such an approach is to go too far and enter the realms of fantasy. But when applied properly, counterfactual history can help us reassess whether apparently pivotal events or decisions actually were as important as existing historical accounts might have us believe.

Counterfactuals are most often applied to political or military history, where human agency has to be weighed against broader political, social, economic or technological forces. In this event, we apply counterfactuals to architectural history, where a similar balance has to be made.

Speakers will each focus on a particular ‘what if’ scenario and explore what other possibilities might have existed at this particular historical moment. The following discussion will look at the roles of narrative and causality in architectural history, and explore whether counterfactuals do in fact offer the potential of shedding new light on the architectural past.

Gillian Darley – writer and broadcaster on architecture; author with David McKie of Ian Nairn: Words in Place (2013)
Douglas Murphy – architect and writer; Architecture Correspondent, Icon magazine
Alan Powers – architectural historian and writer on architecture; Leader of Historical Studies, London School of Architecture
Rebecca Rideal – historian and author of the book 1666: Plague, War and Hellfire

● Fully booked

● Cancelled

Monday 21 November 2016

6.30 — 8pm

Sir Hugh Casson Room, Royal Academy of Arts

£12, £6 concessions.