HPA - Call for Papers - Histories of the Future


Ines Tolic, Elena Formia, Matteo Cassani Simonetti (eds)

When Ayn Rand first published The Fountainhead in 1943, the figure of the architect as a hero had long been established. The Master Architect of this novel, initially labelled as an unheeded visionary, became a leading prophet when - thanks to a certain amount of stubbornness, a brave client and an appropriate narrative - his visions, firstly ostracized, finally started to become real. It could be argued that the main feature of the Master Architect prewar myth was the anticipation of the future and his mission - though not always successful - to build it.

As Rand was writing her novel, World War II was changing the global geo-political and socio-economic framework. Architects - old and new Masters as well as an army of less-known professionals - found themselves facing a world that had changed both the concept and the structure of the future. Prewar futures envisioned during fairs, conventions and exhibitions, or simply imagined in projects and books, were tested by postwar circumstances, while magazines and journals adapted themselves to a different set of professional needs. Some prewar visions actually became futures, many did not. Some were adapted, some have been forgotten, and some have been put aside. As a result of all these transformations, even the Master Architect prewar figure was to some extent revised.


Histories of Postwar Architecture is dedicating its first issue to histories of the future which, imagined in the prewar period, survived, conceptually or physically, in the postwar era. Which was the physical and cultural destiny of prewar visions of either built or un-built futures, in the postwar scenario? What influence did they have on places, cities or environments?What traces of them remain in our present?

Topics and questions of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The Master Architect figure and his ability to imagine prophetic futures had a strong resonance in prewar narrations. Since WWII, this stereotype has been challenged in various ways resulting in new figures. What are they, in reaction to which circumstances have they emerged and what relation do they have to the figure of the Master Architect? How has the perception of the architect and his/her role within society changed?
  • In the prewar period, the number of architects and architectural firms active globally was extremely limited in comparison to the postwar era. In a rapidly globalizing world, architects gained the opportunity to present their projects, some of them developed before WWII, to distant clients. Where did architects and their prewar projects migrate and, when they did, what was their destiny? How did the new geo-political framework change the futures imagined earlier?
  • Given the rapid historical transformations of the 20th century, some visionary projects were either never accomplished or only partially completed. What kind of relationship is there between these futures and their historical narration? What repercussions did they have on the contemporary human habitat? What is the effectiveness or inefficacy of wide theoretical visions of futures in postwar history of architectural culture (as in the history of other cultures)?
  • Contests represent an extremely interesting occasion for comparing alternative futures. What role do contests play in historiographical discourses on future architecture?
  • During the 20th century the idea of innovation - formal, structural and/or social – was almost invariably accompanied with a confidence in technological improvements. What technological futures envisioned in the prewar period became possible during the century? What is the relationship between prewar technological experimentation and postwar innovation? How have narratives about technological innovation in architecture changed?
  • How has the role of media – either traditional or new – changed in defining futures since WWII? What narratives of the future have survived war and which proved to be the most powerful?
  • Exhibitions and fairs may be considered places in which innovative forms, experimental technologies and visionary solutions were presented to a wider public. Despite their limited existence, these “fragments of the future” have often had a long life in collective imaginary and historical narratives. Have these media confirmed their anticipatory role in the postwar context? If not, what are the places where similar visions of future has to be searched for today?


Abstracts (max 4,000 characters) should be submitted to redazione.hpa@unibo.it by May 21, 2017.

Please submit the proposal in the form of MS Word documents indicating:

  • Applicant’s name
  • Professional affiliation
  • Title of paper
  • 5 keywords
  • A brief CV (max 2,000 characters)

Abstracts should clearly define the argument in relation to the available literature, and indicate the sources on which the paper is based.

Accepted authors will be notified by June 1, 2017.

The deadline for submission of full papers is August 31, 2017.

Papers should be submitted using hpa.unibo.it.

The guidelines for paper submission (length between 20,000 and 80,000 characters) are available at


All papers received will go through a process of double-blind peer review before publication.

Publication is expected to be in December 2017.