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Decolonizing Architecture

Towards an entity of decolonization, a project by Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti (DAAR), Photo: Luca Capuano, Borgo, Sicily 2020.

Decolonizing Architecture at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm is a research-based course (one academic year, full-time, 60hp). The course uses the term decolonization as a critical position and conceptual frame for an architectural and artistic research practice engaged in social and political struggles. If architecture functions as a colonial power, how can we re-imagine new tools or modes of subversion? How can we approach a method of decolonization? 

Decolonizing Architecture offers a unique opportunity for participants to join a collective international community of practitioners interested in the social and political dimension of architecture and to receive the necessary material and intellectual support for developing a self-driven artistic and architectural practice. 

Decolonizing Architecture emphasizes learning emerging in dialog between course participants and guests of the course through seminars, collective readings and lectures, as well as site visits and excursions. The course invites international and local guests and advisors and interacts and visits both local and international sites and situations. 

Participants individually and collectively research interests, methods, questions and urgencies as points of departure to establish a common methodology and vocabulary, aiming to form a collective ongoing artistic research project and an online platform, constituted by descriptions and conceptualizations of works and processes developed within the course. 

The course encourages a wide variety of methods, formats, mediation of investigations using writing, video, photography, performance, sound, etc. Decolonizing Architecture welcomes applicants with experience from the field of architecture, art, urban studies, activism, critical studies, journalism etc. 

For further development of projects formulated in the first year of the course, a second year is offerd for particpants who have completed the first year-cycle. The course is led by Alessandro Petti, Professor in Architecture and Social Justice and Marie-Louise Richards, lecturer in Architecture, and enriched by the contribution of invited guests. 

Topic 2021/20: Difficult Heritage

The topic for 2021/22 aims to reflect and intervene in the debate regarding the architectural heritage associated with painful and violent memories. The course will focus on the rural towns built in the 1940s by the “Entity of Colonization of Sicily” during the fascist regime. These rural towns were built by the regime to “reclaim,” “modernize,” and “repopulate” the south of Italy considered “empty,” “underdeveloped,” and “backward”. The analysis of these towns will also offer course participants the opportunity to problematize the persistence of today’s colonial relationship with the countryside, especially after the renewed interest in the countryside as a solution for the pandemic. Parallel to the collective research, every student is asked to research an individual case study of difficult heritage. The intersection between individual and collective research is shared with a larger public at the end of the year in a discursive exhibition.

Sequence of courses and research

Decolonizing Architecture course is part of a sequence of courses and research that together form the platform: Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Studies (DAAS) for higher education at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. Each year the course focuses on a specific theme. The first year (2017/18), the course dealt with the legacy and reuse of fascist architecture, ‘The Afterlife of Colonial Fascist Architecture I: Dossier for the critical preservation of Casa del Mutilato in Palermo,’ a spatial intervention in a public building from the fascist era during Manifesta 12. The second-year (2018/19), ‘The Afterlife of Colonial Fascist Architecture II: Addis Ababa and Asmara,’ the course investigated and learned from the reuse of fascist colonial architecture in former Italian occupied cities. During the third year (2019/20) under the title ‘Experimental sites of knowledge production’, the course dealt with spatial knowledge that emerges from sites understood as physical spaces, as well as communities, experiences, and bodies. 

The fourth cycle 2020/21 ‘Modernism and Demodernization’sought to unveil the connections and relations between modernism and colonialism, and to speculate on possible projects of architectural demodernization in collaboration with L’Internationale Online. Read the course blog here. 

Course Structure

The course is divided into two modules during one academic year. The Fall semester is divided into three mandatory blocks and the Spring semester in four mandatory blocks consisting of intensive program of seminars, lectures, studios, mentorships, collective readings, site visits and more. Between blocks, participants are expected to independently develop their research. During the spring semester, more emphasis will be put on the development of processes. The course culminates with a discursive exhibition at the end of the year, where the artistic and architectural research developed is used as a support structure for public discussions, seminars, lectures and performances.

In order to fully benefit from the collective research atmosphere students have to attend a minimum of seven blocks. The course will also offer field trips and travel in Sweden and abroad. Course participants are expected to pay for part of the costs. The field trips and travel are not mandatory and for those who are unable to take part a substitute assignment will be given.

Selection

Applicants have to hold a Master Degree in fine art, architecture or another relevant field, or equivalent knowledge through prior learning. Selection is assessed on previous projects and experiences as well as a letter of motivation, that together forms the application. The letter should clearly state why the conceptual frame of the course is relevant for the applicant’s study:

  • Candidates should be interested in the ideological and social dimensions of Architecture, and in conceptual speculations and theories that are grounded and emerge from artistic and architectural practice. 
  • Candidates should be open to experimental forms of collective production which challenge individual authorship, and to an open-ended process oriented towards material and immaterial outcomes. 
  • The course requires that participants can efficiently manage independent study and production time between course blocks.

For more information contact: info@kkh.se.

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Towards an entity of decolonization, a project by Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti (DAAR), Photo: Luca Capuano, Borgo, Sicily 2020.