School of Architecture


Thursday 17 May 2018


Auditorium 1
State Library of Queensland
Stanley Place
​South Brisbane QLD 4101


Registrations for this event are now closed

There is renewed interest in the politics of architecture, particularly its complicity in neoliberal economics. But such an interest in architecture’s agency, or lack of it, tends to overlook how much architectural theory is an analogy of political theory, particularly the theory of liberalism. 

In this lecture, Professor Macarthur looks at a strand of thought that runs from the Townscape movement of the 1940s to Colin Rowe’s urbanism of the 1970s and the procedural ‘diagram design’ of the turn of the century. 

In Hubert de Cronin Hasting’s utopian brutalist megastructure Civilia and in Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter’s  Collage Cityquestions of the balance of individual freedom, democracy and law seem to cross seamlessly from social to architectural issues. They both ask: how can architects project a future without making a utopian ideal that then constrains individual freedom? This is a familiar question because it is repeated through architectural discourse.

But it is also familiar and appears important because it is, in the first place, a question of the design of the post WWII democratic state, of individual freedom and the social contract. It is a utopian fantasy to think that there is a synesthetic relation by which an architect can hear politics and smell a kind of architectural form. But if we look at this relation from the other direction we can see that liberal political theory has structured aspects of architectural theory.

John Macarthur FAHA, is Professor of Architecture at the University of Queensland where he teaches history, theory and design. He was the founding Director of the ATCH (architecture, theory, criticism and history) Research Centre. His research on the intellectual history of architecture has focused on the conceptual framework of the relation of architecture and the visual arts from the Picturesque to the present. 

This talk is presented as part of the ‘Liberalism and the Built Environment – Then and Now’ conference, which is taking place on 17-18 May.


Please direct all enquiries about this event to:

Carmen Armstrong