Architecture and Innovation in the Graeco-Roman world

The University of Oxford’s Ancient Architecture Discussion Group is pleased to announce its call for papers for its Michaelmas term 2022 seminar series on the theme of ‘Architecture and Innovation in the Graeco-Roman world: ancient practices and modern readings’.

The AADG offers a forum for early career researchers (doctoral and post-doctoral level) to present and discuss aspects of their research and ideas in an academically welcoming environment. Seminars will be held every Friday at 16:00 UK time across the University of Oxford’s Michaelmas term (Sunday 9 October – Saturday 3 December). Seminars will be held either in person or virtually depending on the ability of the speaker to travel to Oxford.

Please see below the call for papers offering more information on the above theme and the submission and decision process.

Further thematic seminar series will be held across the University of Oxford’s Hilary and Trinity terms on the themes of ‘Space is the Place’ and ‘Digital Methods and Ancient Architecture’ respectively. The AADG aims to publish an edited volume comprising revised versions of the highest quality and most original papers presented at its seminar series across the forthcoming academic year.

Architecture and Innovation in the Graeco-Roman world: ancient practices and modern readings

Organisers: Ruairí Matheson-Kiernan, Luca Ricci, Maria Theodora Tzeli

‘Innovation’ is a concept that permeates our world and is often connected with technological advancement, improved efficiency and output, and socio-economic progress. In the last decade, scholars of the ancient Mediterranean world have employed ‘innovation’ as a heuristic tool to make sense of changes in construction techniques and practices, often pairing it with ‘tradition’ (La Rocca & D’Alessio 2011). In more recent times, attempts have been made to study how these two categories related to and informed one another in the diachronic transition from ‘innovation’ to ‘tradition’, and to illustrate how such categories have been applied both by ancient authors and modern scholars as constructs used to rationalise architectural developments in antiquity (Maschek 2022). At the same time, there has also been a shift in the understanding of the directionality of the innovation process and, more broadly, the agency at stake in said process, stressing the active role of artisans vis-à-vis wealthy commissioners (Van Oyen 2022). Taking further into account that, according to Miller (2015), ancient architectural traditions are conservative and that ‘innovation’ may struggle to find a space, or is indeed difficult to single out, the organising panel of the Ancient Architecture Discussion Group invites early career researchers (at doctoral and post-doctoral level) to present papers of 30-40 minutes on the theme of ‘innovation’ in the Graeco-Roman world (broadly intended as spanning from the 8th c. BCE to the 4th c. AD) focusing on two broad strands:

1) innovation in antiquity with an emphasis on new architectural forms and products (e.g., materials, designs, building types, urban planning, infrastructure), on technological innovations (e.g., machinery, tools), and changes to the organisation of construction-related activities (e.g., vertical/horizontal dynamics, issues of commission, the significance of knowledge and social memory, and the specialisation of the workforce);

2) innovative methodologies which can be used to interpret and analyse ancient architecture (e.g., architectural energetics, 3-D modelling, spatial analysis, GIS, social network analyses).

It is the hope of the panel that, by eliciting a discussion on ‘innovation’ that bridges these two strands, we might be able to acquire a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the significance, prevalence, and meaning of ‘innovation’ in antiquity.

Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be submitted as pdf alongside a brief bio or CV to [email protected] by no later than 10/06/2022. The subject line of your email should read “AADG: Innovation”. Notifications of decisions will be sent out by late June. Should you have any question, please contact the organisers at the email above.

D’Alessio, A., & La Rocca, E. (eds.), 2011. Tradizione e innovazione: l’elaborazione del linguaggio ellenistico nell’architettura romana italica di età tardo-repubblicana. Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider.

Maschek, D., 2022. “The Meaning of Building Materials in Late Republican Architecture: Moving from Semantics to Pragmatics.” In Materiality in Roman art and architecture: aesthetics, semantics and function, A. Haug et. al. (eds.), 151-62. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Miller, P., 2015. Continuity and change in Etruscan domestic architecture: a study of building techniques and materials from 800-500 BC. Thesis, The University of Edinburgh.

Van Oyen, A., 2022. “Innovation and Investment in the Roman Rural Economy Through the Lens of Marzuolo (Tuscany, Italy)”, Past & Present 248.1, 3-40