International Workshop on “Giving visual and material forms to ideas, identity and imagination: Architecture, urbanism and sustainable construction” (WU Vienna, 12-13 May 2014)

Along with the diffusion of digital technologies such as Building Information Modelling, architects, urban designers and construction managers are increasingly using visual and material objects to give shape to their ideas, identities, and imaginations of the future. And yet our theoretical understanding is still inadequate to grasp the significance of the visual and material turn, not just in architecture and design but also in management and organization. This workshop sought to advance our understanding of how organizational actors engage with visual and material objects to turn ideas into reality, and to involve audiences in the (de-)construction of such reality. Organized by Renate Meyer, Candace Jones, Eva Boxenbaum and Silvyia Svejenova, the workshop brought together leading scholars sharing an interest in visuality and materiality. An attempt was made to develop novel insights by cutting across theoretical perspectives, and to understand how research in architecture and design could inform theories of organization and management. We joined the debate by presenting the findings of our fieldwork in an architectural practice in London, and by articulating the practices by which professionals use visual objects to construct a “shared vision” across organizational boundaries. A closing panel identified directions for future research on visuality and materiality, suggesting i) to address questions of visibility and invisibility in visual research, ii) to understand the coupling of materiality and symbolism in organizational life, and iii) to develop a more comprehensive methodology of the senses, including not just vision but also smell, taste, and sound.

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