The recurring question of whether architecture is an art does not allow for a simple answer. The posing of it, however, usefully exposes many of the ways in which the concept of architecture has changed and is changing. In some circumstances and settings today architecture is considered an art, and in others not. This situation has also varied historically as architecture professionalised over the twentieth century, and the concepts of ‘art’, ‘the arts’, of culture and the creative economy have shifted. The project does not attempt to answer the question of whether architecture is an art, but rather to look at the points and moments at which the question arises and if this affects the concept of architecture as a practice and a discipline. It aims to identify the overlaps and misalignments between concepts and institutional categories, and to trace the impact of the latter on the ways that art and architecture are valued. We hope that unpacking the historical and current interests at stake in this question will lead to a better understanding of architecture in contemporary culture.
At the core of the project is an examination of the conceptual and practical tensions that have emerged around the way architecture is positioned in contemporary visual arts and cultural policy. A significant part of the research is dedicated to the current phenomenon of art institutions commissioning architects to produce temporary, largely function-less pavilions and installations. The project also encompasses research on the collection of architecture by art institutions; the exhibition of architecture; cultural policy on architecture; collaborations between artists and architects; and the use of architecture as a medium or subject by visual artists. While the research is focused on recent decades, it is considered in the light of the history of aesthetics and cultural theory since the eighteenth century.
“Is Architecture Art?” is a research project of the Centre for Architecture, Theory, History and Criticism (ATCH), at the School of Architecture, University of Queensland in partnership with Ghent University.
This project is funded by a Discovery Grant of the Australian Research Council.
Macarthur, John. “Architecture, HEAT and the Government of Culture.” In Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand: 32, Architecture, Institutions and Change, edited by Paul Hogben and Judith O’Callaghan, 366-377. Sydney:
Leach, Andrew, and John Macarthur. “Architecture, Disciplinarity, and the Arts: Considering the Issues.” In Architecture, Disciplinarity, and the Arts, edited by Andrew Leach and John Macarthur, 7-15. Ghent: A&S Books, 2009.