Call for Papers – International Conference
5-7 November 2020 – Frankfurt am Main, GER
We commonly and ubiquitously use architectural metaphors in both everyday speech as well as various professional contexts. Yet we rarely, if at all, register this connection when we talk, for example, about software architects, thought constructs, pillars of society, the architecture of the brain or the façade a person puts up. At the same time, metaphors also feature prominently in the fields of architecture and urbanism, where they are being used for the development of design concepts and provide useful means to communicate, discuss and evaluate design features. Examples range from crystalline buildings to the fabric of a city, but also include Le Corbusier’s infamous description of houses as ‘machines for living in.’
The conference aims to explore metaphors as productive mediators in processes of knowledge transfer between the fields of architecture and everyday knowledges and between architectural and other professional discourses. It thus contributes to a broader investigation of architecture as a cultural practice of ordering pursued by the interdisciplinary LOEWE research cluster Architectures of Order, a collaboration between Goethe University Frankfurt and the Technical University of Darmstadt, with the Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History and the Deutsches Architekturmuseum as associated partners.
Metaphors, to us, provide a lens that allows us to zoom in on and examine the involvement of architecture in processes of social ordering. The premise of the conference is that metaphors are not merely explanatory in their function but instead interfere with epistemological thought and production processes. Metaphors rely on the incongruity between a particular term and the context within which it is being deployed, creating a space of continuous re-interpretation. The meaning of a metaphor thus oscillates between the body of knowledge from which the metaphor stems and that within which it is used. Through transferring aspects of one field’s body of knowledge to another, metaphors disseminate and thereby consolidate social or disciplinary hierarchies, norms and protocols inscribed in the original body of knowledge. This consequently raises questions regarding the ways in which architecture as a practice of ordering interrelates with societal as well as disciplinary structures, orders and knowledges. Hence, we are not only interested in the connection between different fields, but also different forms of knowledge that metaphors can facilitate and how this relates to architecture.
Issues of interest to us include but are not restricted to the following:
What is the relevance of metaphors in and for knowledge production within the fields of architecture and urbanism? How do they affect both design practices as well as theoretical discourses? Which metaphors are of particular importance in this respect? What is the function of architectural metaphors in scientific argumentations or the construction of institutional identities? How, and for what purpose are metaphors deployed in different disciplines, such as philosophy, law, political theory, information sciences or natural sciences? Have architectural metaphors changed over time and in conjunction with developments in architecture? What images of architecture are being created in disciplines that heavily draw on architectural metaphors and are they affecting architectural thinking, designing and making in return?
We welcome proposals from all disciplines, including but not limited to architectural history and theory, art history, cultural and media studies, history, sociology and design theory. We strongly encourage applications from areas in which architectural metaphors feature prominently, e.g. science and technology studies, ethnology, medicine, biology or computer and information sciences. We also welcome submissions from non-academic practitioners and thus perspectives on experienced-based knowledge, presented, e.g., in the form of work reports or reflections on common practice.
Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words for 20 minute presentations together with a short bio (100-200 words) in a PDF format by 1 June 2020.
Proposals should be emailed to:
We will contact applicants about the outcome of their submission no later than the end of June.
There is no conference fee. Costs for travel and accommodation of all speakers will be covered.
We intend to publish an edited book with revised and expanded papers from the conference.
Please feel free to contact us at or if you have any questions or require additional information.
Download the CfP here