School of Architecture

Hosted by

UQ Architecture


Wednesday 12 June 2019 5:00pm to Friday 14 June 2019 4:30pm


The University Of Queensland
Brisbane City Campus
293 Queen St 
Brisbane City QLD 4000


Registrations for this event are now closed

The Values of Architecture and the Economy of Culture is the closing event of the ‘Is Architecture Art?’ research project, to be held at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, between 12-14 June 2019. Keynote speakers include Andrea Phillips, BALTIC Professor and Director of BxNU Institute and Daniel M. Abramson, Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Boston University.


Registrations now open 


Architecture has always been found in a space between its monetary and cultural values, but the rise of the concept of the cultural economy asks new questions as to how these values of architecture intersect and affect one another. Discussions of the cultural economy tend to deal with architecture and urban design as the infrastructure of culture, asking questions such as: what building types and land values enable a vibrant popular music culture; or, what landmark cultural flagships drive cultural tourism and city branding.

Architecture itself is rarely seen as a matter of culture or, if it is, it becomes framed as a symptom of the social inequities of gentrification. It seems that outside of the architecture and design communities, architecture is not culture but its scaffold. At the same time, those cultural forms usually seen as having pure intrinsic value—the visual and performing arts, literature, music and the like—are now also seen as having socio-economic values of the kinds usually claimed by architecture in economics and employment, value in community engagement and even health and well-being. One can be sceptical of the efficacy and the politics of exchanging cultural, social and economic values in this way, but the fact that culture is now seen as a wholistic interacting system capable of measurement asks new questions of the place of architecture. As methods for assessing value become increasingly important in the management of culture, the conference asks: how do we understand the values of architecture as a matter of culture?

There is a growing cultural audience for architecture in galleries, events and public space; visual artists take architecture as subject matter; spectacular buildings make for city identity, while the strong line between commercial and creative activity that used to keep architecture in the real estate pages of newspapers has been blurred. Architecture, we could say, has never been more valued, nor valued in such a variety of ways, but often in some form of friction with how the discipline values itself. Our conference is not concerned with arguments for or against the cultural value of architecture ​per se ​or that of particular buildings, but rather in the different sites and occasions where values are bestowed, exchanged and come into conflict. We are sceptical of an equivalence of values, whereby an addition of real and proxy monetary values, or a ‘dashboard’ of quantitative and qualitative aspects is said to express the total value of a work, institution or cultural agency, and hold it up for comparison. Rather our focus is on finding concrete cases, both historical and contemporary, from which we hope to make some account of the construction and interrelationship of the values of architecture.



  • 12 June. 5 pm – 7.30 pm
    ​Drinks, canapes and book launch - Trading between Architecture and Art (5 – 6 pm)
    Keynote Andrea Phillips
  • 13 June. 10.30 am – 7.30 pm
    Drinks and Canapes (5 pm – 6 pm)
    Keynote Daniel M. Abramson (6 – 7.30 pm)
  • 14 June. 10.30 am – 4.30 pm
    ​Conference day two



  • Keynote Lecture: Neverminding 
    12 June 2019

    Andrea Phillips - Northumbria University Newcastle

    The question ‘is architecture art?’ is underscored by an assumed categorical division supported by social constructions of value; constructions that are shaped enthusiastically and ideologically through capitalist economics. In this presentation I will attempt to pick apart the historicity of value in an Anglo-centric capitalised context, drawing attention to the relatability of value formation and form categorisation as intertwined and indispensable tools in the securitisation of power, as well as the fact of other value-forms that exist outside of ‘architecture’ and ‘art’. Using the humble form of the British Community Arts Centre and its transformation over the post-war period into an art- and architecture value creator par excellence, I will argue for the reframing of value through re-valuation, trans-valuation and even de-valuation within the prism of affective, reputational and fiscal economic mechanisms. At one side to all this, hovering in many violently disenfranchised forms, are the modes of living that start from a different place; where value is an inessential character, or, at least, one that forms part of a peaceful ecology of neverminding.
    Andrea Phillips is BALTIC Professor and Director of BxNU Research Institute, Northumbria University & BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Andrea lectures and writes about the economic and social construction of public value within contemporary art, the manipulation of forms of participation and the potential of forms of political, architectural and social reorganization within artistic and curatorial culture.

    Her forthcoming book Contemporary Art and the Production of Inequality will bring together discussions on the politics of public administration and management with recent analyses of arts institutions, alongside debates on value (public and private) informed by research into the political functions of the art market and personal experience of organizing, lobbying, and governing contemporary arts institutions, arts education institutions, and working directly with artists.

  • Keynote Lecture: Obsolence
    13 June 2019
    Daniel M. Abramson - Boston University

    Where does the idea come from that architecture can become obsolete, suddenly lose its value and utility, and so become expendable in a short period of time?  This talk traces the origins of the idea of architectural obsolescence to early-twentieth-century American financial district demolitions, tax policies, and decaying cities.  In mid-century, many architects worldwide responded to obsolescence positively by embracing ephemerality and short-life buildings.  Others, however, sought to revalue the obsolete and reinstate permanence, for example, through an invigorated preservationism, concrete brutalism, and ecological design. The idea of obsolescence thus gave way in the 1970s to sustainability, today's dominant paradigm for conceptualising and managing change in the built environment, conserving rather than expending existing resources.
    Daniel M. Abramson is professor of architectural history and director of architectural studies at Boston University. His research focuses upon matters of economics, society, and architecture from the eighteenth through twentieth centuries. He is the author of three monographs, most recently Obsolescence: An Architectural History, as well as being co-editor of Governing By Design: Architecture, Economy, and Politics in the Twentieth Century with the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative, of which he is also a founding director.   Current work includes projects on the American welfare state, and on evidence and narrative in architectural history.


Full Program


The Values of Architecture and the Economy of Culture Conference is a part of the research project “Is Architecture Art? A history of concepts, categories and recent practices,” funded by the Australian Research Council and The University of Queensland’s Architecture Theory Criticism History Research Centre (ATCH), in partnership with Ghent University. For more information on the research project, please click here.

This event is also part of Architecture and Art Week 2019. Featuring exhibitions, symposia, tours and conferences across Brisbane from 10 to 16 June, Architecture and Art Week brings together leading architects, academics and artists to consider and celebrate the art of architecture and the way collaborations between the arts and architecture enrich both fields. Architecture and Art Week is a collaboration between The University of Queensland, State Library of Queensland, Museum of Brisbane, Pecha Kucha Brisbane, Australian Institute of Architects and Brisbane Open House.


Please direct all enquiries about this event to:

Elke Couchez or Macarena De la Vega de Leon