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Locating Design - Design History Society Conference 2005

7 September 2005 00:00 - 9 September 2005 00:00

A report by Dipti Bhagat, Academic Convenor, 'Locating Design'

On the 7, 8 and 9 September 2005, the Design: Sites and Histories Research Group (now the Art and Design Histories Research Group), London Metropolitan University hosted Locating Design, the Annual Design History Society Conference. This is the first time this event has liaised with the ADM-HEA to the tremendous benefit of the conference and the Design History Society. As a body invested in inter-disciplinarity in design practice and design history, and promoting professional, academic practice in these and related subjects, the ADM Subject Centre sponsored in part Professor Paul Carter’s keynote address to Locating Design and enabled a number of doctoral students to present their own research within this forum.

Locating Design was launched with a provocation. The conference invited participants to consider: if design, as both object and as process, was located in material and imagined place, it would be more productive to consider, not so much what is design? as where is design? For ‘design’ and ‘place’ are both material and imagined and both ‘design’ and ‘place’ are co-constitutive.

The place where this conference was held, the East End of London proved a richly thoughtful location: the East End of London (E1, the postcode of the conference venue) is indeed instructive of the immense investment of design /material culture in the construction of place. Here in the East End, the vestigial material culture of 17th century immigrant Huguenots and 19th century East European Jews, or a forgotten furniture and rag industry continue to haunt East London through the sites and sounds of current day Bengali ‘Banglatown’, fused uneasily with recently relocated design studios and the vogueish strut of Hoxton/Shoreditch style. This East End site certainly demonstrated how the confluence of ‘design’ and ‘place’ across local and global networks is as historically resonant as it is significant today. Conference events – including a visit to the Museum of Immigration, guided tours of the Whitechapel area: Jewish Histories and Architectural Details and tour of Swiss Re Tower - were designed to engage with the sense of place of the East End. These tours proved excellent in reiterating the wider themes of papers presented, not least the keynote addresses that framed the conference.

Locating Design brought together some 150 delegates from around the world to a conference of ‘design’ in/and ‘place’. Delegates and keynote speakers addressed ‘design’ as both object and process; considered ‘design’ as contingent upon ‘place’; made linkages between ‘design’ in/and ‘place’as a complex that is affiliative and layered. Equally all presentations addressed ‘place’as more than ‘landscape’: from the conference emerged an understanding of  ‘place’in (post-colonial) global societies – or rather a global sense of place - as a complex interaction of the body, language/discourse, history and environment.

Speakers and delegates alike contributed actively to an interdisciplinary approach to thinking about design and its place in cultural history. Thus strands of presentations were themed to reflect this interdisciplinarity: cloth and identity, exhibitionary sites, retail places, housing modernity, (re) imagining the East End, sites of fashion, centre/periphery, sites of empire and nation, digital spaces, rethinking architecture, filmscapes, graphic places, sites of remembrance, locating hybridity, sites of femininity.

In the light of this interdisciplinarity, the keynote address delivered by Professor Paul Carter – sponsored in part by the ADM-HEA -  was excellent in framing, and indeed in directing the vigorous discourse on design and place.

Professor Paul Carter from the University of Melbourne brought to the conference an interdisciplinarity of theory and practice: for Professor Carter located his presentation in his own involvement in the making of the educative public space of Federation Square in Melbourne.  His talk on “Higher Education: Design and the Enigma of becoming at that Place” questioned: what is the place of higher education? How is it designed?  Carter explored these questions through a consideration of the practice of drawing the line (disegnare) and fixing the spot (locus).  He problemmatises these practices when reconciling them with the impulses of capitalist democracy and its desire for public spaces and the curiosity said to be a prerequisite of educability. His focus on Federation Square suggested how hybrid public spaces might indeed, offer a way for such a reconciliation.

And as a response to the conference theme and Paul Carter’s title, at least, the doctoral students, so generously brought to Locating Design by the ADM-HEA and featured here, considered their research in the context of design and place and presented their own narratives of ‘where design is’.

Dipti Bhagat
Academic Convener
Locating Design
2005 Annual Design History Society Conference
London Metropolitan University

PaulCarter.jpgPaul is an artist and writer whose books include The Road to Botany Bay (1987), The Lie of the Land (1996), Repressed Spaces: The Poetics of Agoraphobia (2002), Material Thinking: The Theory and Practice of Creative Research(2004) and Mythform: The Making of Nearamnew at Federation Square (Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University Publishing, 2005). This last is an account of the public artwork he made for Federation Square in collaboration with Lab architecture studio. Other public artworks and installations include: Relay (with Ruark Lewis) at Fig Grove, Homebush Bay (a commission of the Sydney 2000 Olympics) and The Calling to Come (Museum of Sydney, 1995-). Born and educated in England, he lived in Spain and Italy before migrating to Australia in 1980, where he is now Professorial Research Fellow in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne.

The ADM-HEA provided bursaries for postgraduate students' attendance at this event

Read their reports here.

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