Submission: 01-Feb-2011 Opening: 06-Apr-2011 Closing: 07-Apr-2011 Organized by Kenny Cupers, Reyner Banham Fellow 2010-2011 School of Architecture and Planning, University at Buffalo

"Before and Beyond: Architecture and the User" explores the question of how architecture and urban design deal with matters of use. Rapid urbanization and the development of mass culture over the past century have only exacerbated the fascination with architecture's "dark side": the unknowable universe of its consumption and everyday use. If there is one figure that has functioned as the principal way of addressing both what informs and succeeds the controllable process of architectural production, it is that of the user. This innocuous category has been crucial to a number of emerging paradigms, from participatory planning and post-occupancy studies to populism, programming, and interaction design. Despite its centrality however, it remains unclear how exactly the notion of the user has shaped the stakes of architecture across the modern and the postmodern.

With contemporary concerns of sustainability in a growing urban world, user-centered design delivers new promises for architecture's social agency - from urban interventions in the favelas of Caracas to the renovation of public housing in the suburbs of Paris. Against the prevailing ideas that such agendas are unprecedented or threaten to usurp the discipline's formal potentials, this symposium asks instead how the user has been a critical source of invention over the past century, prompting us to reconfigure the processes and premises of design.

The symposium seeks to critically examine architecture's search to identify and serve the user in both contemporary and historical perspectives. A group of invited scholars and practitioners will explore how concerns with the user triggered architectural experimentation in the context of changing social models, mass culture, social and political activism, shifting forms of expertise, the ambiguities of state and market, global migration, and the transformations of capitalism.

Application: 20 minute paper abstract (300 to 500 words)

Proposals should be sent via email in WORD or PDF format to Kenny Cupers at by 1 February 2011. Acceptance notifications will follow on 15 February 2011.

Contact: Kenny Cupers